He’s too modest to admit it, but Bill is an absolute guru on bar crossings and offshore fishing techniques. Most weekends he’s out on his specially kitted Explorer 685 teaching people the safe way to cross the notorious South Passage Bar between South Stradbroke and Moreton Islands.
– Before heading out, check coastal weather predictions, tide times, swell height and direction.
– Heading out is potentially the most dangerous, so try to cross coastal bars in good conditions and gain experience gradually if new to offshore boating.
– Log on by VHF radio with the Volunteer Marine Rescue or Coast Guard and don’t forget to close the radio loop at the end of the day.
– Check your boat’s operating systems thoroughly, secure loose equipment and ensure occupants are wearing lifejackets where there is potential for interaction with swell.
– Correct engine trim has a big impact on boat handling while crossing bars.
– Trim engine in heading out to sea and trim engine out coming home in a following sea.
– If there is no surf break on the bar, maintain a steady speed.
– Where there is break aim for the area of least wave activity, or time the run through the critical section during a lull or flat period.
– Remember you are responsible for your crew, take a deep breath and remain in control without a sudden rush of blood to the head.
– When through the entrance mark it on the GPS and take a note of backmarks or take a compass heading on a prominent feature.
– Don’t cross a bar unless you are confident it is safe.
– Don’t lose your nerve and turn around in the face of a steep oncoming swell, it can be fatal.
– Don’t use too much power or you will get airborne and out of control.
– Don’t overtake a wave being ridden unless it has broken or you can see all its face from behind.
– Don’t rely solely on GPS when crossing a bar, use it as a guide and react to what you are seeing breaking around you.
– Avoid large swells and run out tide combinations until you gain considerable experience.