Bar crossings are the highest risk activity boaties in the Waikato will come across.
“On a per boatie basis, bar crossings result in the highest number of accidents in the Waikato region,” said Environment Waikato’s compliance and education manager Rob Dragten.
In early December 2010, a vessel was swamped and capsized as it was crossing the Raglan Bar. The occupants were both thrown into the water, but luckily they were wearing lifejackets and the accident was seen by another vessel that managed to rescue them.
The vessel, however, became a navigation hazard on the bar and had to be recovered by Raglan Volunteer Coastguard. This incident was believed to be caused by failure of the boat transom.
“Boaties can significantly lower the danger to themselves and others on board by following some basic safety tips, and not attempting crossings if they are in doubt,” said Mr Dragten.
Important safety tips to follow when crossing bars include:
- Talk to locals, and check the weather, tide and bar conditions.
- Ensure adequate stability of vessel.
- Secure all moveable objects.
- Wear lifejackets.
- Contact the local Coastguard or Maritime Radio immediately before, and after, crossing the bar in both directions.
- When going out, approach the bar at moderate speed, ideally at high water, and not when the tide is going out.
- When returning, cross when the tide is coming in.
To keep boaties more informed of bar conditions Environment Waikato harbourmasters in conjunction with Coastguard have an advisory service. The advisory, broadcast over the Coastguard radio in their station notices, indicates whether the bar is:
- Level 1: normal – free navigation
- Level 2: marginal – navigate with caution
- Level 3: not recommended – navigation is likely to be hazardous.
Harbourmasters also advise users of bar status by placing public signs at the harbourmaster’s office, appropriate boat ramps and/or wharves.