By Chris Turner, Seal 26 'Elsa'
Received 4 December 2001
The one great thing about Seals is that they can get to places and stay with ease where few others dare. The top end of the Lerryn, Lostwithiel (mind the wire!), Batson and Southpool, Tresillian, St. Just and St. Germans, Timbrels Quay, Shalfleet or King's Quay, Conyer, Arthur Ransome's Red Sea, Battlesbridge, Snape or Thornham......the list is endless, never mind a trip from London to Bristol via the Kennet and Avon canal! None of this is particularly extraordinary especially with local knowledge as they are all in protected waters. Some really difficult anchorages shown in the old and more adventurous Pilot books (e.g. among the Stags off the Lizard or Man-o-War cove) are not so much restricted by draught as bad weather.
There is an anchorage mentioned in the excellent, but now well out of date, South England Pilot. Vol. III. (Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson Ltd.) just inside the river Otter at Budleigh Salterton only a few miles to the east of the Exe. As far as I know the last Seal to visit this spot was quite some time ago under the command of our intrepid President, Denis Fastnedge.
The depths have changed in recent years and the direction of entrance now better from a more westerly point. A recent rec suggested to us in Elsa that the neapish tide was not sufficient for a first try. One needs, ideally, a spring tide and gentle offshore winds. Under these conditions there should be a good metre at high water in the centre of the very narrow entrance.
Once inside and in the "pool" one can stay afloat, just, at low water. It goes without saying that the pressure must not be too high or the river in serious flood conditions. The map shows the proximity to Budleigh Salterton and a zoomed in version shows the position of the ‘pool’ and the direction of entry.
The photo right shows Otterton Point and the entrance to the river just left of centre above the top of the flagstaff in a NE direction.
Here is a closer view of the entrance to the river Otter. The very narrow channel turns sharply to the left round the shingle bank. Close to HW at MHW.
This photo below shows a view from the westerly shingle bank looking out (SE) of the entrance at lowish water over Otterton Point and the Ledge. Rick Thompson (Kotick) and Alice Turner (Elsa) in the foreground.
If you look behind you from the same spot but looking westerly towards Budleigh you will see the pool showing water present close to low water.
We have visited this spot either anchored off or by land and think it is a distinctly possible anchorage. Unfortunately, the conditions were not right for entry at the time.
At the 25th anniversary celebrations at Topsham a local member said she had not heard of boats other than dinghies entering in recent years.
Historically, the entrance once allowed small ships up to a quay at Otterton.. A violent storm sometime in the last century? closed off the main entrance with a large bank of shingle.
She suggested that if anyone should anchor in the pool, that they ought to contact the local press who would be very interested!