Tucked in the southwest corner of the estuary Culmore Bay provides complete protection and all-round shelter from all quarters. A well-marked commercial channel supported by a lighthouse with a sectored light provides safe access in all reasonable conditions, night or day, and although tidal streams are occasionally strong they abate as a vessel progresses inside the lough making the bay approachable at all states of the tide.
Keyfacts for Culmore Bay
SummaryA completely protected location with safe access.
Position and approaches
Haven position55° 2.785' N, 007° 15.606' W
This is approximately 100 metres northeast of the Culmore Bay Light Buoy (starboard hand) Fl.G.5s off the western edge of the River Foyle in Culmore Bay.
What are the initial fixes?The following waypoints will set up a final approach:
(i) Lough Foyle North Channel Initial Fix
55° 14.155' N, 006° 53.700' W
One mile east of Inishowen Head and 400 metres northwest of Red Tuns Light (port hand) Buoy F1. R.3s. It is set on the 222° line of bearing of the Martello tower on Magilligan Point that leads into the North Channel.
(ii) Lough Foyle South Channel Initial Fix
55° 11.760' N, 006° 57.084' W
Midway between the shore and the southern edge of the Tuns Bank in the narrowest part of the South Channel in approximately 10 metres of water.
What are the key points of the approach?
- Lough Foyle’s approaches, the run up the lough to the River Foyle and beyond are detailed in the Foyle Port Marina (Derry City) entry.
- Once Culmore Point has been rounded proceed towards the starboard hand Culmore Bay Light Buoy and anchor close outside it.
Not what you need?
- Foyle Port Marina (Derry City) - 3.1 nautical miles SW
- The Lough Swilly Marina - 8 nautical miles WNW
- Buncrana - 8.5 nautical miles NW
- Rathmullan - 9.7 nautical miles WNW
- Macamish Bay - 10.6 nautical miles WNW
- Carrickarory Pier - 10.7 nautical miles NE
- Moville - 11.2 nautical miles NE
- Dunree Bay - 13 nautical miles NW
- Scraggy Bay - 13.1 nautical miles NW
- Ramelton - 13.2 nautical miles W
How to get in?
Culmore Bay is a small bay immediately within the entrance and on the west bank of River Foyle. It lies opposite Lisahally, or Londonderry Port, providing a quiet out of the way anchorage. Entered between Magilligan Point and the Inishowen shore, Lough Foyle’s approaches, the run up the lough to the River Foyle and beyond are detailed in the Foyle Port Marina (Derry City) entry.
Once Culmore Point has been rounded proceed towards the starboard hand Culmore Bay Light Buoy Fl.G.5s, off the western edge of the River Foyle in Culmore Bay. Anchor in 3 to 4 metres in its immediate vicinity where a vessel will be clear of the run of the tide. Do not go to the west of the buoy as the channel shelves steeply to quickly dry inshore of the marker. Land by dinghy at a jetty on the shore.
Why visit here?Culmore derives its name from the Irish Chúil Mhór. The words Chúil meaning ‘corner or angle’ and Mhór means ‘big’, conjoined to ‘Culmore’, perfectly describes the ‘big nook or corner’ on the west bank of the River Foyle.
The centre of activity at Culmore is all on the opposite eastern bank where Lisahally or Londonderry Port is located. Lisahally derives its name from the Irish Lios a' Chalaidh that means the ‘ringfort of the landing place’. The port witnessed mass emigration of Irish and Scots-Irish people to North America, Scotland, England, Australia and had a thriving shipbuilding business through the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries. A wide range of cargoes have been transported from here through the centuries including linen, linoleum and shirts to Great Britain, cattle to and from Glasgow, and seed potatoes too, as far-away places, as Egypt. What the port will be most remembered for in history is its role in the closing hours of World War II when it handled the surrendered German U-Boats.
Derry played a vital part for the Allies in what was to prove the longest running campaign of the war, the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’. Its strategic location to United Kingdom’s North-West Approaches made Lisahally pivotal and it became the largest of the four bases covering this area. Ships from the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and other Allied navies were stationed in the city and the United States established a military base there. In the closing year of the war, in the autumn of 1944, the Americans shut down the base and moved out. However, in view of the need to accommodate the surrendered German U-Boat fleet, the base was temporarily re-commissioned in May 1945. The Royal Navy's ‘Operation Pledge’ plan was to move all surrendered U-Boat’s to the anchorages at Lisahally and Loch Ryan in Scotland where they would be dealt with later. From May 1945 until February 1946, Lisahally became a hive of U-Boat-related activity.
