An old historian called Holinshed listed "such ports and creeks as our seafaring men do note for their benefit" upon the coast of Yorkshire in 1596. This was in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the age of such famous mariners as Drake, Hawkins, Raleigh and Frobisher. At least one Scarborough man served with Sir Francis Drake. Sir Martin Frobisher called at Scarborough as a rash youth toying with piracy and in later years took on victuals here when sailing to find a north west passage to far Cathay. He reached what is now Canada.
The Yorkshire coast included these old havens know to mariners. Not all are easily recognisable, now. From north to south, there were "Dapnam sands, Skeningrave, Dysaies, Runswick, Staithes, Robin Hood's Bay, Whitby, Scarborough , Filie, Flamborow, Bridlington, Sister Kirk (Withernsea), Hornseybeck, and Kelseiecliffe (Kilnsey)*. Along Humber side were "Pattenten (Patrington), Holmes, Keyingham, Pall, Hedon, Hulbrige, Hull, Hasell, North Ferebie, Bucke Creek, Wressell, and Howden". A map drawn and published in Antwerp by Ortelius, but redrawn by Humfrey Lloyd of Denbigh in 1573 added Barmston.
Small fishing craft could be pulled onto the sands clear of the sea at many sea beaches. Few ports had any harbour facilities, although Whitby, Robin Hood'sBay, Scarborough, Flamborough and Bridlington had piers. There were rare quays. Natural havens were few, and getting fewer along the Holderness coast, due to coast erosion. Withernsea appeared on Lord Burghley's Holderness chart with a navigable creek, since lost to the sea. The 14th century haven at Easington had gone altogether and the borough of Ravenser-Odd at Humber mouth was no more. The charts aid of Kilnsey that "ships of good burden may ride and land here to the annoyance of the country". Scarborough was the premier port of the coast, but struggling to maintain its costly piers, staith and quay.