Print Page | Close Window

Bar warning

Printed From: The Fishing Website
Category: General Forums
Forum Name: The News Desk
Forum Description: Our media ferret gets into the nitty gritty
Printed Date: 23 Sep 2019 at 10:40am

Topic: Bar warning
Posted By: KingfishSi
Subject: Bar warning
Date Posted: 23 Nov 2004 at 9:05am
Boaties warned of dangers of crossing bars

Source: NZ City

Boaties on the often treacherous west coast of the North Island have been urged to learn and listen to any advice they can about crossing bars before heading out in their boats.

The advice comes after a tragic reminder of the speed of an outgoing tide which is thought to have carried a man out to sea in Manukau Harbour early on Saturday morning.

A Raglan Volunteer Coastguard “bar day” next weekend would show people the dangers of crossing a bar with practical and classroom lessons, said president Kevin Dreaver.

He said the Raglan coastguard had had very little trouble on the bar recently and he hoped that may be because of the education programme the coastguard ran.

However, he said it was hard to say who failed to attend courses when they desperately needed to because of their inexperience.

He said like any west coast bar, Raglan had a lot of water running out though the entrance on a falling tide.

He said most people showed common sense and would not cross the bar if they had doubts but often the problems were caused by people who had just bought boats and had little or no experience in bar crossing.

He said many callouts were to kite surfers or windsurfers who had fallen off at the harbour entrance.

“They will just get taken out across the bar. Most of them are pretty good in the water but they can’t get back with their gear.”

He said it was very difficult to make headway against an outgoing rip.

Keep knockin', nobody's home.

Posted By: Tomsta
Date Posted: 23 Nov 2004 at 9:37am
So the Maiden Voyage going to be out over the Manakau Bar Si.....?? Go on ya know ya want to....

Posted By: Tomsta
Date Posted: 23 Nov 2004 at 9:39am
Got to catch that Legend monsta Gurnard before Smudge has a chance....... not to mention Barries 20 pound Snap...

Posted By: Andrew Leys
Date Posted: 23 Nov 2004 at 10:00am
 Please excuse the length of this article. Its probably worth a read .

Crossing the Bar
This very important subject is often misrepresented and misunderstood. Here Andy Galwey draws on his many years as a professional fisho to provide an in-depth look at how to tackle white water bar crossings.

It never ceases to amaze me to hear the advice which circulates around the boating fraternity regarding the subject of bar crossing.

Only recently I heard on a local radio show a well known fishing commentator giving his words of wisdom to a caller. He was saying the caller "should take on a wave at a quarter."

I presumed he meant a 45 degree angle. We often get asked by readers if the wave should be taken at a 10 degree angle and that's certainly a lot better than the 45 degree angle suggested by this commentator. However the right answer is straight on the bow. After recently assisting the NSW Waterways Authority in the production of a film feature on bar crossings conducted at South West Rocks (one of my old fishing grounds), the point came home to me how few boaties have taken the time, or gained the experience of bar crossing techniques. This ignorance can be attributed to a number of factors, but the main one is simply the bulk of anglers don't need to cross bars to get to their fishing grounds. Major fishing centres such as Sydney, Melbourne and to a lesser extent Perth, don't have narrow outlets to the sea as seen in so many coastal towns around Australia. However, when anglers leave their familiar boating areas and take on these bars with an uneducated confidence, disaster can and does happen. It is the extremes of conditions which come with river mouths which highlight the need for good rough water boat handling skills. And remember that once learnt, the same principals can be applied to any situation where there's white water, large swells, strong currents, strong winds and generally poor conditions. The rules of bar crossing are simple - there are none! Each situation has its own unique set of circumstances and the skipper must be prepared to vary the principles to his own capabilities. While there are no hard and fast rules there are some very important key elements to be considered for successful bar crossing: suitable craft, local knowledge, practical preparedness, experience and mental preparation should a mistake happen.

But before covering these topics it is essential to first understand the dynamics of a bar.