The process commenced with a media coup by Admiral Sir Max Horton who arranged a public ceremony at Lisahally on the 14 of May. In it, he accepted the formal, but completely staged, surrender of the eight U-Boats being transferred to Lisahally. These eight U-Boats had already surrendered and were manned by skeleton German crews under the supervision of Royal Navy personnel at Lough Foyle. They were escorted by warships from the Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and the US Navy in recognition of their joint contribution to the Battle of the Atlantic. When the U-Boats arrived at Lisahally their senior officers, led by Oberleutnant Klaus Hilgendorf, who had commanded U-1009, made a formal surrender to Admiral Horton in the presence of US, Canadian and Republic of Ireland commanders, on behalf of the German U-Boat fleet. This ceremony, which received extensive press coverage such as the British Pathé footage below, has been responsible for the long-held and incorrect belief that some of the U-Boats directly surrendered in Lisahally.
Handfuls of other U-Boats continued to arrive practically every other day after the arrival of the eight U-Boats for Admiral Horton's formal surrender ceremony. By the 31st May, there were 37 at Lisahally and the boats kept coming. For a short period in the latter half of May Hilgendorf’s U-1009 was sailed up the River Foyle to Derry where it was open for visitors. Eventually, before the disposals commenced, some 60 U-boats of the German Kriegsmarine fleet ended up moored at Lisahally. The Royal Navy official image taken on the 12th June 1945 shows nine of the 21 class, 1600 tons carrying 23 torpedoes, four of the 9 class, 500 tons, and thirty nine of the 7 class, also 500 tons, representing a total of fifty two U-boats moored alongside the old wooden jetties of which the remains are still visible to the south of Culmore Bay.
Then came the disposals and 30 of the U-Boats were sunk off Malin Head and all but six were dispatched to Russia, America and France. The final six U-Boats had been allocated to the Royal Navy for experimental and technical purposes. All trials were completed by the end of January 1946 and the six remained in the vicinity of Lisahally until early 1949 when they were declared as surplus to requirements. They were finally towed away to various ship-breakers yards in the UK for disposal as scrap later in the same year.
The Lisahally docks seen today were built by Du Pont (UK) to import raw materials for their manufacturing process and to import fuel oil for the nearby Coolkeeragh Power Station. In 1993 Derry City needed to redevelop its waterfront area, as well as accommodating increasingly larger vessels requiring deeper waters, which saw the city’s port relocated to the docks at Lisahally. It is now the United Kingdom's most westerly port and has the capacity to host 30,000-ton vessels as well as accepting cruise ships. In the recent decade, the Port and Harbour Commission announced record turnover, record profits and record tonnage figures, and the port is thriving. Despite this success, Lisahally will most likely be remembered for being the centre for the receipt, processing and ultimate disposal of many of the German U-Boat fleet that had surrendered elsewhere at the end of the war; although by legend it was the location of the mass U-Boat surrender.
From a sailing perspective, Culmore is truly a delightful anchorage with the small exception of having the large-scale industrial complexes of the power station and Lisahally port on the opposite eastern bank. It is an ideal place to take a break and await a favourable tide in a quiet out of the way location on the Foyle. It also provides the opportunity to access the separately covered Derry City without being in the city centre.
What facilities are available?There are no facilities in this remote bay. Bulk diesel and water can be obtained by arrangement across the river at Lisahally. Three and a half miles upriver the Foyle pontoon, in the separately covered Derry City entry, has all facilities.
Any security concerns?Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored in Culmore Bay.
With thanks to:Bill McCann, Londonderry Harbour Master. Photography with thanks to Jim Williamson, Kenneth Allen and Lindy Buckley.
British Pathé Surrender Of German U-Boats Ceremony May 1945
British Pathé Operation Deadlight - German U-Boat Fleet Surrender 1945
Add your review or comment:
Jim Williamson wrote this review on Jun 16th 2012:
This is a pleasant anchorage, perfectly sheltered with good holding. There is a shop and a pub. Follow the shore road away from the point, towards the NW, carry on up the hill and eventually you will come to the shop and pub. There are no buses into Derry on a Sunday.Average Rating: Unrated
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