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General details:

The following text is courtesy Pete Manfield, former proprietor of Waterfront Sports, Exmouth:

THE DUCK POND as it is known to the locals, is rather a special place just within the Exe Estuary. At high tide it can offer a large sailing area where you can be pretty sure that you are going to be within your depth if you come off the board. It's perfect for learning and sailing in maxed out conditions. It- can be sailed in most wind directions and if the worst comes to the worst you can be pretty confident that you will be blown to shore. There is usually ample parking on the water front, but occasionally, at peak times, you may have to dump your gear and park in an overflow car park about two minutes walk away. There are toilets & showers in Exmouth Windsurfing Centre's School building and 3 minutes walk will see you in the Town. There is a large, grassy area for rigging up right next to the water.

The big drawback to the Duck Pond is that it's only sailable for a couple of hours either side of high tide. A tide table is a useful investment. High tides vary in height between about 2.7 and 4.2m, although wider extremes occasionally happen. On a sub 3m. tide, sailing is really only practical for about 3/4 hr either side of high tide and don't use a fin that you mind stacking into a sand bar. You'll find all levels of sailors sailing here from complete beginners to first time short boarders to sailors throwing the occasional loop on really windy days. During the summer months, the "Duck Pond" also has it's own Fun Racing Series. Anyone can join in, just ask at the Windsurfing Shop for details.


THE SEAFRONT is a popular but very much more grown up sailing area and offers a range of conditions. There is some fabulous sailing, but make sure that you understand what the tide is doing. To put the tide into perspective, the Exe Estuary is 7 miles long and up to 1mile wide. The change in the depth of the water during a tide can be up to 4.5m. The entire Estuary empties through a passage a couple of hundred yards wide and the whole thing can look more like a fast flowing river than the sea. Having said that, the force of the tide opens up all sorts of possibilities, if used sensibly. Short board sailing can become a reality in a force 2-3 and there can be no need to sail upwind. There is a sandbar a couple of hundred feet offshore, which is exposed at low tide and the effect of the tide is reduced on the other side of the sandbar.

Well, what of the sailing? At low tide the channel is sheltered from the sea by the sandbar, giving a protected sailing area. In a Southerly onshore wind, you can tuck yourself into the speed course right next to the sandbar and fly for nearly a mile on some of the flattest water that you will ever sail on. Unlike many of the world's sea speed courses, which rely on gusty offshore winds, but still leave you at the mercy of any onshore swell, you are sailing in an onshore wind and are protected from any swell by the sandbar. Sotavento eat your heart out!

Waveheads will find plenty to amuse themselves on the other side of the sandbar in everything from an easterly to a westerly with sandbars going in all sorts of angles. It pays to explore a bit to make the most of the conditions in order to get good cross shore jumping waves. For instance, it is possible in a south westerly to sail across the bay from one sandbar to another. This may allow you to jump and wave ride on both port and starboard tacks. Just keep an eye on what the tide and currents are doing, they may help you out.

The front can be sailed in everything from an easterly to a north north westerly. The further round to the north the wind goes the flatter the waves on the other side of the bar. Exmouth has it's own microclimate which often bears no relation to what's happening a few miles away. The wind seems to accelerate across Exmouth in a north westerly and it is nearly always sunny when the wind is in the Northwest. Another point to note in a north westerly is that the wind often picks up in the evening as the effects of the sea breeze wears off. A north westerly on an incoming tide is bliss! You have to keep bearing away down wind to counteract the tide taking you upwind. All this is happening in brilliant sunshine!

As the wind is so localised, WATERFRONT SPORTS (incorporating Exmouth Windsurfing Centre) who are located by the main sailing area on the Sea front, are always happy to give wind checks and advice on where to sail, their telephone number is 01395 276599.

The best car park for sailing off the front is the first one on the left, past Exmouth Windsurfing Centre, the Queen's Drive car park. Like all car parks in the area, it's pay and display, but there is a useful grassy area, for rigging up, at the eastern end. Once you have rigged up, it's a short walk across the road to the wide, sandy beach and the water.

You'll find an excellent Cafe in the car park - known as "Annies" to the locals. Run by Bill and Ann, it's totally windsurfer friendly and used to wetsuits, wet floors and wet seats! They sell hot drinks, snacks and all sorts of meals that go with chips and beans.

