Crossing the bar

Find information and resources about bar crossings in New Zealand.

Build your knowledge before heading out with your boat

Because bar crossings can be dangerous, it’s important to have the right local knowledge and skills before going out.

You must:

  • understand the state of the bar
  • be able to interpret the conditions and
  • be able to assess the ever-changing shape and location of the channel.

Before you head out, build your knowledge by talking to local experts and studying the weather, tides, and bar at low tide.


Bar crossing course

an image mockup of a powerboat attempting to cross a bar of water

Practical courses for all vessels likely to encounter bar crossing situations.

Coastguard Bar Crossing Safety []


Helpful tips about bar crossings

Maritime NZ
New Zealand Bar Crossing – how to cross a bar safely in a trailer powerboat.
Safer Boating NZ
Crossing the Bar "Getting it Wrong" Part 1
Safer Boating NZ
Crossing the Bar "Getting it Right" Part 2
Safer Boating NZ
Crossing the Bar "Making the Decision" Part 3
Safer Boating NZ
Crossing the Bar "It Happens" Part 4


Before attempting to cross a bar

It is the skipper’s responsibility to determine whether or not to cross a bar.

1. Prepare your boat and crew

Secure all movable objects in the boat and ensure that the weight, including your passenger load, is low.

Check that your engine and steering are performing correctly.

Warm up the motor and secure all hatches.

2. Put on your lifejackets

Make sure you and all your passengers are wearing life jackets. It is the skipper’s legal responsibility to ensure that lifejackets are worn in situations of heightened risk, such as when crossing a bar.

3. Keep an eye on the conditions and plan your path

Study the nature of the seas to find the best route to take. The best time to cross a bar is at high water. Avoid crossing when the tide is going out.

Wait until the conditions are suitable before you cross. Alternatively, choose a less dangerous place if possible.

4. Report to Coastguard or Maritime Radio

Put in a call on your VHF radio to the local Coastguard or Maritime Radio immediately before and after crossing the bar.

Related information:

Crossing the bar

This sticker offers safety tips for bar crossings.

[PDF: 32kB, 1 page]