Sailing from Plymouth to France

With Plymouth well and truly settled in for the summer holidays, now is the ideal time to think about getting away from it all. Boating is the perfect way to lift your spirits with sea air and open waters, where the transport is the holiday.

Sailing locally can be fun, and the coastline around the South West is simply breathtaking. But if you’ve sailed to Cornwall and back, and you’re looking for something a bit further afield, the Port of Roscoff, in France, is only around 97nm away from Plymouth.

To make the crossing, you don’t need to have a certain sized boat, nor specific horsepower engine, but there are some recommendations from seasoned Channel crossers.

The general consensus is that anything under 5.5m, while potentially viable for a shorter journey, is not recommended for this likely overnight crossing. Whatever boat you’re in, you’ll need to ensure you have enough fuel for the trip – at least the trip – as well as all of the other emergency items you should be carrying.

Have a look at our last blog post for more information about staying safe at sea.

The Channel waters are often rough and choppy with a lot of fog and mist floating around, so it’s advisable to check the weather forecasts both pre-journey and during. The weather can go from ideal conditions, to heavy rain and winds in 15 minutes, so having experience with all sorts of conditions is highly recommended before undertaking this challenge.

The crossing will be far quieter than anything nearer Dover, but it is still a commercial waterway, with several ferries crossing per day. Alongside this, the tidal streams are particularly strong in the South West.

You need to be aware of all of this when considering the journey, but the decision is ultimately up to you as the sailor; if you feel confident in your abilities and your boat, you’re ready to go.

Unlike standard, non-boating holidays, you’ll need a little bit more than a passport and some euros. While you do not need to fly the yellow quarantine flag, as both countries are EU members for the moment, you will need to do so should you decide to visit any non-EU countries.

You will also be required to have the following list of boat documents, all of which should be in the original:


  • Registration
  • Ship Radio Licence
  • Insurance (varies country to country)
  • Evidence of RCD Compliance/Exemption
  • Evidence of Union Status
  • Voyage Log

And the following list of crew documents:

  • Evidence of competence (varies by country)
  • Authority to operate maritime radio
  • Passport
  • EHIC (European health insurance card) or appropriate medical insurance.

All of these are listed on the Royal Yachting Association website. For more information about sailing abroad, visit the GOV website.

If you intend to go travelling around French canals and rivers while you’re there, you will also need an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) valid for waters inland. You can apply for your ICC by going to the RYA website.

Boating licenses are not necessary in the UK, but you will need one in France for any boat with an engine power of 4.5kwh and up. It’s also important to note that French authorities may apply French legislation to British vessels, so it’s worth looking this up first.

The Roscoff port is open 24/7, and can host boats of up to 60m along the jetty, with longer boats along the service pontoon. The marina offers maintenance and repairs, designated water disposal sites designed to preserve water quality, and power hook ups on all of the jetties.

In the city of Roscoff, you can walk the cobbled street of the town centre, explore traditional 16th century buildings, including the Church of Notre-Dame de Croaz-Batz, and visit one of many delicious seafood restaurants.

From Roscoff, should you want to continue boating around France, you can sail to River Morlaix, and through to South West France. Alternatively, you could stay for a couple of nights on a beautiful coast line, before sailing back on home to Blighty.