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Ballyhenry Bay

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Overview





Ballyhenry Bay is located on the northeast coast of Ireland and on the northeast side and head of The Narrows that lead to Strangford Lough. The bay offers an anchorage alongside local boat moorings in a quiet location close to the town of Portaferry.

Ballyhenry Bay is located on the northeast coast of Ireland and on the northeast side and head of The Narrows that lead to Strangford Lough. The bay offers an anchorage alongside local boat moorings in a quiet location close to the town of Portaferry.

Ballyhenry Bay provides a good anchorage that is protected from north round to southeast with secure holding out of the main tidal stream. Set within The Narrows it is broadly protected from all winds and would require a Force 6 or more from exposed quadrants to make a location become uncomfortable. Access is very straightforward as there are no off-lying dangers but it is on the edge of the fast-running tides of The Narrows which are in its approach.



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Keyfacts for Ballyhenry Bay
Facilities
None listed


Nature
Remote or quiet secluded locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesBeach or shoreline landing from a tender

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
4 metres (13.12 feet).

Approaches
4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
Shelter
4 stars: Good; assured night's sleep except from specific quarters.



Last modified
November 7th 2022

Summary

A good location with straightforward access.

Facilities
None listed


Nature
Remote or quiet secluded locationMarina or pontoon berthing facilitiesBeach or shoreline landing from a tender

Considerations
Note: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration



Position and approaches
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Haven position

54° 23.313' N, 005° 33.803' W

Upon the five metre contour inshore of the small craft mooring area marked on the chart.

What is the initial fix?

The following Ballyhenry Bay Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
54° 22.988' N, 005° 33.989' W
This is set on Admiralty Chart 2156's Track D off of Audley's Point.


What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details for vessels approaching Strangford Lough from the north are available in northeast Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Malin Head to Strangford Lough Route location. Details for vessels approaching from the south are available in eastern Ireland’s Coastal Overview for Strangford Lough to Dublin Bay Route location. Details of the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, are covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description.


Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Ballyhenry Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Audley’s Point - 0.6 nautical miles WSW
  2. Audley's Roads - 0.7 nautical miles SSW
  3. Portaferry - 0.8 nautical miles SE
  4. Strangford Harbour (Strangford Village) - 1 nautical miles SSE
  5. Chapel Island - 1.1 nautical miles WSW
  6. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 1.3 nautical miles W
  7. Jackdaw Island - 1.6 nautical miles WSW
  8. Don O’Neill Island - 2.4 nautical miles NW
  9. Cross Roads - 2.5 nautical miles SSE
  10. Holm Bay - 2.8 nautical miles WNW
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Audley’s Point - 0.6 miles WSW
  2. Audley's Roads - 0.7 miles SSW
  3. Portaferry - 0.8 miles SE
  4. Strangford Harbour (Strangford Village) - 1 miles SSE
  5. Chapel Island - 1.1 miles WSW
  6. Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 1.3 miles W
  7. Jackdaw Island - 1.6 miles WSW
  8. Don O’Neill Island - 2.4 miles NW
  9. Cross Roads - 2.5 miles SSE
  10. Holm Bay - 2.8 miles WNW
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

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Chart
Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

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What's the story here?
Ballyhenry Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Ballyhenry Bay lies ¾ of a mile north by northwest of Portaferry. It is entered between Walter Rocks and foul ground extending from Ballyhenry Point which lies offshore of the small Ballyhenry Island. The bay is set in a rural part of the coast fronted by trees with woods and arable farmland rising up behind in the background. At its centre is a large period cottage that serves to positively identify it along with its collection of moored vessels.


Moored vessels in Ballyhenry Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


The shore of the bay is bordered by a mud flat with depths of about 2.5 metres that offers an excellent anchorage out of the tide.


How to get in?
Walter Rock, a ¼ mile above Portaferry, and The Narrows
Image: Michael Harpur


Convergance Point Use the approaches, tidal timings, the run up The Narrows and onward to Killyleagh, on the Lough's western shore, as covered in the Entering and exiting Strangford Lough Route location route description. The principal danger when approaching from The Narrows is Walter Rock.


Walter Rock and its perch
Image: Michael Harpur


Walter Rock dries to 3.4 metres, lies a ¼ mile above Portaferry and is nearly 200 metres from the east shore. It is marked with a perch when covered. Walter Pladdy, an awash rock, also lies 100 metres southward of it. As there is a strong tide setting past these vessels approaching the bay must be cautious and give them a sensible distance.


Ballyhenry Point light beacon
Image: Michael Harpur


Initial fix location From the Initial Fix steer northward into the bay a ⅓ of a mile away.