Tidal Effects:
Most ocean outlets have strong tidal movement. This movement not only effects the shape and pattern of the waves, but also the handling characteristics of the boat. Breakwalls and man-made structures are designed and constructed to direct water flow as a scouring agent to wash sand away, and maintain a deep channel at the entrance to many rivers. When the tide is at its strongest, mid to three quarters of the tide, the greatest volume of water is being moved. Surprisingly on the surface this volume of water movement can be undetectable. However, it is at this time that pressure waves, (waves that run at an angle across the general flow) can come into play. The ebb tide (out going) is usually the most dangerous. The fast flowing water hitting the incoming wave, forces a menacing face, or curl on the wave. The ebb tide can close the gap between each wave, making it difficult to manoeuvre or position your boat. Added to this is the problem of water depth, as the tide drops once navigable channels become shallow sand bar areas. The making tide (incoming) can be kinder to the bar crossing boatie. It tends to aid in the filling of waves, making them rounder and thicker. It also increases depth as it continues and provides cleaner water for visibility and a reduction in floating debris. Pressure waves can remain a problem and should be treated with total respect. Tide charts are invaluable if undertaking any bar crossing. They not only indicate tidal height, but also give some indication of water movement. The greater the margin between high and low tide, the greater the volume of water movement. However, tide charts are still only an indication. Localised conditions such as heavy rain and flooding can alter the stated figures quite drastically. With vast volumes of water rushing down swollen rivers there may be the added problem of floating debris, logs and whole trees being swept out to sea over the bar.

Boat owners should also note that their vessel is less buoyant in freshwater and will handle a little differently in "fresh" conditions.

Wind Influence:
Local knowledge should be sought on how the bar behaves in different wind directions. An onshore wind can have a calming effect on a making tide as it tends to flatten the incoming swell. An offshore wind will have the same effect on the ebbtide, however it can make for a dangerous wave face on a making tide.

This is less of a problem heading to sea as a decision can be made based on the present conditions. However, it's a different story if you are already at sea and hit unfavourable conditions on you're return.

Tip - if you know that wind conditions will not be favourable for later that day, stay at home!

Suitable Craft:
Fishing boats come in all shapes and sizes and not all of these are suited to white water bar crossings. If your boat is not designed to cross a bar, don't cross it. Open deck runabouts have no forward protection from incoming water, that's is not to say they shouldn't be taken to sea, simply that in certain conditions, they won't be suitable. Most cuddy cabin type boats have a terrific water shedding design up front. They also have high windscreens with excellent bracing to withhold the pressures of water, should things go that far. Conversely centre consoles are not good for this type of work. This type lacks protection and generally provide less well placed grab rails for passengers. Admittedly as the size of the centre console boat grows, things get progressively better, however your average 5 to 6 metre type is not really the ideal boat for the job. Many argue that cats are the ideal boat for bar crossing. Having done it many times in both cats and mono hulls, I personally prefer the monohull as the forward buoyancy and excellent manoeuvrability make it more suited.

In terms of interior design selfdraining cockpits are definitely better, however it's not really practical to build this feature into most boats under 5.5 metres. Remember that any decking raised above the waterline adds to instability in a small boat, a trait you do not want in a rough bar. Power, power and more power is an added bonus when taking on any bar. Being able to get up on the plane quickly and covering metres in quick time will make the task that much safer and easier. Power is also required at times to push a boat through a heavy wall of water. An underpowered boat has no place in a white water bar.

Local Knowledge:
If you find yourself at a spot on our coast that has a bar you need to cross, take the time to seek out the professionals who use it regularly. Dive shops are a good starting point, they often operate similar boats to recreational anglers and are happy to pass on their knowledge.

Local volunteer sea rescue organisations are another good source, along with the Water Police or Waterways Authority officers. Give the local pub a miss and be wary of advice taken from amateur fisherman, unless they are well experienced. Local knowledge is crucial because the sea can hide many dangers. A wreck or boulder in the middle of the channel can go undetected even after hours of study from the shore. Neglect also can leave some navigation markers poorly positioned.

Sandbanks and channels can vary overnight on some bars. Bearing this in mind, differing conditions can require different approaches on a daily basis. What worked for you yesterday can be a recipe for disaster today.

