Boat falls victim to bar
WHILE Ballina’s professional fishermen stayed away from the Ballina bar yesterday, three people in a fishing charter boat had a lucky escape when the vessel rolled in the treacherous conditions.
The stricken 6.5 metre twin-outboard catamaran is owned by Ballina and Beyond Fishing Trips and Charters.
The incident on the Ballina bar occurred on low tide about 6.15am with a two to three metre swell.
The boat was then swept around to Lighthouse Beach, but all three people on board made it safely to shore.
Ballina trawlerman of 30 years, Shane Castle, said ‘no professionals would have entertained crossing the bar’ yesterday morning.
“We all had a look at the bar early, and the weatherforecast, and you can see it on the computer with a forecast of two-metre swells,” he said.
“And low tide makes the bar rougher. The run-out tide makes the water rougher.”
Mr Castle said Ballina’s trawlers had been tied up for a few days because of the bar conditions, with the fishermen hoping the bar would settle down in the coming days so they could get back to work.
Commander of the Ballina flotilla of the Australian Vol-unteer Coast Guard, Norm Lannoy, confirmed the bar was ‘not recommended’ for crossing when the incident occurred.
“The Ballina bar is one of the two most treacherous bars on the east coast of Australia,” Cmdr Lannoy said.
“But we can’t make a decision for skippers.
“If they call us up, we can say it’s not recommended.
“That advice has got to be taken seriously by boaties.”
The skipper of the boat, who didn’t want to be identified, said he had manoeuvred the boat into a position in the Richmond River to check the bar conditions, but got caught in the tidal flow.
He said that as the boat was being dragged towards the bar, he attempted to turn the craft around and wassideswiped by a wave.
No one was injured in the incident and the skipper confirmed all three people in the boat were wearing life jackets.
Cmdr Lannoy said the coast guard broadcasts the bar conditions three times daily on Ballina community radio station Paradise FM, but it was skippers who made the final decision on crossing the bar.
The coast guard and the Ballina Jet Boat Rescue were both on stand-by to go to the help of the three people who were aboard the boat, but were stood down by police when the trio was accounted for and the vessel washed up on Lighthouse Beach.
NSW Maritime confirmed yesterday it was assisting police with their inquiries.