Bar crossing incidents “a real worry”

11 Jan 2022

Bar crossing incidents “a real worry”


There have been several bar crossing incidents on the Coromandel so far this summer. The incidents have prompted a reminder from Waikato Regional Council’s maritime officers of the importance of thoroughly checking marine weather, paying close attention to the swells and always going out with an experienced skipper prior to attempting a crossing.

On Monday last week, two people were thrown into the water at Tairua. They were picked up by a surf lifesaving club IRB. 

On Tuesday last week, at Matarangi, a skipper anchored and requested help after his vessel lost engine power just outside the Whangapoua Bar. Another vessel went to their rescue, successfully transferring everyone into the rescue boat and towing the stricken vessel over the bar. However, the rescue vessel also lost power and was swamped by a wave. A WRC maritime vessel responded and coordinated the initial rescue, which involved the use of jet skis to recover six people from the water.

While this was happening, a third vessel coming back in over the bar also lost power. The skipper quickly deployed the anchor to stop the boat from being dragged back over the bar on the outgoing tide. WRC maritime officers were able to pick up the anchor and tow the vessel back to the harbour without further incident.

Tragedy struck on Wednesday last week after a boat carrying a family of five capsized at the Tairua bar. Three rescue helicopters attended the scene and flew a man, a woman and two children to hospital. It was confirmed on Thursday last week that the man had passed away. It was later reported that the family was in the process of rescuing two kayakers when their boat flipped. 

The Police is investigating the incident with support from Maritime New Zealand. “This includes making inquiries in relation to the death on behalf of the Coroner,” the Police confirmed. 

According to regional harbourmaster, Chris Bredenbeck, there has been a lot of vessels out on the water and overall they were seeing good compliance with the safety rules. “But it’s a real worry to have had these separate bar crossing incidents…” he said. “It’s the riskiest activity you can carry out on the water.” 

Weather, current and tide conditions cause waves to break in an unpredictable pattern on bars, creating an unstable and hazardous environment. The best time to cross a bar is anytime within three hours before high tide. A bar should never be crossed at low tide or at night.

WRC has links to bar cameras and safety videos which demonstrate how to navigate safely across a bar. See