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Raising the bar


Harbour bars are commonplace throughout New Zealand and according to the Coastguard Northern Region there are only three types of bar, dangerous, very dangerous and extremely dangerous. As Coastguard Education manager Darren Arthur says, “When you have a problem on a bar, they are rarely ever small problems.”

Among the most dangerous is the Manukau harbour bar, and due to the lure of good fishing in the Tasman Sea it is also one of the most regularly crossed.

To help keep boaties safe, the Northern Region Coastguard runs regular ‘Raising the Bar’ seminars about crossing the Manukau bar. The Onehunga Community News attended the May seminar to check out what all boaties should already know.

Even if you are an experienced boatie, before trying to cross the Manukau bar for the first time you should always go out with someone who has plenty of experience of crossing it and let them  show you the way. The local fishing and boat clubs can put you in touch with someone who will be happy to help.

Always ‘hold up’ for at least 15-20 minutes before attempting a crossing, to observe the conditions and pick the safest route. 

Wind conditions affect the Manukau dramatically. In most cases, easterly winds offer the best conditions, while anything from the west or south is likely to cause big waves. The Coastguard recommends that you check the forecast for the whole day before going out. If the forecast is for conditions to get worse later in the day, think again! Do not just ’hope for the best.’ 

Do not think you can relax on the way back in. Coastguard volunteers find that the majority of rescue callouts are for boats that get into trouble when re-entering the harbour.

Finally the most important advice that the Coastguard gives is, “if in any doubt, do not go out.

The Coastguard has regular “Raising the Bar” seminars, and the next one will be in June - anyone is welcome to sign up. They also offer courses for the Maritime VHF Operators Certificate. For more information visit their website http://www.coastguard.org.nz/  


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When crossing the Manukau Bar; 

Never cross at low tide and avoid a night crossing. The times to cross are three hours either side of high tide.

Your boat should be at least 5.5m and capable of 30 knots. The swells at the Manukau bar can be up to 24 knots, so you need to have sufficient power. 

Small boats should only use the south channel, even if you are ultimately heading north.

Everyone on board must wear a lifejacket regardless of the size of your boat.

Carry Personal Locator Beacons securely attached to clothing. If things do go wrong, rescue services can use the beacons to find you in the water.

Make sure you report in with the Coastguard’s bar crossing VHF radio service (Ch18) when you start crossing the bar and after you clear it. The operators will start the emergency response processes if you are out of contact for too long.

Make sure that in addition to the on-board radio you also have a waterproof hand-held radio secured to your clothing.

Always check your equipment is properly stowed, your engine is in good order and that you have enough fuel before any crossing







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