[MF]: I must add a few comments of my own, having sailed Exmouth a number of times:

Duck Pond: As Pete says. A good place from which to explore the estuary. We (Bristol Nomads) used to have occasional fun races with the Exe Sailing Club (just S of the Duck Pond). These essentially involved racing about 3 miles up the river to the Turf Lock pub, situated on the lock gates of the Exeter canal, stopping for a couple of pints & a bite to eat (they don't seem to mind dripping wetsuits in the bar!), and then racing back down to the sailing club.

Blasting out across to the W side of the Exe (Star Cross) is quite feasible, but there are a lot of moored boats to get in the way & the currents can be powerful in the deeper channels. The water can get pretty churned-up too.

Sea Front: Although conditions here can be good, it can be a very unsafe place to sail and, as Pete says, it's essential that you know a) your abilities and are confident with them, and b) what the tide's doing. On a spring tide, the current flowing out of the Exe along the sea front (where it is contained in a deep channel between beach & sandbar), can quite happily hack along at 5 or 6 knots. Beyond the sand bar, the current is much less, particularly once the sand bar is exposed at low tide (but then you have to walk back over it!).

photo looking east along sea front photo looking out to sea over the sandbar photo looking West along the sea front Beach volleyball
looking East
View to sea. Breakers over covered sandbar
looking West
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Exmouth live weather and webcam

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Directions to the right place:

Take the M5 heading south until the Exeter / Exmouth turnoff, at junction 30. Then take the A376 to Exmouth. After approx 6-7 miles you reach the town of Exmouth . Exmouth has two sailing spots

The Duck Pond

Continue on road (A376) following directions to sea front / beach until large roundabout. Go straight across this (right'ish). After 100m, turn right at the next roundabout and follow signs for car park (approx 200-300 yds) by the bus & rail stations - entrance can be seen from roundabout. Ignore the 1st car park on the right - continue ahead, past a toilet block on the L (useful for changing!). Park wherever you can find space (NB: Get there early!). Launching is more or less from anywhere, though there is a slipway at far (Westerly) end of car park. Note car park has height restriction and is Pay & Display.

Click here for location of the Duck Pond

The sea front / Beach

Continue on road following directions to sea front / beach until large roundabout. Go straight across this (right'ish). After 100m, at next roundabout, take slightly left exit into Imperial Rd. After 200yds, you reach a T junction with Alexandra Terr. Turn right at junction, still following signs for Sea Front / Beach. Drive down road for 150yds until you reach another T junction at The Esplanade. Turn left onto the The Esplanade with the sea on your right. Drive along sea front., After approximately 400 yards or so, go over the mini roundabout onto Queen's Drive and you should pass the Lifeboat station on your left and a café on your right. Carry on further for a further 100 yards or so then take the next L just before the car park (Pay & Display). The car park entrance is 50yds on the right. Windsurfers usually park at the far end of the car park, closest to the road (which you have to cross to get to the beach).

Click here for a location map for the most popular sea front launch area

It's also possible to sail at the very far (E) end of the sea front, by Orcombe Point. There are some rocks here to watch out for, but the currents are much less. There are often windsurfing lessons going on here.

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How the winds work:

Sea Front

Please see the main descriptive text by Pete Manfield for a fuller description of the winds off the sea front.

E - Cross-off from L. Probably quite gusty. Waves outside

ESE & SE - Cross shore from L (port tack). Excellent on falling tide (wind against current). Steep waves, chop & confused water over sandbar. Steep waves just beyond sandbar. Swells outside. Excellent for port tack jumping. Rides on way in near sandbar. OK above Force 4 on neap, rising tides when current isn't too strong.

S - Onshore. Provides a good speed course inside the sand bar when the sand bar is exposed. Waves outside.

SW - More or less dead onshore. Speed sailing on channel when sandbar exposed, otherwise difficult conditions.

W - Excellent on rising tide.

NW - Waves outside with accelerated wind - excellent on a rising tide.

Duck Pond

I don't yet have any information on the wind directions that work well at the duck pond. Being inside a shallow sided estuary it is likely that all wind directions will work, only some will be more gusty than others.

