NSW Maritime urges caution at coastal bar crossings

Evans Head - Bar Crossing
Halden Boyd Pandanus Media
NSW Maritime would like to remind surfers, windsurfers, kite boarders and kayakers to stay clear of boats that are navigating coastal bar crossings.

NSW Maritime Chief Executive Steve Dunn said the warning followed a fatal incident earlier this month on the Gold Coast where a surfer died after he was struck by a boat at a bar crossing.

'Every skipper who navigates a bar crossing must be well prepared and on high alert, their vessel must be well prepared and seaworthy, and everyone on board must wear a type one lifejacket,' Mr Dunn said.

'Once a skipper is committed to navigating across a bar, their ability to manoeuvre is extremely limited. Depending on the direction of the wind and waves, boats generally navigate through a particular channel which is often unmarked but defined by the best available deep water. 'Waves at coastal bars can also attract surfers, kite boarders, sailboarders and kayakers.

'All these activities can take place in, and around, bar areas if people apply care, courtesy and commonsense, and observe the law.' Mr Dunn said that whilst power vessels generally give way to non powered vessels, the regulations require surfers, kite boarders and paddlers to take care not to obstruct or impede the safe navigation of any vessel.

'While the regularly-used channel is generally clear of white water, there are times and conditions when surf breaks across the known course,' he said. 'Negotiating breaking waves in any boat is hazardous and requires experience, preparation and planning. If the vessel is broached, swamped, or capsizes during the bar crossing, lives are at risk.'

Penalties apply for obstructing or impeding the safe navigation of a vessel and can range from an on-the-spot fine of $250 to a court-imposed penalty of up to $5,500.

Bar safety information at http://www.maritime.nsw.gov.au/campaigns/offshore.html