Would it have been possible to sail a small boat from The Wash, Norfolk, UK to Dunkirk in WWII? Could it be done in one go? If not, where would you stop en route?

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  • You'll also have to define small. Sep 16, 2017 at 18:56
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    @Suewriter - if you can edit your question to make it more specific it may be able to be reopened, however the simple answer as it stands is: Yes. It has always been possible to sail small boats vast distances. The Wash to Dunkirk is not far. So "is it possible" is not a good question here. What are you trying to ask?
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 18, 2017 at 7:12
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    @Olin - while we definitely expect old hands to understand the rules, lets be a bit more welcoming to new folks. More than happy to put on hold while a question is fixed, but lets help them understand what that means. Your close reason is fine but calling someone arrogant because they don't know our rules is not helpful.
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 18, 2017 at 7:14
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    The problem would not be sailing. The problem would be avoiding being fired upon or captured and executed as a spy. You didn't just go sailing across the English Channel during WWII. Sep 21, 2017 at 19:32
  • Sometime ago I asked about sailing from the Wash to Dunkirk in World War II. I need to know because I am a novelist and need a character to do that. Someone posted some really helpful maps and information but I am afraid I can’t quite find my way around this site to see the name of the person who did. I would love to ask more.
    – Suewriter
    Jan 13, 2018 at 23:34

1 Answer 1


Would it have been possible to sail a small boat from The Wash, Norfolk, UK to Dunkirk in WWII?

During the evacuation of Dunkirk the authorities called on all available civilian boats to aid in the evacuation. These were called "The little ships of Dunkirk".

These ships gathered at Ramsgate before moving with the larger ships to Dunkirk. These boats we're mostly used as ferries to the larger boats. The distance from the Wash to Ramsgate is about 175 miles.

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then another 45 miles to Dunkirk

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Now you don't state how big this small boat is. But a reasonably sized boat should be able to make this journey in several hours. It's certainly less than a days sailing.

Two of the lifeboats in the list of ships stand out in relation to this question:

Though not quite as far north Aldeburgh isn't that far further south of the Wash:

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Cadwith is much further away than the wash though in an Easterly direction:

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Roughly a 319 miles, nearly twice the distance of The Wash

My Grandad was involved in Dunkirk and sailed a boat (he was a lifeboatman) from Rhyl in North Wales to Dunkirk at around the same time. This journey is much longer than the one you described:

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A journey of about 641 miles! The evacuation of Dunkirk lasted just over a week. So it's very much possible.

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    One of the "little ships" is the Tamzine, its a very small vessel and a well known one both by sailors and historians. Its considered the smallest of the ones in the evacuation. Sep 18, 2017 at 15:06
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    As per Erik's comment, the Tamzine was a 15 footer. See iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30004026
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 18, 2017 at 15:37

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