Before launching the boat and undertaking any bar crossing, study the bars movements and behaviour in detail from a high vantage point. Twenty or thirty minutes studying the bar will give the information essential in making the crossing a successful one. There is also a good chance of meeting up with the local professionals doing the same thing and they will be happy to pass on advice. The study should take in wave patterns. Waves tend to come in set patterns at regular intervals. Sets may comprise of three, five, seven or more waves. Observation of these set patterns will reveal the size of the waves and their frequency. Mentally count the time spacing between waves within each set and the time of the lull between sets. Take special note of the gap between each wave. If the distance is extremely narrow you may not get much time from clearing one wave before the next wave is upon you. If this is the case you should seriously reconsider your decision to go to sea. Look closely at the wave break and mentally note from which side of the bar it starts. This may determine the right track to take, or the side of the channel to approach from. While at the vantage point, cast your eyes to the far horizon and look closely for a waterline bump, meaning rough water offshore. Experience will quickly help gauge whether it is worth fighting the bar in the first place.

Having decided to go to sea, there are a number of chores to do prior to actually going through the bar. The most obvious of these is to make sure equipment is securely in place. The crew should all be wearing life jackets and be given a position in the boat which maintains its balance and provides them with adequate grab rails to hold onto. A radio call should be made giving intentions, number of persons on board and time of return. When conditions are not perfect or when crossing a bar at night, it is a good practice to call the base station and let them know when you are crossing the bar and then call again when safely through.

On the way to the bar you may consider turning from starboard to port to check the steering. Have the motor warmed up and check that it is idling well. If not, don't venture near the bar. Once at the bar, sit back and study the break and wave pattern again. Double check what was learnt from land and mentally go through the planned run.

The Seaward Crossing:
Once the decision has been made to go, throw the bilge pump into action, trim the motor for a bow up attitude and warn the crew to hold on. Edge closer counting the wave break pattern. If possible stay to the side the waves first break on. Once the pattern fits the plan and the decision is made to go, there can be no turning back. On first entering the bar it may be necessary to go up over a few waves which have depleted to running white water. These waves generally give the boat little trouble and anything below 45 cm can be crossed with power, and at angles ranging up to 45 degrees. The run should be timed to meet the first of the serious waves just after it has broken. Once the bounding wave has collapsed and converted into rolling white water and the bow height is at least equal to, or greater in height to the wave top, head directly into it. The boat will lift up and over it. Bow height is achieved by a direct-on approach and constant power. And remember it's not a matter of speed, in fact speeding is not on. As the white water is reaching the bow, apply power, forcing the boat up and over the wave. For the uninitiated the experience can be quite daunting the first time. The white water face being steered at may be a metre or more in height, but if timed correctly the boat should effortlessly ride over it. Points to watch in this instance are few, but nevertheless important. Firstly, don't take on a white water face higher than the bow as this may cause some bow burying and loss of directional control. Secondly, maintain a direct-on attitude to the wave. There will be very little back to this type of wave, and if done correctly the boat should not leave the water and have a long fall off the back of the wave. The third point to watch is power. Once up on the wave, the white water the boat is sitting above is full of air and prop ventilation can stop forward motion. If power is applied correctly prior to reaching and during the initial lift up over the white water, there should be sufficient momentum to get the prop into clear water and bite. You have now got through the easy bit! The position of the boat within the bar area is now likely to be the most dangerous. This is because the boat will be positioned right where the waves break. A wave breaking into, or over a boat is a frightening event and one which is extremely difficult for the strongest of individuals to maintain control in. As I suggested earlier, prior to the initial run, attempt to take on the side the waves first break on. As the boat levels out from the lift up and over that first wave, the reasons for picking this side of the channel will become obvious. Chances are that some metres up in front another wave looms in a menacing breaking position. By steering the boat in the direction of where the wave last brakes, gives breathing space and time to reach the on-coming wave before it breaks. Boats with a planning speed of less than 20 knots should not attempt to do this. On reaching that point, ensure the boat is pointing directly into the on-coming wave. Unless you are extremely competent, fit and have super reflexes, forget about 10 degree and certainly our radio commentators 45 degree angle of attack. Once the breaking wave is met things happen fast. There can be no hesitation, second thoughts or misjudgment. The force of even a one metre wave is awesome. It is however far better to have that force running directly fore and aft. The slightest variance or movement to athwartships (across) the boat of that force can see a breaking wave make light work of destroying the day. Point the bow of the boat at the wave and as the two are about to meet, apply power. This will lift the bow into a wave that is initially trying to push the bow down.

