The one common feature of the Ports on the Wash is that when the tide is out, access is very restricted, with frequently shifting shoals, often within the channels, and the sandbanks are very hard and high. The tidal flows in the often man-made channels can be up to 6 knots on spring tides, but all the main channels are well surveyed and buoyed, and are suitable for navigation day & night for any craft. However, navigating outside of the buoyed channels cannot be advised for any leisure craft.
Approaching King’s Lynn visiting craft are advised to head mid way between the Sunk Light Buoy and Seal Sand Lightbuoy then towards the No.1 Lightbuoy at 52° 56’N 000°21.5’E and onwards into the Daseley’s Sled It is not recommended to proceed up to King’s Lynn earlier than 3½ hours before high water and only then if the tide reading is more than 1 metre greater than the vessel’s draft. Tide Heights Wash/ Bulldog Beacon There are no other surveyed or buoyed routes to King’s Lynn. Any routes across the sand banks should not be attempted without good and current local knowledge with suitable electronic position fixing equipment and only then in a sturdy well founded boat with protected propellers and with a hull capable of drying out.
Commercial shipping could arrive into the anchorage at any time to wait for a suitable tide and will normally meet the fast pilot boat approx 2 hours before high water at the No.1 Light Buoy, they may have to alter course to provide a lee, so all leisure craft should proceed with caution when commercial shipping is underway and note that Rule 9 of the Colregs is relevant as ships will be confined to the best of the available water. Refer to Local Notices to Mariners 3/2021 Out bound vessels will normally be clear of the Daseley’s Sled by 1 hour after high water. All shipping communications are carried out on VHF 14 and clarification of shipping activities can be sought from “Lynn Pilots” when operational.
Entering from the Wash – the large white grain silo, 2 tall power cable pylons and also two large wind turbines on the East side of the river indicate King’s Lynn with the spire of St Nicholas Chapel providing a very historic landmark. As you approach the river mouth it starts to get confined by stone banks to the west and marshes to the east. The northern end of the stone bank is marked by beacons commencing with West Stones (Q W). At No. 26 buoy the channel turns directly to Kings Lynn and becomes confined with the current increasing.
It is about 3 ½ miles from here to the commercial Docks, and good attention should be given to VHF Ch. 14 for any information broadcast by “Lynn Docks” or other craft especially in the period 1½ hours before high-water to just after high-water.
Fishing vessels are likely to be encountered throughout the area, and may enter or leave the channel anywhere north of No.26 light buoys, but leisure craft should not be tempted to follow them as they may be heading for an area to run aground and dry out.
The West Bank beacon and tide gauge is an inward reporting position, and apart from the Lower Cut Lt. (Q R) there are no other lit navigational aids until the lights of the Riverside Quay. The electricity pylons indicate approx 0.8 miles to the commercial docks and with the waste treatment plant on the west bank and the chemical plants on the east banks there is normally sufficient light to see the river banks at night. It is recommended that a call to “Lynn Docks” as you pass the chemical plants is made to advise them of your position and they will, if manned, tell you about shipping movements.
Commercial shipping can be encountered on either side of the channel in the Cut depending on the shoals and vessels exiting or entering the Docks do so at 90° to the channel and will often be completely blocking the channel until they have swung, so early contact with the Docks will enable you to take the necessary action to avoid passing the docks when shipping is manoeuvring. A flashing orange light exhibited from the docks flagstaff indicates vessels exiting the docks.
Just north of the Docks is the Fisher Fleet, which is the base to many of the commercial fishing vessels. Leisure craft should not attempt to enter this fleet, and there are no moorings available.
After passing the docks the town of King’s Lynn is evident on the East bank. A small passenger ferry runs Mon – Sat between West Lynn jetty and Kings Lynn, please reduce your wash when passing. Small harbour craft moorings lie on the west side just upstream of the ferry jetty.
The Visitor pontoons are located on the East side towards the Southern end of the South Quay.These are operated by the local Council and all enquiries and berth availability must be made through them .
There are no moorings available alongside any of the quays in King’s Lynn for any leisure craft and craft should not attempt to moor to any of the quays as non are suitable for small craft to moor against nor take the ground. The quay immediately to the south of the pontoons is an emergency lay by berth for ships upto 85m long, as well as for use by commercial survey & support vessels, and the Boal Quay is a dedicated quay for commercial fishing vessels to moor and land their catch round the clock.
Always ensure your craft is moored sufficiently to cope with the strong tidal flows which on big spring tides will reach upto 7 knots for a while. Commercial ships may come very close to the pontoons as they swing during busy tides and fishing craft heading to / from Boal Quay (approx 0.1 miles upstream) may be encountered at speed well before & after high water.
Vessels wishing to continue upriver to Denver or Salter’s Lode and entering the inland rivers systems should have an agreed arrival time with the appropriate Lock keeper, and time your departure accordingly. Once ypu have departed from the pontoons there are no facilities on the river upstream of King’s Lynn. Due to the low bridges and often featureless riverbanks nobody should attempt navigation during darkness.
Visitors are reminded that they must refer to tidal information published by KLCB to ensure they make the correct air-draft calculations prior to heading upstream.
Paddling on the Gt Ouse