Wide Bay Bar – “interesting!”

Another overnight sail had us just off the Wide Bay Bar, south of Fraser Island, at dawn. We had read all the pilot books, received advice and routes from the coast guard and checked the charts. The bar has a bad reputation.

Warning – Wide Bay Bar is dangerous and should not be crossed except with local knowledge.  Conditions on the bar can vary rapidly with changes in tide height and direction, ocean swell and prevailing winds.    Extreme caution should be exercised when crossing the bar in the afternoon, especially from seaward when the sun may make the leading lights difficult to see.    Ebb tide combined with a south east swell or sea may cause significant waves to form on the bar and break on the adjacent banks.


The wind was “only” 15 knots from the south-east and the swell was under two meters so we turned in towards the bay. The situation quickly got “exciting” with waves picking us up and throwing us around. At least once the propeller was out of the water and once a lump of ocean was dumped in the cockpit. Heidi was navigating and Neill trying to hold the course through the rodeo ride. It took us nearly an hour to cross the mile of shallow water before things finally calmed down.

Someone else crossing the bar. We did not have time for any photos. (Photo: Royal Qld Yacht Squadron Clubrooms)

Heidi described the crossing as interesting when talking to the coastguard. (She is working on her British understatement.) The coastguard laughed and told her “well you will know what to expect next time.”

And then you read about people who cross in 5-6 meters of swell and have to be rescued. No wonder!

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