Whangamata bar capsize timely warning for boaties

This morning's capsize on the Whangamata bar involving three people highlights the significant risk that harbour bars present and the importance of wearing lifejackets.

At just after 6am, a 5.5m-long boat capsized while crossing the Whangamata bar, sending all three people on board into the water. Fortunately, all were wearing lifejackets and were picked up by two nearby jet skis who took the trio to shore.

Coastguard Head of Operations Rob McCaw said bar crossings require careful planning, observation and risk assessment.

"All harbour bars are dangerous and become even more so with weather and tide conditions factored in. Crossing a bar should not be taken lightly, ever," he said.

"Coastguard is seeing an increased number of boaties heading to sea across bars around the country and it is timely for us all to refresh our bar-crossing knowledge and awareness including our 5-step bar crossing checklist."

Bar Crossing Checklist 

1 – Always wear a lifejacket 

  • Everyone on board wearing a fit-for-purpose lifejacket 
  • Crotch straps for kids’ lifejackets and challenging environments 

2 – Always check the marine weather conditions and the tides 

  • Cross at the highest possible tide, never cross at low tide 

3 – Carry two forms of waterproof communications and log a Trip Report and Bar Crossing report with Coastguard 

  • Log your Trip Report on VHF, *500 or on the Coastguard App so we know where you’re going, when you’re coming back and the number of people on board 
  • Log your Bar Crossing Report on VHF or *500 letting us know when and where you’re crossing. If you don’t close your report within 15-30min we’ll launch our search and rescue procedures 

4 – Stop and observe the bar. If it looks too rough for your abilities, wait for a better time to cross 

  • Notice the sequence of waves, check the surrounding area and conditions 
  • Tie down loose hatches, brief your crew, have someone look out for trailing waves 
  • Keep comms close by and let Coastguard know when you’re safely across the bar 

5 – Seek local advice 

  • Talk to your local Coastguard Unit or local boaties about the bar before you head out 
  • Understand the conditions and what to look for 
  • Ensure your boat is capable of making the trip across the bar and back 
  • Improve your skills with a Coastguard Boating Education course 

Over summer, Coastguard volunteers will be out on the water ensuring Kiwis can enjoy our beautiful waterways safely and with confidence. If you need to contact Coastguard for on-water assistance, please call *500. For marine emergencies please call 111 or VHF Channel 16. 


For more information, contact:
Ben Parsons
Coastguard New Zealand Senior Communications Advisor
[email protected]

Thanks to our life-saving partners:
  • Auckland Council
  • Northland Regional Council
  • Waikato Regional Council
  • Hutchwilco
  • Marine Deals
  • Tower
  • Kordia
  • Hyundai
  • Line7
  • Century Batteries
  • Half Moon Bay
  • NZCT
  • Lotteries Grants Board
  • Lion Foundation
  • Pub Charity