Crossing the bar
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Build your knowledge before heading out with your boat
Because bar crossings can be dangerous, it’s important to have the right local knowledge and skills before going out.
- understand the state of the bar
- be able to interpret the conditions and
- be able to assess the ever-changing shape and location of the channel.
Before you head out, build your knowledge by talking to local experts and studying the weather, tides, and bar at low tide.
A practical course for all vessels likely to encounter bar crossing situations.
Helpful tips about bar crossings
Before attempting to cross a bar
It is the skipper’s responsibility to determine whether or not to cross a bar.
1. Prepare your boat and crew
Secure all movable objects in the boat and ensure that the weight, including your passenger load, is low.
Check that your engine and steering are performing correctly.
Warm up the motor and secure all hatches.
2. Put on your lifejackets
Make sure you and all your passengers are wearing life jackets. You must wear a life jacket when crossing a bar. Not doing so is an offence.
3. Keep an eye on the conditions and plan your path
Study the nature of the seas to find the best route to take. The best time to cross a bar is at high water. Avoid crossing when the tide is going out.
Wait until the conditions are suitable before you cross. Alternatively, choose a less dangerous place if possible.
4. Report to Coastguard or Maritime Radio
Put in a call on your VHF radio to the local Coastguard or Maritime Radio immediately before and after crossing the bar.