Crossing Barways

A bar is a shallow sandbar which often forms where rivers, creeks or harbours meet the sea

The combination of shallow water, moving sandbars and fast-flowing tides makes bars dangerous locations that are only suitable for experienced vessel operators. Always seek local knowledge if unsure.

Popular boating areas in Tasmania where barways occur are Macquarie Harbour, Pieman River, Pipers River, Bridport, Musselroe Bay, Ansons Bay, St Helens, Scamander, Little Swanport, Swanwick, Orford, Marion Narrows and Cremorne.

Boaters should also take extreme caution when transiting the entrances of rivers on the north-west and west coasts.

Preparing to cross a bar

  • Check the tide tables and the weather
  • Observe the bar conditions and always talk to the locals about the best way to make the crossing
  • Be prepared to cancel or delay the crossing if the conditions are not suitable
  • Check the vessel – it must be seaworthy and be able to take some impact from waves
  • Ensure those on board are wearing personal flotation devices (PFDs)
  • Secure all equipment on the vessel prior to crossing
  • Brief your passengers/crew about the dangers

Going out across the bar

Do not hit waves at high speed – an airborne vessel causes damage and injury.

Adopt the following procedure:

  • Idle towards the breaking waves, watching for any lulls
  • If a flat spot occurs, speed up and run through it
  • If the wave keeps rolling in, motor to the break zone
  • Gently accelerate over the first part of the broken wave
  • Apply more power and run to the next wave, heading for the lowest part (the saddle) if possible, as this is the last part of the break
  • Back off the power just before meeting the next swell
  • Pass slowly through the wave and accelerate to the next wave
  • Repeat the process until you are through the break zone. Remain confident – don’t change your mind and try and turn the vessel around while in the break.

Coming in across the bar

  • Approach the break zone and try to pick the spot with the least activity
  • Keep any leads in transit; breakers may obscure your vision of the entrance
  • Choose a set of waves suitable for your entry
  • Position the vessel on the back of the swell and maintain speed, ensuring :
    – you do not overtake the wave and run down its face
    – you stay ahead of any breaker behind you
  • ¬†When the wave ahead of you has broken, accelerate through the white water
  • Beware of steep pressure waves bouncing back off the entrance or shore
  • Adjust your speed to counter any pressure waves or any outgoing current