Home' Afloat : AFLOAT March 2018 Contents Take monthly with water March 2018 33
The East Australian Current (EAC) is at its max
at this time of year, pumping that famed ‘blue
water’ down our coast, and with it a range of
offshore game fish, including black marlin and
dolphin fish. Those nor’easters are becoming a
little less consistent as the gap in temperature
between ocean and land starts to narrow – but
cyclones continue to lurk to our north and there
are still those ‘southerly busters’ and stray east
coast lows to keep us on our toes!
All in all, it’s a great time to head offshore.
But before you go chasing the big fish and
blue water, there are some vital safety tips to
First and foremost, bear in mind that you will
be a long way from shore or safe refuge. You
will be more exposed to any bad weather, and
if something does go wrong the consequences
could be far worse than if you were just in a
sheltered lake or harbour.
Make sure your boat is up to the task – and
that means suitable to handle offshore
conditions. You must carry all the necessary
safety equipment (including radio, EPIRB,
flares and lifejackets). Ensure you have enough
fuel (including a reserve for getting back in
deteriorating conditions) and that your engine
is in good working order.
When navigating two nautical miles or more
offshore, you must carry a marine band radio
and an emergency position indicating radio
beacon (EPIRB). The Very High Frequency (VHF)
marine band is the most common and preferred
radio type. It is recognised as one of the best
tools for calling for help when on open waters.
This is because, unlike a mobile phone, it
broadcasts across an open radio network, and
each call may have many listeners and potential
Marine band radios also enable calls to a local
shore-based monitoring station to give them
details on where you are going, when you
expect to return, and to confirm your return.
This “log on/log off” action is a well-proven
safety precaution as it allows the shore base
to monitor your voyage and raise the alarm if
you are overdue. In NSW, the volunteer-based
Marine Rescue NSW operates the shore-based
monitoring stations along the coast.
However, like all safety equipment, a marine
radio must be in good working order, and you
need to know how to use it.
Marine radios enable vital communication
actions such as:
• log on/ log off with a shore-based
• regularly monitor scheduled official weather
• raise the alarm if necessary across a
• contacting fellow boaters nearby, or
responding to a mayday or pan-pan.
Always check the weather and sea conditions
before your trip, and keep an eye on them while
you are out. Remember, if it gets ugly, you have
nowhere to hide! If you see signs of developing
thunder over the land, or cloud brewing in
the south, don’t hang around out wide, come
straight back in. An observer on the water has
a limited perspective on any approaching bad
weather – for a long time it will appear to sit on
the horizon until, suddenly, it is right upon you
(think of a car approaching on a long straight
stretch of road). So come in, and come in early
at the very least reposition yourself close
inshore, so you can make a quick dash for safety
if things suddenly turn.
If you need to cross an ocean bar, you and your
passengers must always wear lifejackets, no
matter what type of boat you are in. If the vessel
has a cabin, it is recommended that all but
the skipper (if the helm is inside) should stand
in the cockpit in case the vessel is capsized.
Bars deserve respect at all times, but certain
conditions make them particularly dangerous:
A runout tide – this causes the incoming
waves to rear up higher than normal as they
encounter the outward flowing current. As
the tide falls further, the shallower water
can make conditions even worse.
A ground swell from a distant source
large powerful waves from a distant
weather system may affect a bar even if the
local weather is fine and calm. Long ‘lulls’
between large ‘sets’ are a typical feature
of such ground swells, and it is easy to be
fooled by the calmer lulls into thinking it
is safe to cross. The only answer is to take
the time to observe several sets and lulls
before committing. Ex tropical cyclones,
tracking down through the northern part of
the Tasman Sea, are a common source of
ground swells along the NSW coast at this
time of year.
Recent big seas or floods – both of
these can shift a lot of sand around and
completely re-shape the bottom contours
and hence the behaviour of breaking waves.
A previously safe path across a familiar
bar may no longer be ... always check
conditions carefully before crossing, and if
in any doubt postpone until another day.
A lot of people heading offshore will try their
luck at one of the FADs or artificial reefs. These
are exciting places to fish, but it does pay to
follow some simple tips for the safety and
enjoyment of others:
Always respect other FAD or artificial
reef users – keep clear of those already
fishing when you arrive, and if others arrive
after you, try to give them a turn.
FADs are popular with spearfishers –
watch out for spearfishers in the water and
vessels displaying the ‘diver below’ Alpha
flag. If you have spearfishers in the water, be
sure to display a correctly-sized Alpha flag
and to remain close in support at all times
Never tie your boat up to a FAD.
For more information about offshore boating:
VHF is available at https://www.acma.
EPIRB is available at http://beacons.amsa.
Log on/off is available at http://www.
Covering ground with a spread of lures.
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