Jim Vallis

There was a good turnout of dinghies and cats on 5 August for the now annual cruise in company to Exmouth Beach in memory of former Club member Jim Vallis, whose enthusiasm originally brought the regular SYC dinghy cruises into being.

Our thanks to Elaine Beer for a great set of photos of the occasion, which can be viewed here.

For those relatively new to this estuary and for those who have been around for a while.....

Here’s my quick guide to this fascinating, sometimes challenging, river. A river which repays ongoing study!

  1. Around HW we have an almost land-locked lake. Its 3-4 miles long, and about ¾ mile wide.
  2. We can sail excellent races and good cruises on this short-lived lake, provided the weather holds fair.
  3. However, HW doesn’t last that long. The river’s characteristics change throughout the tidal cycle.
  4. The river’s characteristics vary considerably depending where you are on the river.
  5. The river’s characteristics vary with wind strength and direction.
  6. Sandbanks, channels and channel depths can change with time: by river action, by storm action.
  7. Near the club, the tide can ebb or flow quickly. The rate of flow at springs can be more than double that at neaps.
  8. Downstream, around buoy 17, say, the tide can flow even quicker, and in several directions. Unused mooring buoys can get submerged by the flow.
  9. Around Warren Point (the narrowest part) it can flow so fast that you can actually HEAR the water flows tumbling over each other.
  10. Upstream of SYC, the river eventually gets narrower, and there are many moorings at Topsham. Further on, upstream of the M5 bridge, the river is ‘inland’ and is almost permanently on the ebb, with the wind effected by land or buildings.

All tidal rivers have special characters of their own. Don’t expect to immediately understand every little feature of the Exe, but try to comprehend its main characteristics and moods, so that you can make sound safety decisions.
For example, if you are venturing downstream for the first time, choose a neap tide....


The Exe is one of the best rivers for sailing in the West Country. It’s wide (3/4 mile at HW), it’s long (4 miles inside the Warren). The hinterland is either flat or undulating (ie not steep-sided) which yields better winds. It’s quiet, with very little commercial traffic. Plus, there’s access to Exmouth beach, and then the wide ocean beyond the safe water mark.

SYC organises Dinghy Cruises, with safety boat cover approx every 2-3 weeks during the season. We can cruise up-river to Topsham. Mostly we cruise down-river to Exmouth beach, or sometimes further still, out-to-sea. Our Briefing Time is by the clubhouse 45 mins before the advertised Start Time. You need to be on-the-water by the Start Time since the tide will not wait!

‘Cruising’ may give the impression of easy-going, relaxed sailing without a care in the world... and this can be substantially true, but it needs the preparation before you sail, and vigilance during your sail, and your skills need to be up to scratch.

To the young (and not-so-young) sailor: develop your sailing and seamanship skills on Free Sailing sessions. Read up about the skills needed. Ask experienced sailors for advice. Ask about courses. Buddy-up with like-minded sailor(s). Improve, and then join in on dinghy cruises. Improve further, and cruise ‘anytime’ and without safety boat cover.

The Exe has strong tidal streams, especially near Exmouth, but there are also sections of weaker flows, and back eddies, and learning where to go at any particular state of tide, is part of the fun. The river is endlessly fascinating, and it’s never the same twice. Come, learn, and cruise, and learn something about yourself too. If you get the ‘hang’ of the Exe and have the streams ‘sorted’ – please contact me a.sa.p. – I’m still learning.....

Roger Moseley
Dinghy Cruising Captain.



Options for how to haul out a dinghy single-handed


  • There is a box in the Member's Room containing ropes and pulleys for easy hauling out of boats up the steep part of the slipway.
  • It is is not locked because of valuable contents!
  • The box contains rope and pulleys to enable club members to haul out their boat if it is heavy and they are on their own.
  • It is locked to try to prevent items being borrowed for other purposes and the borrower forgetting to return them.
    This would leave someone sailing on their own and relying on the contents being there “in the lurch”.
  • if you feel that this system would be useful for you, please let the Rear Commodore know via the Contacts page who will add your name to the list of people to be informed whenever the combination lock number is changed.

Safety considerations

  • Do not use this system when there are other people at the club using the slipway.
  • Use of this system is solely at your own risk
  • Let the Rear Commodore know if your see any part of the ropes or pulleys that need maintaining.

A pictorial suggestion for one way of using the system. Thanks to Bob Fox for putting the system together!

 Figure 1 - The box is kept in the Member's Room Figure 2 - Box contentsFigure 3 - Pull boat as far as steep part of slipway
 Figure 4 - Attach strop to trailer Figure 5 - Attach pulley/shackle to strop Figure 6 - Attach other pulley / shackle to eye on sea wall
 Figure 7 - Pull rope! Figure 8 - Chock wheels when at wall Figure 9 - Move pulley/shackle to eye in front of boat house (assistant optional)
 Figure 10 - Pull rope! Figure 11 - Boat now up slipway successfully Figure 12 - Replace cover over eye in front of boat house

Logon Info

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