If the wave is curled the bow must be deliberately pushed through the face of the wave. Any wave of medium to large size will have the power to literally sweep someone off their feet and wash them to the back of the boat. If in this position, it is important to maintain control of the boat and maintain the straight-on angle of the boat to the wave. As the boat breaks through the wave, back off the power so that the boat doesn't end up in full flight out the back of the wave. If the second wave has been meet at the time it should have, prior to its breaking, power up the wave face (by power I refer to power only, not undue speed). As the boat goes over the top of the wave, the throttle can be eased back, again to reduce flight of the boat from the back of the wave. As experience grows, develop the skill to turn the boat a slight 10 degrees (no more) to ride down the back of the wave, maintaining water around the prop and reducing a thumping fall from great heights. Once through this second wave the going usually gets easier. The third wave should be met while it is full bodied and much easier to get over. The same principles apply with each successive wave, until clear from the bar altogether. Once sitting outside the bar, take a good look at what the boat has just come through. Study the marks which will be needed to get back in after the fishing trip. At this times switch off the bilge pump if all water is removed.

Inbound Crossing:
On return take time to study the bar, looking essentially for the same points you needed on the outward trip. From behind the bar it will be extremely difficult to see what is actually going on. In some instances all that will be seen is a mass of rolling water with spray cascading back from it.

However by moving down the side of the bar a little it should be possible to get a fairly good idea of conditions on the bar itself. Again, it is a good idea to count the wave sequence and picture the run in. Check equipment in the boat and ensure all is securely in place. If there's a full reserve fuel tank, switch to it to avoid running out while crossing the bar. Don't forget to throw the bilge pump into action. Pick the last wave before the lull and get in behind it and ride on its back through the bar. By sitting the boat on the back of the wave, there is no danger of a wave coming from behind and breaking over the stern of the boat. The skill in riding the back of a wave is easy to learn, however it is one that does take learning, guts and control to go with it. The throttle has to be worked constantly to keep the boat at the right spot. Power will be required to fight the suck-back effect generated by the massing wave. The boat will then tend to want to race up the back of the wave and power must be quickly eased off. If curling waves are building up behind resist the urge to power ahead. The wave behind will not catch the one your boat is on. Shooting over a developing wave is extremely dangerous. The bow will dig in as it reaches the bottom and the boat will be pushed forward by the wave, causing severe broaching and control will be lost. Chances of rolling in front of the wave are very real, or the violent action of the broaching will fling equipment and people from the boat, like paper to the wind. The temptation to ride over the chosen wave and catch up to the next will always be there. One of the problems is that from the driver's position at the back of the wave it's not possible to gauge the reality of the steepness and height of the wave that is being ridden. Certainly many a boat has fallen for the old rush ahead trick. It is simply better to bide time and ride the back of the wave in. If this is done, entering a bar will be heaps more comfortable and safer than going out. That just about covers crossing a bar both ways in reasonably hairy conditions. However, it is not always that simple. Our scenario didn't include pressure waves nor bottoming out. The motor kept running and the steering cable didn't break. But it has happened to others, including myself. I broke a steering cable whilst crossing the river bar at South West Rocks (South West Rocks has both a creek and river bar). At times this bar has strong pressure waves. These waves can go undetected until they hit you and coming from the side they play havoc with boat control. The pressure required, on bad days, to keep the boat straight, can place great strain on both the driver and the steering cables. Thankfully on the day my steering gave way I had a crew aboard to help hold the motor straight enough and for long enough to pass the few remaining waves to clear the bar. In this instance we were lucky and I have since put power steering on my boat. If you cross bars often enough, sooner or later all the skills which can be mustered will be required as something is bound to happen.

