Approaching Brisbane Water
Reviewed Dec 2015
As can be seen from the photograph, the approach and entry to Brisbane Water - the northern arm of Broken Bay - does present certain challenges. As with any new sailing ground being experienced without local knowledge, the prudent sailor will do so with caution and by making sure that everything possible is in their favour. Brisbane Water is no exception. What follows is primarily for sailing craft, that will normally have less horsepower and deeper draft. It is worth noting here that tidal range 'inside' is only half that shown as the range at Fort Denison. Time-wise, the Rip Bridge will be about 40 minutes later and by the time you get to Gosford it is over two hours behind. What this also means is that there is a tidal overrun at Half Tide Rocks that can be as much as two hours. But of course you would have already checked this on your tide chart, wouldn't you.
Locals will tell horror stories about the dangers of the entrance; as much in an effort to keep strangers out as it is with any genuine concern for their well-being! The simple fact is that treated with respect the entrance can be safely undertaken by any vessel with a reasonable draft “say up to around 1.6 metres or so“ at virtually any state of the tide, day or night. Yachts with a draft of 2.2 metres “or even better“ make the passage without problem close to the top of the tide. As with any entrance, weather can play a vital role and this entrance should be treated with extreme caution or avoided in the presence of any established swell. It is also worth remembering that tidal streams here can be unforgivingly strong, so why not use them to your advantage rather than try to fight them. Always better to prepare in advance; make sure your anchor is ready to drop in the event of an engine failure and having the main up is also not a bad idea for the same reason. You'll also find that any swell will be on your beam on the southern side of Half Tide Rocks so a sheeted-in main will help make your passage more comfortable. For your first passage in, it would be best to choose a smooth day and plan your entrance for about the fourth hour of the flood. If you are towing a dinghy, keep it on a short painter.
The fairway is entered off Little Box Head at approximately 33o 32.280 S and 151o 20.147 E. The channel is well marked and an entering vessel should favour the starboard-hand side of the channel. Quite apart from this being correct procedure, it also offers you the deepest part of the channel and that side of the channel should be favoured for the entire passage in, specifically for that reason. Proceeding up towards Lobster Beach you will note that the rocks on the landward side may seem disconcertingly close. It is not a worry; providing you remain within the marked channel you will find that the bottom shelves very steeply leaving you plenty of water. Conversely, the port-hand side of the channel has sandbanks and it is not uncommon to see channel buoys literally lying on their sides in the sand.
Entrance should be treated with extreme caution