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River Clyde

Flowing through Glasgow, the River Clyde in Scotland is the eighth longest river in the UK at about 106 miles (170 km) in length.  Whilst the Firth of Clyde is popular with yachtsmen, the port of Glasgow was once industrialised shipbuilding and commercial shipping territory into which few leisure craft ventured.  Today, the Clyde is a largely missed opportunity for freight operations and visited by few leisure craft.

Things to do nearby

Boats in Bowling Basin, Forth & Clyde Canal

Waterway notes

Navigation Authorities

Mooring Pontoons in Glasgow

There are three mooring pontoons for visiting boats maintained by Glasgow City Council.

  • Plantation Quay pontoon is located on the South Bank of the river at the Media Quarter adjacent to the Glasgow Science Centre – 40m in length with a Maximum displacement weight of 200T. Freeboard section is 600mm
  • Govan Pontoon is located on the South bank of the river a short walk from Govan Town centre  – 30m in length with a Maximum displacement weight of 200T. Freeboard section is 600mm.
  • Yorkhill Pontoon is located on the Northbank of the river at the Riverside Museum – 50m in length with a Maximum displacement weight of 200T. Freeboard section is 600mm, with an additional 9m length 300mm freeboard section for canoe access

There is no charge at present, but 24 hours notice is required.  Full details and on-line booking form at Glasgow City Council’s website

River Clyde Navigation Tips

Boats can be craned in for Bowling, into the River Clyde, which involves a 5-mile tidal passage – either up or down the River. The two boatyards with travelling hoists on the Clyde are River Clyde Boatyard Rothesay Dock, Clydebank, which can be contacted at (0141 941 3366; and who have a 75-tonne travelling hoist, or Sandpoint Marina Ltd Dumbarton (01389 762396; who have a 40-tonne travelling hoist and an 85-tonne launching trailer.

There are Scottish Canals craning pads on both the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals but the cost of using them is generally prohibitive. Before even hiring in a mobile crane (expensive) you will have to commission various Scottish Canals ‘statements’ that are in themselves very costly to complete.

Cranage costs at both Clydebank and Dumbarton are currently (2023 prices) between £350 and £600 dependant on size of vessel. Clydebank tends to be marginally cheaper.

Key points to bear in mind when navigating the River Clyde:

  • Have an understanding of the appropriate Colregs pertaining to the trip. e.g. understand what the cardinal buoy at the confluence of the rivers Leven and Clyde (should you launch at Sandpoint Marina) is instructing you to do.
  • For general info on navigating the Clyde study:
  • For entering Bowling Harbour, from the Clyde, study the relevant page in the Scottish Canals Skippers Guide to the Forth & Clyde Canal:
  • Make sure you understand how to use the leading lines to allow you to make a safe entry from the river into the old Harbour at Bowling. Ask one of the harbourmasters (see below) before setting out if you don’t understand the diagrams in the Skippers Guide (above) as there is a large submerged breakwater, capable of sinking you, which you won’t be able to see at or around high tide.
  • Anchor, chain and warp (see advice below).
  • Ensure that your navigation lights and horn are operational.
  • Contact the harbourmaster at Bowling several days in advance of the trip – to discuss passage/arrival times/general advice: Alex 01389 877969. He is extremely helpful and, if you are staying at Bowling, could become your friend for life!
  • Contact Clydeport (by phone if no VHF – see item 2 above for contact details) before and after passage. They will advise as to what commercial shipping is on the river and therefore when best to transit.
  • Study tides and weather forecasts for several days before making passage and be prepared to stay put if a suitable weather envelope doesn’t present itself. The weather is the boss here, with your plans and intentions very much taking second place!
  • Remember that a narrowboat (and similarly constructed wide-beams) are classed as Category D craft and as such should only navigate open water when conditions are Beaufort scale 3 or less: maximum wave height 300mm and average wind speed no greater than 10 mph.
  • On spring tides you will be able to access the sea lock at Bowling two hours either side of high tide which is approx. 15 mins after high tide Greenock (tide times on Internet)
  • Life jackets are essential.
  • Notify insurance company re tidal passage (and comply with their requirements). Your trip is outwith their normal cover on an inland craft, but often simply notifying them is sufficient. If you don’t, they could ,quite legitimately, void your cover. Salvage, if in the River Clyde’s navigable channel, for instance, could easily amount to a six-figure sum!

Anchor, chain and warp

You should usually work on a minimum of four times channel depth which, at high tide, is 8.2m on the Clyde. So total minimum length of warp and chain would need to be 33m + 1m or so to reach the water from the boat deck and to tie it off. There should be a minimum of 5m chain.

For a 20-ton vessel the chain should be a minimum of 10mm and the warp a minimum of 16mm.

If you obtain 28m of rope, this can be cut to form 2 x 14m mooring ropes once you’re on the Canal.  Nothing shorter than 10m is much use in the Forth & Clyde locks.  If you’ve already got mooring lines of this length then tie them together for an anchor warp while you’re on the river.  At Bowling sea lock the harbourmaster will drop you down two 20m mooring lines for you to make fast with (so at that point you’ll not need anything).

Ensure that the rope and chain is coiled neatly at the bow of the boat and attached to the anchor and T-stud.  A large floppy builder’s bucket, with the rope coiled round the outside of the bucket’s interior and the chain in the middle, is ideal.

If you are purchasing rope for mooring lines the thicker the better – not because your boat necessarily needs anything more than 16mm, but because the thicker the rope, the more pleasant it is to handle and the easier it is on the hands.

Scottish Canals Welcome Pack:

Read about IWA’s current work on Scottish waterways on our IWA in Scotland page.


Jonathan Mosse, IWA’s lead in Scotland, is campaigning to get freight in Scotland off the roads and onto the waterways – and there are some clear opportunities which he demonstrates in these four articles that were originally published in Towpath Talk, and are republished here with kind permission of the editor:



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