Crossing The English Channel By Boat


Crossing The English Channel By Boat.

I have sailed across the English Channel in private boats many times from various points. It is well worth the doing and can be completely stress free or extremely stressful it is unlikely that any crossing would be the same. 



1. Shortest point 33 km.

2. Crossed by over 400 vessels a day.

3. Total length 560 km.

4. Total area 75,000 km2.

5. Average depth 63 metres.

6. Pre WW1 shipwrecks 1100 estimate.

7. 23,000 people crossed illegally this year (2021)

8. The Dover Strait is the busiest shipping lane in the world. 

Do you really want to encounter ships in a small underpowered craft ? 


What size boats I have crossed in.


The smallest boat that I have crossed the English Channel was 34ft and the largest was 45 ft. I had an attempted crossing in a 24 ft yacht that I had to aborted due to reduced visibility. 

Approaching the Needles


What is the smallest suitable craft

That is a tricky one and largely depends on the experience of the skipper and the conditions. Mr A. J. Mackinnon reported in his book ( The Unlikely Voyage of Jack De Crow: A Mirror Odyssey from North Wales to the Black sea) that he crossed in a Mirror dinghy 9 ft 8 inches. I know many people who have crossed in Wayfarer Dinghys 15.84 ft. I personally would not want cross in any sailing vessel smaller than 17 ft. But, to be honest in the right conditions with a experienced skipper it could be crossed in almost any craft. 

So what is it really like


Sunrise on the French coast after night sailing.


I have crossed the English Channel in settled and un settled conditions in good visibility and poor visibility. I have crossed in the Spring and in the summer. In settled conditions in the summer it can be very boring and you might not encounter another craft until you make landfall. In un settled conditions it was very scary. Even in the summer it can get very cold mid Channel. When visas drops you are only aware of other vessels by the fog horns that can also be quite scary. Other times it can be very relaxing and is always rewarded when you make landfall.


What about illegal immigration and border checks

To date I have not encountered any illegal crossings. To date I have not been boarded or challenged by immigration on either side when crossing. So I fully understand why many so many crinimals and ilegal immigrants consider it a viable option. But, in a unsuitable craft with a unexperienced skipper in questionable conditions it could be very dangerous and likely fatal. Many of the boats used to cross the English Channel are not suitable. They are often overcrowded with  unexperienced skipper.


So how easy would it be to enter the UK illegally.

Unfortunately it would very, very easy to enter the UK illegally as the UK does not have enough resources to monitor the English Channel. It has been neglected by the British government for generations.


Do you really want to be in the fog in a small boat ?




So why do so many attempt to cross in unsuitable craft.


1. Lack of resources to monitor Channel.

2. False sense of safety. You can see England from Calais on a clear day.

3. Believe England offers better prospects.

4. Marketing by people smugglers.

5. Desperation 


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By sea and land
By sea and land

Normal person who loves linguistics and travel. I have a passion for sailing and being on the water. I love to travel overland or by sea. I have been making money online since 2005.

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