My tidal planning for a trip to the Farne Islands


Ok, I wanted to write this for a long time for our website and while this article will be for a specific trip, a lot of the planning for it can be directly transferred for other trips.


As a start I would look at the weather forecast on the internet. I would look at the Metoffice site, check the Inshore forecast and have a look at sites like Magic seeweed and Windguru. Our website links to all of them (

I look out for information about the wind speed and direction and sea state.

Wind on our shore (east coast) is a major factor, as most of the wind is from a westerly direction and offshore which would make the trip back more difficult.


Here MY personal guide to windspeed and its effects on MY paddling against the wind.

Force 3: most paddlers should be able to paddle against a Force 3 for a prolonged time

Force 4: again a lot of paddlers would be able to paddle against a 4, but weaker paddlers would certainly start to struggle after a while

Force 5: I can paddle against it, but it starts getting strenuous

Force 6: It is hard work to make slow progress.

Force 7 and above: well, lets not talk about it....

For me a windspeed of 16kn offshore which is an upper Force 4 would be the cut off point from where I would decide against a trip to the Farnes (based on windspeed alone). While I can still make decent progress, the safety margin is getting quite small.

Please don't just go with these numbers, but have a try at controlled conditions and try it by yourself. I am a reasonably fast paddler and can happily go at a speed of 4kn for over 1hour.

(Normally a speed of 3kn is assumed for an average sea kayaker)

(Here a link to the Beauford Scale:


Sea state: The inshore forecast gives information on sea state in following levels:

Smooth Wave height less than 0.5 m

Slight Wave height of 0.5 to 1.25 m

Moderate Wave height of 1.25 to 2.5 m

Rough Wave height of 2.5 to 4.0 m

Well, make your own mind up what sea state you would like to paddle in and even if you are comfortable in lets say a moderate sea state, with tidal currents around the Farne Islands it might be a good choice to paddle somewhere else.


Wind over Tide:

If the wind direction is against the tidal currents, waves build up, get shorter, steeper and higher in short more difficult. (Tides change over the day, so consider that while you are fine going out, you might have wind over tide on the way back.... And are you comfortable with waves from the back???)

Equally you might consider wind over swell....


Lets assume all the above sound ok, the next step would be to look at tide tables:


Do we have spring or neap tides (If you don't know what this is, please learn about it – And I might write an other article explaining the tides, tidal ranges....)

At spring tides there are tidal flows of up to 4kn at the Farne Islands. With the average paddler going about 3kn, I think I don't need to explain why you should do exact tidal planning for this trip or think twice of going out there.

Neap tides have roughly (for UK waters) half the tidal range and flow as spring tides.


Ok, lets assume we have a perfect day, the sun is shining, birds are singing and more importantly:


Wind SW, Force 2-3

Sea state slight

Neap tides


Tide North Shields:

05:12 2.0m

11:15 4.1m

18:02 1.5m


See below for my personal copy of the Chart I use. It is a combination of a nautical Chart with an OS Map overlayed.


For tidal currents I want to highlight a few points on this map:


A: Tidal vectors: here 2 vectors in staple sound. The feathered vector is for a flooding tide, the other shows the tidal flow at the ebbing tide (also it shows the flow of 4kn at Spring tides)


B.: a Tidal Diamond marked with E (this one is in the Inner sound)


Tidal Diamonds come with additional information somewhere on the edge of the chart. These look like this:



First: Check that you have the Tide times for the reference port of this map. Here it would be River Tyne, North Shields. A lot of tide tables are for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Make sure that you have adjusted the Tide times to British Summer Time (BST) if applicable. (BST = GMT +1hour)


Then check that you are using the correct tidal diamond by checking the letter and Lat Long for the diamond


So we would be using Diamond E.

The first column shows the direction of the flow (compass bearing), the second the flow at spring, the third the flow at neap tides.

The rows show these data for each hour before and after High Water.


We are on Neap Tides, with High Tide (North Shields) at 11:15.

This would give following table



Speed in Kn


4:45 – 5: 45




5:45 – 6: 45



Slack water

6:45 – 7: 45




7:45 – 8:45




8:45 – 9:45




9:45 – 10:45




10:45 – 11:45



HW is at 11:15 so we assume the flow stays for ½ h before and after

11:45 – 12:45




12:45 – 13:45



Slack water

13:45 – 14:45




14:45 – 15:45




15:45 – 16:45




16:45 – 17:45



Check the sunset time when considering a trip this late


There are 2 good starting points for a trip to the Farne Islands:

The Windings at Bamburgh (NU177355)

and the Northern end of Seahouses (NU 210326)


Have a look at the direction of the flow:

if we would start at 10am we would have a current of 1.1kn at 129° (going SE). As I am a lazy person I don't like to paddle against the tide. So the obvious choice would be to start this trip in Bamburgh, paddle out to Megstone and then go with the flow south to the islands. And as I am really lazy, I would choose to paddle back after 2pm when the tide has changed and flows now to the North.

Also it might make things easier to cross areas of high tidal flow (e.g. Staple Sound) close to slack water.

Marked in red are areas where I have encountered tide races



The Farne Islands are a National Trust property and a heaven for wildlife and birds. Landing for kayaks is only permitted at 2 points:

Inner Farne, just to the North of the jetty (55°37.028N 1°39.163W)

and landing is allowed on Longstone Island a good place is just East of the Lighthouse (55°38.638N 1°36.558W)


While I will need the tidal information for North Shieds to know about the tidal flow, I also will look up the local tides to know the tidal heights when I start and land.


For the day above it would have been:

Holy Island

04:04 1.6

10:31 3.9

16:53 1.3

23:32 4.0


So starting at 10am I would know that I have a relatively short carry to the water, landing on Longstone at 1pm I could see that the tide is ebbing so my boat would be safe at the beach while I have my lunch (nothing more embarrassing than to be stuck on an Island because the tide came in and took your boat away)

Also I would consider taking my boat trolley, as it will be pretty close to low tide and it will be a very long carry back to the car.


P.S.: If the tide was flooding I would use the rule of 12th to estimate the tidal height during my lunch break, but more about this and the article I have threatened to write earlier....