Dart Harbour History

Dart Harbour (Dart Harbour and Navigation Authority) was formed in 1976 from two organisations, the River Dart Navigation Commission (RDNC) and the Dart Harbour Commission (DHC). Both of these organisations were set up in the early 1880s when the railway was opening up vast swathes of the countryside.

The Duke of Somerset, with the aid of an act of parliament, created the River Dart Navigation Commission to improve the river’s navigation while entrepreneur Charles Seale Hayne used the coming of the railway to attract money to improve and upgrade the port’s facilities. He formed the Harbour Commission and encouraged it to do everything it could to promote and encourage shipping, including building or maintaining quays, providing buoys, lights or beacons. 

The local economy was boosted even more when, in 1863, the Royal Navy decided to train naval cadets on the Dart and stationed first the Britannia, then the Hindustan, in the river.

In 1975, the RDNC amalgamated with the Dartmouth Harbour Commission, an act of parliament was raised and the Dart Harbour and Navigation Authority (DHNA) was duly formed. It controlled the Harbour from Inner Froward Point to the weir at Totnes.

The RDNC had 32 members and the DHC had 16 and on amalgamation and with great difficulty the  DHNA was reduced to 15 members. 

In 1973, 75% of the activities on the river were commercial and 25% leisure. Today that figure has completely changed and is now 95% leisure and 5% commercial. This has had a major effect on the environment on and around the river and in order to sustain such an increase in the leisure activities many new moorings had to be provided.

Mooring areas have been established but there are large areas which have been kept moorings-free to allow visiting yachtsmen to safely moor at anchor in the quiet and serenity of the area of outstanding natural beauty.”