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Tidal conditions:

HW springs tend to occur around 08:30 - 09:30 (20:30 - 21:30). HW neaps around 14:00 - 15:30 (GMT).

There is a large, constantly shifting sandbar off the sea front, on the seaward side of the deep water channel. It dries out on low tides (below about 1.1m on the tide charts), leaving a large expanse of sand to cross to get to the seaward side. On neap lows, it may not be exposed, but don't forget it's there & hungry for skegs! You should be able to sail across most parts of the sandbar when the tide height is above about 1.5m.

The Duck Pond is only sailable for a couple of hours either side of high tide. A tide table is a useful investment. High tides vary in height between about 2.7 and 4.2m, although wider extremes occasionally happen. On a sub 3m. tide, sailing is really only practical for about 3/4 hr either side of high tide and don't use a fin that you mind stacking into a sand bar.

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Hazards:

sea front:

As mentioned elsewhere, the currents off the sea front, in the middle of the estuary, and by the docks (between Exmouth & Dawlish Warren) can be fearsome, particularly around spring tides.

The current flowing over the sandbar can be strong enough to push you off your feet, even when only in waist depth water. Likewise, if you drop your rig, it can pin it to the bottom.

The deep water channel is very steep-sided. You can be out of your depth two paces from the water's edge, especially when the tide's low.

Don't sail with wind & tide in the same direction, unless the wind is a good, constant Force 4 or above.

Take care sailing over the sand bar - it may be shallower than you think and could lead to nasal depth probing!

There's a large, green channel marker in the deep water channel just about adjacent to the Queen's Road car park. For some reason, this seems to be a board magnet. When the tide's running and you're trying to cross the channel, it always seems to get in the way. Keep well clear of it. If in any doubt, sail downstream of it & lose a little ground. You really don't want to get caught on it in a 6 knot current - your kit will get dragged under it.

Car park charges.

Crossing the main road with your kit. Motorists just don't seem to understand how fluky the winds are & they make no allowance for you struggling with a big sail, suddenly backwinded in the middle of the road!

duck pond:

Shallow water! Although the Duck Pond is nominally sandy, on closer inspection there's a lot of shingle. Take heed of Pete's note about using an old skeg! I once wrote-off a board (a custom wave-slalom at that!) in the Duck Pond many years ago: Blasting along, fully powered-up with a 5.0m sail in what turned out to be only about 30cm. of water, when I hit what must have been the only rock in the whole estuary! The fin box looked moderately unhappy, but the top deck had completely delaminated from the (glassed-in) footstraps to mastfoot! The fin survived!

Currents further out in the estuary.

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Facilities:

sea front:

Large pay & display car park - park at the far end, close to the beach huts. Now a whacking 75p per hour (2006), up 300% from 3 years ago.

Exmouth car park charges Exmouth car parks - things you're not allowed to do
Exmouth sea front (exorbitant) car park charge - Sept 2006
Nice friendly sign tellling you all the things you can't do in the car park

Although the sign says "No trailers", I have parked there with my windsurf trailer, although I have bought a second parking ticket. Makes it a seriously expensive day's sailing.

Tap for rinsing kit at far end, by beach huts.

Grassy area at far end for rigging.

Annie's cafe on the car park.

Toilets 200m back along sea front.

Liquid Motion watersports shop. Tel 01395 276599

duck pond:

Pay & display car park.

Toilet block - also useful for changing.

Update from Pete Manfield - Oct 2007:

About showers and changing rooms at the duckpond: The facilities are fully up and running, including nice hot showers for this time of year.

If your members would like to use them, they can contact me.

Contact details :-
01395 443464
07798780323

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B&B's / campsites

I have a feeling the nearest campsites may be in Woodbury where there are at least 2:

Castle Break Holiday Park - 01395-232431

Webbers Farm campsite - 01395-232276 (very quiet - no shop, bar or club, but does have an owl sanctuary.)

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Pubs and eateries

No details of any pubs - If you have any details, please let us know.

Otherwise...

Annie's cafe on sea front car park.

There's a chippy by the 1st roundabout you come to on entering Exmouth - across from the station. There are probably several more in the town.

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