Crossing the Kaipara Bar

by Helen Martin
In July, Coastguard Northern Region, in association with Coastguard Kaipara, held a free, well-attended seminar at Kaipara Cruising and Sportfishing Club in Mill Road. Titled ‘Raising the Bar’, the purpose of the seminar was to give local boaties an opportunity to brush up on practices essential to avoiding danger when crossing the Kaipara Bar. As Coastguard Kaipara President Iain Gulliford said in his introduction, “The idea is not to put you off, but to give you the tools for safety.”
The bar, we were told, can be a wild place; 13 miles long and 4 miles across, with a quick tide of 7 knots, waves up to 12 metres and few landmarks. 138 recorded wrecks, the most recent the Francie in 2016, are testament to the treacherous nature of the bar.
Northern Region Coastguard speakers, Darren Arthur, Coastguard Northern Region Education Manager and Nico Doodeman, Coastguard Northern Region Duty Officer, and Iain Gulliford gave a wealth of information, with plenty of examples, including You Tube clips, maps and discussion from the floor. Points covered included: why the Kaipara Bar is dangerous; local area knowledge; pre-trip planning (e.g. check weather, tide and bar conditions); essential equipment (with a lot of emphasis on the right kind of life jacket to wear when crossing the bar); steps necessary for safety (e.g. approach at moderate speed, assign roles to the crew); how to communicate with Coastguard when you’re planning a crossing. The Coastguard Maritime Education Programme, which provides recreational boating courses, was also discussed.
The Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) wrote about his impending death in ‘Crossing the Bar’, using the sea as a metaphor for the barrier between life and death. It’s a poem often read at funerals, with the final lines - I hope to see my Pilot face to face/When I have cross’d the bar – very familiar to mourners. By contrast, the seminar at Kaipara Cruising Club was 100% literal, not about inevitable death, but about choices to ensure life. Bottom line: If in doubt, don’t go out.
For further information see and

Comments are closed.