Navigation at Whitby Harbour

Procedures, pilotage, guidance at Whitby Harbour

Before entering the harbour

Contact watchkeepers on VHF channel 11 before entering the harbour.

The watchkeeper can also be contacted by telephone on 01947 602272.

Contact watchkeepers on VHF channel 11 before entering the harbour. The watchkeeper can also be contacted by telephone on 01947 602272.

Entering the harbour

Whitby Harbour may be approached safely from any direction except southeast.

When approaching from the southeast Whitby Rock Buoy must be rounded and kept on the port hand. At the rock buoy, approximately three-quarters of a mile from the Harbour mouth, the tide turns some two hours after high or low water.

On approaching the piers, care should be exercised as a strong set to the east will be experienced across the entrance during the two hours preceding high water.

Dangerous sea conditions can occur at the harbour entrance during strong northwest to east onshore winds. Entry to Whitby Harbour for small craft is not recommended during this time.

Leading marks should now be visible, consisting of a day signal of a white triangle for the lower mark, and a white circle with a black vertical line for the upper mark at night the exhibit a signal of FL.Y 4s (synchronised). Sited on the east side of the harbour these give the channel in from the sea on a bearing of 169 degrees true.

This course should be held until two similar leading marks/lights sited on the east pier are observed at night a signal FL.Y 2s (synchronised) will be observed. Course should now be altered to 209 degrees true bringing the second set of marks/lights in line astern.

This channel is, as far as possible, maintained at a depth of 1.4m below chart datum.

The swing bridge opens on request each hour and half hour for 2 hours either side of high water.

Vessels arriving outside the bridge opening times are requested to wait in the lower harbour alongside the fish quay/fishing vessels or on the waiting pontoon on the east side at the end of the fish pier. Vessels on the quay must remain manned at all times to facilitate the movement of fishing vessels.

Map of Whitby Harbour


Safety of Navigation

All vessels should proceed at moderate safe speed.  Maximum speeds of 8 Knots between the entrance and Scotch Head and 5 Knots in all other areas will shortly be set by byelaw. The skippers of all craft should be aware that they are responsible for the wake caused by the passage of their vessel and should proceed at such a speed as to minimise any effects to other vessels operating within the harbour limits or to vessels moored alongside. A sign is erected at the harbour entrance to direct the skippers of vessel accordingly.

When transiting the bridge craft upstream should give way to vessels proceeding from seawards. Precedence should be given to larger vessels and no vessel should attempt to transit the bridge when a vessel, under pilotage, is entering or leaving. Both leaves will be opened to smaller craft at busy periods and they will be expected to proceed through simultaneously upstream and downstream in an orderly line keeping to the starboard side of the channel. VHF communication should be established on Ch 11 with the bridge operatives prior to transit. All craft equipped with VHF should maintain a listening watch on Channel 11 when approaching and within Whitby Harbour limits.

Sailing vessels should not proceed under sail power alone within the harbour unless it is as its sole means of propulsion. The practice of leaving the helm to adjust, raise or lower sails should only be carried out outside of the navigation channel and when no obstruction will be caused to other vessels under way. 

Safe operating information is available to all day launched craft both on safety notices distributed by harbour staff and is available to read here. Dangerous sea conditions can occur at the harbour entrance during strong North to East onshore winds. Entry into Whitby Harbour for vessels is not recommended at this time.  A strong Easterly set may be experienced across the entrance two hours preceding and up to high water during spring tides. Vessels are advised to remain alongside in spate conditions.

The harbour watch keepers can be contacted on VHF Ch 11, the port working channel (callsign “Whitby LPS”), in order to provide information on tidal heights, weather conditions, the availability of berthing and the movements of other vessels within the harbour.

Any instruction which may be given by the watch keeper regarding safe navigation, berthing and safe speed must be observed.

When vessels are moving within the port, under pilotage, all other craft must give way and when directed should hold their position or remain alongside until such vessel has passed. 

Vessels waiting to transit the swing bridge may remain on the fish quay/waiting pontoon as long as they remain manned and do not cause obstruction to other harbour users.

Small passenger carrying vessels should not deviate from the proper side of the channel or swing across the navigation channel until they are absolutely sure that their actions will not conflict with the safe passage of all other vessels.

The international regulations for the prevention of collision at sea apply within Whitby Harbour and the operators of all vessels are expected to have a thorough knowledge of them.

It is expected that new Byelaws will be introduced to assist in the safe management of Whitby Harbour.

Vessels over 37m LOA

Any vessel wishing to enter the harbour over 37 metres overall length is required to contact the Harbour Office at least 24 hrs prior to arrival.