Bottoming Out:
Bars can be notoriously shallow in some areas. This can create hidden problems as well as the obvious. One hidden problem is the sand which is swirling around in the shallow water. This sand can have a detrimental effect on the water cooling system of the motor. The impellor can be damaged if over time it is continually asked to pump volumes of sand through the system. There is very little that can be done about this, except to be aware of the problem and avoid prolonged use of the motor in these conditions. If a boat does become stranded on a bar in shallow water, the trick is to get those aboard, overboard as quickly as possible to hold the boat straight, facing into the on coming waves. This can be extremely difficult, however it must be done. If the boat is allowed to wash sideways, water will eventually get aboard, increasing the weight and making the job of getting it off the sandbar all the more difficult. Once the boat is stable, by lifting the motor and after having checked the prop condition, wait for wash or a wave to help move the boat to deeper water. This task under some conditions is not easy. However, with patience and care it must be done. Hopefully the boat can be led to the lee side of the bank where things should be quieter. When entering or leaving a bar with known shallow water, the motor should be trimmed up. Speed will generally only cause more trouble in this situation and could result in prop, or lower leg damage on the motor. The run in needs to coincide with the water movement over the bar. Quite often it may be necessary to sit on the sandbank waiting for a second, or third rush of water to come under the boat to get through. Again this situation is not good for the motor's water cooling system and extreme care should be taken. The crew should be at the ready to jump over the side and hold the boat straight. If it's necessary to take on a shallow bar it is better to do this when going out. In this instance the crew will not be tired and the boat will be facing into the oncoming sea. Time the return trip to coincide with high tide and life will be much easier and safer.

Night Crossing:
Night crossing of any white water bar should be only attempted by those fully conversant with the bar in question or those with a heap of bar crossing experience. On this matter I can not stress enough the dangers which lie ahead for the inexperienced. Distance to, or from an object at night can be deceiving. Believe me, it gets no better in the middle of a white water bar. To add to this dilemma, waves and rolling water have an extraordinary ability to look twice as large in the dark. Having gone through the bar at the Rocks some 300 to 400 times at night, I can assure you it doesn't get much better as time goes on. Once ample daytime experience has been gained, pick a night with a good full moon and plenty of reflective light to practice and gain confidence, but first check the bar. With night crossings carefully watch distances to oncoming waves.

As the boat moves into the trough between waves and the on-coming wave looms near, even with a full moon, things can get frightfully dark. Quite often in these situations you are actually feeling your way through, rather than seeing your way through. It is for this reason extra care should be taken and the slightest concerns regarding the bar's condition should be heeded.

Mental Preparedness:
Being mentally prepared, should the worst happen and the boat overturns, is vitally important. That goes for both the skipper and the crew. Hopefully all those on board will be wearing life jackets - they should be. Once in the water the decision will be whether to swim, or stay with the boat. Staying with the boat in bar conditions can be extremely dangerous. After ensuring that all members of the crew are accounted for, a capsized boat will be violently pushed about by the waves and become a potential lethal weapon.

Usually there is precious little to hold onto and the risk of being knocked unconscious, or tangled up in rope or other floating equipment is very real. If deciding to swim for it, take time to get your bearings and use the tide to get clear of the rough water. On a ebb tide, this may mean ending up well out to sea! Never the less it is better to have got clear of the strong currents and turbulent water with some energy to spare, than to have fought the current and died from exhaustion. With a making tide when choosing an exit site, pick one that is sandy rather than rocky wherever possible. Visibility is severely hampered once in the water fighting waves and current. The study of the layout of the area before venturing to sea, with the thought of the worst in mind, is not a silly idea. Perpending can pay off with rewarding results.

To gain the experience required to take on breaking wave after breaking wave, you must first seek it. To do this it's necessary to get on the water and work up the scale by practising. Firstly get to know the boat. On the water with the boat loaded, within the space of a few days its handling characteristics will be discovered. Find a small full swell and run the boat at varying speeds, up down, across and with it. By doing this any broaching problems will be discovered.

You'll also learn when to apply the throttle, and when to back off. Once your confidence and local knowledge builds, look for a moderate to good day to practise bar crossing. This will require picking the best tide, probably the last of the making tide and the 20 minutes or so of slack water at the peak. lf conditions allow, go in and out several times trying different approaches and speed. As this is done, note how the boat is handling and study the surrounding marks which may be needed on a future occasion.

Above all, learn to live with the 'butterflies' in your stomach. This afterall is an important yardstick of impending danger.