Western Approach Vessels approaching Ballyhenry Bay from the west should pass southwest of the Ballyhenry Point light beacon, Q.G.3m 3M, that marks foul ground which extends southward from Ballyhenry Island. Then take care to avoid the partly submerged stern section of the SS Empire Tana lying about 60 metres off of John’s Rock. It breaks the surface at low water and is in 12 metres of water. Between the SS Empire Tana and Ballyhenry Point is the pinnacle John’s Wee Rock, awash, and between the wreck and the shore is John’s Rock, which dries to 2.1 metres, at the northern side of the bay.


The stern section of the SS Empire Tana with Ballyhenry Light in the backdrop
Image: Michael Harpur


Do not turn sharply into the bay as the Little Ballyhenry Rock, awash at low water, lies about 250 metres from the shore. It is a detached patch situated about 300 metres eastward from John’s Rock.
Please note

Attention should be paid to steerage when passing from the main tidal streams of the fairway into the comparative slack water of the anchorage. The tide backs off from a fairway maximum of 4.5 to 2 knots on the outside and less than 1 on the inside.




Ballyhenry Bay as seen over Audley's Point
Image: Michael Harpur


Haven location The position of the anchorage is made unmistakable by its moored yachts, about fifteen, that are permanently moored in the bay and its central cottage visible among the trees.


Approching the mooring area in Ballyhenry Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Anchor clear of the permanent yacht moorings The shore of the bay is bordered by a mud flat with depths of about 2.5 metres. Tidal streams reduce the closer to shore that draft permits. Holding is fair to good in boulder clay, rock and shale. Although the tidal streams are vastly reduced an anchor watch is advisable at least at the change of tide.


The landing area leading to the road
Image: Michael Harpur


Land by the cottages where the gap in the wall that runs around the edge of the road will be seen. There are usually some local boat tenders in this area.


Why visit here?
Ballyhenry, variously recorded as Ballyhanny, Ballyhany and Ballyhenny, takes its name from the Irish 'Baile Héinrí' which means 'Henry’s townland'. The name Henry was brought to this area by the Anglo-Normans led by de Courcey.


Tranquil Ballyhenry Bay
Image: Ardfern via CC BY SA 4.0


Although De Courcy choose Carrickfergus as his base, he saw this area as critical to holding building three castles within three miles of Ballyhenry Bay: Portaferry, Strangford and Ardkeen. He also established the ferry service that connected Lecale and the Upper Ards which is probably the oldest in Europe, if not the world. But Ballyhenry Bay remained a quiet peaceful location throughout this period. The shallow flat bay was in the 20th century the site of Lee's Breakers Yard owned by John Lees. The yard has left it with the most unusual feature offshore; the remains of SS Empire Tana.


The stern section of the SS Empire Tana showing
Image: Michael Harpur


SS Empire Tana was built in Trieste, Italy, in 1923 and started life as the SS Carso. It was captured during World War II and taken as a prize by the Allied forces in 1943 renaming it HMS Empire Tana. In 1944 she was towed to the D-Day beachhead at Normandy where she was scuttled and used as a block ship, 'Gooseberry No. 5' at Ouistreham on the British 'Sword' Beach. In 1947 she was purchased and raised to be scrapped by Lee’s Yard. The breakers intended to beach the ship at high tide, but alas the currents took her and she struck a reef, most likely John's rock, and falling off, split into two, sank and could not be refloated. Thereafter the wreck became known locally as 'Lees Wreck'.


The bow section of the SS Empire Tana referred to as the 'Inner Lees'
Image: FINN External link


The mid-section was salvaged, so not all was lost for the breaker's yard. The bow section referred to as the 'Inner Lees' wreck can be seen running in on Ballyhenry Island. The bow section is easily visible from the shore as, except at high water, it breaks the surface. The stern wreckage lies 300 metres to the southeast in about 15 metres of water and usually breaks the surface and is highly visible at low tide. Both sections are today popular dive sites in Strangford Lough.


The view down The Narrows from Ballyhenry Bay
Image: Michael Harpur


Ballyhenry Bay offers an excellent anchorage with road access to the village of Portaferry. It offers an uncomplicated anchoring location out of the tides and makes an ideal easy set down or place to wait for a tide. More importantly, Ballyhenry Bay, along with all the berths in its vicinity are setdown locations and gateways to Strangford Lough that provide a boatman with magnificent cruising in unspoilt surroundings.


What facilities are available?
There are no facilities available in Ballyhenry Bay, however it is a very short walk from here into Portaferry. There you will find local amenities including supermarkets, post office, butcher, green grocer, cash machine, hardware supply shop, credit union, bakery, gas, and minor repairers etc. who cater for a local population of almost 3,000. The Health Centre and pharmacy are located in the High Street. Barholm Hostel during office hours offers a launderette.


Any security concerns?
Never a problem known to have occurred in Ballyhenry Bay.


With thanks to:
Brian Crawford, local Strangford Lough boatman of many decades. eOceanic would like to thank Quoile Yacht Club External link for hosting our survey boat during the survey of Strangford Lough.







Aerial overview of the Inner and Outer Lees Wrecks a low tide



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Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.