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Bill Corten’s Advice On Bar Crossings

The Do's
  • 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. 

The Dont's

  • 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.

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