It is an extremely difficult job to explain everything on a subject like this in words alone. You can read all the books in the world on how to drive a car, but it's not until you actually get behind the wheel and actually experience driving that you learn how to synchronise the clutch, gear lever, accelerator and steering wheel together. It's much the same with driving a boat through a tricky bar. Timing and judgement is paramount. Along with this goes the "hands on" experience of applying the correct speed and power. If half way through a bar and panic sets in, an attempt to do a 180 degree turn and run back the way you came, could prove disastrous. Once the decision has been made to go and regardless of how frightening the view up front, it is safer to keep the boat facing directly into the on-coming sea. Feeling nervous is healthy. Once that feeling is lost you're probably not a good person to be a crew member for. Flying boats through the air is part of bar crossing, however the better operator keeps this to a minimum and has better control of the boat. Practice makes for a better operator and sadly there are too few boaties going out there to practice this important boat handling skill. Life is precious and it's far better to have your mates sitting in the pub telling all how well you handled it, rather than dramatically talking of a near disaster.

lighthouse.gif (6424 bytes)

Posted By: the demon
Date Posted: 09 Jan 2019 at 2:04pm
Andrew Leys post back in 2004 was a goody , thought I would rehash for people to refresh on .

Posted By: Steps
Date Posted: 10 Jan 2019 at 8:25am
 swell over 1.5m
If wind over 10kn.
If 1st 1/4 to 1/2 of the incoming, and know your bar gets shallow
Around 1 to 1 /2 hrs after full tide.. at the bar
 And espec cautious on big tides
Dont go out or be back inside..

 My rule.. if waves are breaking across the entrance.. I fish the inside..dont go. Maybe overly cautious...

Going out sit wait count the sets and waves.. head out after the 2nd big set.
 Coming back in .. sit on the back of the biggest wave

Basic local knowledge advice for manukau and waikato bars.

You can count sets easy with the Waikato Council live cameras..Kawhia, Raglin , Waikato bars

 I have sat for many weeks watching the Waikato on the live cam, different winds , different tide heights and height and direction.
 Watch boats come and go.

 None I have seen have been over in no cross conditions, but have seen several taking it damn close to the shallows on sth side.. think one may have hit the bottom just inside, due to change of direction." rel="nofollow -
Cant rem the user/ PW its in an old post in these forums.

Posted By: MacSkipper
Date Posted: 08 Aug 2019 at 8:44am
Steps, Thanks for posting great post I had not seen before - sounds like you are hooked on West Coast bars(I mean the nautical ones LOL!)

Good fishing trip nothing breaks, great trip catch fish.

Posted By: Steps
Date Posted: 08 Aug 2019 at 8:59am
Not really.. Its just they tend to scare the hell out of me.. as a young teenage belonging to a surf club  up nth, we , 2x had top go out on the rocks and pull in dead bodies from idiots crossing the bar..The same bar we would ride the river current out on out surf boards, pre leg ropes in far better conditions.

The distance to the Manukau bar and back is about the same as our usual trips on the east coast...then to get out to just the 40m mark  is 2x that.
The Waikato bar is way less than a east coast day trip.

Also when we went out over the bar in your mac,.. everyone would like to be sensible, you showed how to be sensible.

Posted By: MacSkipper
Date Posted: 09 Aug 2019 at 8:35am
Originally posted by Steps Steps wrote:

Not really.. Its just they tend to scare the hell out of me.. as a young teenage belonging to a surf club  up nth, we , 2x had top go out on the rocks and pull in dead bodies from idiots crossing the bar..The same bar we would ride the river current out on out surf boards, pre leg ropes in far better conditions.

The distance to the Manukau bar and back is about the same as our usual trips on the east coast...then to get out to just the 40m mark  is 2x that.
The Waikato bar is way less than a east coast day trip.

Also when we went out over the bar in your mac,.. everyone would like to be sensible, you showed how to be sensible.

Jeepers pulling in bodies from a bar as a teenager scary stuff!

Yes we had a good trip over Manukau Bar that day, I have done over a 100 crossings but got caught in some pretty rough conditions a few times one was bad enough to make me pucker up!

I agree is better to err of side of caution and get home to loved ones every trip.

Good fishing trip nothing breaks, great trip catch fish.

Print Page | Close Window