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Where to sail

Yacht Ponds and Boating Lakes.

Where to sail can be a problem, safety should be paramount especially with young children who should be supervised at all times. When introducing very young children to sailing model yachts it is best to find a raised pond like those at Aldeburgh near the Moot Hall and in the Croft, Sudbury, here you can free sail quite easily. Many parks have ponds and lakes but the maturity of overhanging trees and shrubs often dictates that these ponds are only suitable for radio control or sailing using a tether. Some sites like Wicksteed Park in Kettering however do have specially designed yacht ponds where you can free sail small and large yachts alike. It is a question of going to look beforehand to check the suitability of the yacht pond.

Duck Ponds


Village and town duck ponds are of course very handy some are in beautiful locations and are perfect for sailing but only if they do not have steep banks and are not choked with bullrushes, using a tether is advisable if some of the banks are inaccessible. One renowned duck pond is Consols pond near St Ives in Cornwall this pond hosts an all-comers sailing event every Good Friday this is a tradition that dates back over a hundred years!

The Seaside

Some seaside resorts provide outdoor swimming pools that fill when the tide comes in, the attraction with these pools is that the concrete edges act like breakwaters reducing the effect of crashing waves creating a virtual harbour providing a calm sailing experience. Smaller toy yachts can be sailed in rock pools or lagoons, but if you want to sail in the sea then you need to find a coast with a long shallow beach, such a beach will reduce the strength and height of the waves. It is best to find a section of tidal estuary like that near the car park in Kingsbridge, Devon. Your yacht should be washed down using tap water immediately after use as the corrosive action of seawater will cause the metal fittings to corrode.


Lakes are usually very overgrown with the water only accessible from swims made for anglers, they often have steep slippery banks, so they are usually best suited to radio-controlled sailing they can be very large, with many obstructions that will impede free sailing, Such dangers are overhanging tree branches, tree roots, thick reed beds, thick Lily beds and islands. It is advisable to sail with a tether then you can at least pull your yacht from danger. Some lakes in parks do a hard standing and Tarmac paths at the water's edge the edge of the water is sometimes better maintained, these lakes are more suitable if you are lucky enough to live near one.

Mill ponds

Mill ponds can be accessible for sailing model yachts but be sure to ask the landowners permission some can be choked with cabbage weed and be too shallow, but you are certain of a beautiful location. Access may only be available from one bank so tethering your yacht would be sensible.


Sailing in a canal can be difficult if the water is difficult to reach and full of narrowboats, however, there is usually very little current and the banks are free from overhanging trees and bullrushes. Sailing with a tether is advisable.


Sailing on rivers can be difficult not only can they have steep banks, but the banks can be unstable and slippery. Some rivers are too fast-flowing and are too shallow to sail on, however, some rivers like the Great Ouse flow very fast and are also very deep. If you fell in you would be swept away. If you do find a suitable river your yacht will of course have to contend with a current, a tether would be very advisable.

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools either outdoors or indoors provide a super place to sail at home the water is clean and blue, you can access the water from all points around the pool, indoor pools are perfect for sailing in winter keeping you dry and warm, with the added bonus of heated water.

Garden Ponds

If you are lucky enough to have a garden pond you can sail your yachts in the tranquillity of your garden, just be careful not to spook your goldfish. Garden ponds come in a variety of sizes some are ornamental whilst others have been made to support wildlife, either type of pond is suitable.

Paddling Pools

Paddling pools are usually inflatable, come in various sizes and some are often deep enough to sail small to medium-sized yachts. Just be careful not to puncture the pool. 

Tin Baths and Butler Sinks

Some of us are not able to access a local pond suitable for sailing, but if you have a tin bath or an old Butler sink you can at least float your smaller yachts, in fact on Star Yachts Float Your Boat Day you are encouraged to sail on or in anything that comes to hand whether a bucket or the bath. Float Your Boat Day is held on the 30th of June each year and is held to remember the closure of the Star Yacht factory in Birkenhead near Liverpool. 


Model Yacht Clubs.

If you are a beginner you could join a local model sailing club, you are then joining a support group of like-minded experienced people that will help you get the best from your yacht, there are many model boat clubs up and down the country. Members have varied interests some are into radio control others just powerboats but there will be someone that like you that just wants to free sail for fun.


The Vintage Model Yacht Group is also worth joining, you will then receive The Turning Pole, this publication is issued quarterly you can read other members articles on racing yachts down to clockwork and rubbered powered toy boats. Along with the latest news and items for sale, they have an excellent web site that is full of additional information.

Sailing a Star SY1 in Winter.jpeg

Sailing a vintage Star SY1 on the village pond in winter

What makes a good yacht pond?

You might also ask "so what makes a good boat pond?" The answer is - a pond where your boat will not get stuck or lost. Free-sailing pond yachts are designed to sail across a pond in a fairly straight line and need to be turned on the opposite bank, either by hand or by using a turning pole. Once launched they are at the mercy of the prevailing wind and could go anywhere, especially if the wind changes.


If your chosen pond has any of the listed issues, your boat is very likely to get stuck and lost.  Avoid sailing your pride and joy without the use of a suitable tether. You might also be able to assess the hazard and get past them with a long turning pole.



  • Islands

  • Bulrushes or water lilies

  • Shallow muddy edges

  • Fenced-off parts of the bank

  • Overhanging buildings

  • Sheer walls as part of the bank

  • Overhanging trees

  • Tree roots

  • Anglers

  • An outlet to a bigger lake or the sea

  • Fences, walls or dams that you can’t walk on safely

  • Rocky edges.

Other obstacles to look out for are 

  • Tidal ponds.


These are found on beaches and will disappear as the tide comes in.  Look for pools that have smooth bottoms, beware of those that are rocky as your yacht could become trapped.


  • Club Hazards.


Some clubs leave out annoying floating docks in the pond, these will trap free-sailing boats.


  • Pedalos.


Avoid sailing if the pond is full of pedalos or rowboats not just when they are being used on the pond but also when they have been moored up. These can form a trap for your model yacht.

  • Algae


Some poorly maintained yacht ponds can become clogged with algae lookout for a blue Algal bloom in high summer it is poisonous. Clogged up yacht ponds will snag your yacht unless you sail using a tether so that you can pull it free.

Be prepared for disappointment and if the yacht pond is unusable contact the local authority and let them know your feelings. You never know if you complain enough they might just put things right.

Warning!! Never sail on a gravel pit! They are dangerous! They often have slippery steep and unstable banks and hidden dangers beneath the water. You have been warned.

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