Increase in Bar Crossing Incidents

An extremely busy few weeks has been a stark reminder to the boating public to take boating safety seriously after three separate major rescues took place on Bar Crossings in the North Island and saw Coastguard volunteers respond to 89 incidents in the Northern Region alone. 

The notorious Manukau Bar saw three people thrown into water, left clinging to debris with one survivor spotted by chance by a passing boatie and raising the alarm for another two people who were later rescued by Coastguard.  The Tairua Bar in Coromandel also saw three men thrown from their vessel and a third Bar Rescue took place on the Pukehina Bar where an inflatable boat was overturned throwing its four occupants overboard. 

“These incidents are happening too frequently and the message isn’t getting through.  All of these boaties were extremely fortunate, but that is not always the case.   Lifejackets should always be worn when crossing a bar because of the heightened risk and ideally boaties should log a Bar Crossing Report with Coastguard,” said Patrick Holmes, CEO, Coastguard New Zealand.

This is a free service provided by Coastguard that encourages boaties to contact Coastguard via VHF Radio or *500 on mobile to advise they are about to cross a Bar.  If they do not make contact with Coastguard by an agreed time to report they have completed the Bar Crossing safely, and Coastguard cannot make contact again with that vessel, then appropriate search and rescue measures will be initiated.  This can cut the response time down significantly and ultimately be the difference between a life and death situation.

“In all of these cases if they had lodged a Bar Crossing Report we would have known they’d had an incident much sooner, and we would have reached them much quicker," said Holmes.

We have seen three boating fatalities so far this year (1 Jan 2016 – 31 Mar 2016) compared to five for the same period last year.  However for these three incidents alone, 10 people were thrown out of their boats – any of these could have resulted in yet another unnecessary boating fatality.   

There are eight recommended actions the Skipper of a vessel should take before crossing any bar – these actions could prevent incidents like these from happening.  It’s important to remember that the Skipper is responsible for the safety of everyone board.

Coastguard's advice on how to cross a bar safely

1.       Seek local advice on the bar and local VHF channels

2.       Check the weather, tide and bar conditions via Coastguard Radio, Nowcasting, or


3.       Ensure your boat has adequate stability to cross variable seas

4.       Check your boat and make sure hatches and equipment are adequately secured

5.       Make sure that everybody is wearing a lifejacket and is alert

6.       Ensure that you are carrying at least two forms of waterproof communication

7.       Make a Bar Crossing Report with Coastguard radio

8.       If in doubt – don’t go out!

Coastguard highly recommends boaties become a Coastguard member – it only costs $115 per year and a $100 discount on a Coastguard Boating Education Day Skipper Course is being offered to encourage boaties to do the right thing.   Coastguard Membership is the Boaties Best Mate – it offers significant benefits and practical advice and the assurance knowing that Coastguard always has your back.  To become a Coastguard member – go to for more information

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