Coastal Bar Crossings And their dangers!

Crossing a coastal bar can be an easy task or it can be one of the most dangerous parts of a voyage so by ensuring you have the knowledge and a sound procedure in place lessens the dangers!

Coastal Bar Crossings And their dangers!

Coastal bars build up at the entrance to costal rivers and are formed by the movement of sand and sediments. They cause waves to become steeper and often break as they approach the bar. Bars can change quickly and without warning making any crossing dangerous!

Any crossing of a coastal bar can be a dangerous event even when it appears calm. Bars can produce dangerous waves that have the potential cause injury or loss of life and severe damage to or loss of vessels.

All bars are different and remember that slow displacement vessels handle bars differently than high speed planning vessels do.

Going out

The vessel must match the energy of each incoming wave by maintaining a speed that will lift the bow over the wave and reduce the chance of the wave breaking over the bow into the vessel.

Do not hit waves at high speed but take them as close to head-on as possible. Be prepared to take a wave head-on and take water over the bow if there is no other way.

A guideline for you when crossing a bar:

  • cross on an incoming tide when possible
  • look for lulls and choose the line of least wave activity and avoid breaking waves or the calmest water
  • look for the deepest water to avoid grounding
  • keep your vessel head-on to approaching waves. Do not let your vessel turn side on to approaching waves
  • head up into the waves and accelerate where possible, but avoid getting airborne
  • head for the lowest part of the wave and continue until clear.

Coming in

When coming in, high-speed boats (capable of at least 18 knots) should travel at the same speed as the waves.

Slow displacement boats may have to come in very slowly to avoid surfing and getting caught side-on to a wave.

Try to travel in on the back of a wave and stay ahead of waves that break behind the boat. Watch for patterns and deeper areas.

When returning over a bar you should:

  • look for lulls and choose the route of least wave activity
  • look for the deepest water to avoid grounding
  • increase power to maintain speed within the set of waves when approaching from the sea
  • position the boat on the back of the wave – do not surf down the face of the wave
  • adjust the boat’s speed to match the speed of the waves, but do not try to overtake the waves.

In bad conditions, it can be safer to stand off in deeper water, or find another shelter, instead of re-crossing the bar.

For passenger vessels

If you’re operating a passenger vessel and carrying passengers when crossing a coastal bar, it’s critical that you notify all passengers that you are about to cross a bar.

In all but calm weather advise them to be seated and hold on until advised the bar crossing has been completed. When the bar crossing has been completed advise passengers that the bar crossing has been completed.

Never, at any time allow passenger on the bow area when crossing a coastal bar!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend that when crossing a bar everyone should wear a lifejacket as no matter the size of your vessel there is always the potential for capsize, especially on rough days! Remember putting a lifejacket on in the water is difficult but putting one in in rough seas is almost impossible!

Choose your route carefully and once you have started keep going as attempting to turn around in front of an incoming wave is dangerous.

Tip

Our vital tips for crossing coastal bars.

  • Check the tide and weather
  • Check your vessels steering
  • Check your vessels engine/s and controls
  • Ensure your vessels trim is appropriate
  • Secure all cargo, equipment and other items that may move around

Ensure all lines are secure and not likely to go overboard