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Boats struggle to cross dangerous Grey bar

Published: 3:09PM Wednesday January 19, 2011 Source: ONE News

Storms which hit the South Island's West Coast have flooded the Grey River, creating terrifying conditions at the entrance to Greymouth's port.
The Greymouth bar is considered the most dangerous in Australasia.

Two fishing boats were rocked by waves where a flooded Grey River met a violent Tasman Sea.

The boats were sucked and pulled by churning brown currents, turned by waves and hammered by an unrelenting swell.

Fisherman David Haywood told ONE News it was a rocky ride across the bar.

"We were going sideways a few times coming in but it just seemed to be taking forever to come across. Like I think we might have been doing something like half a knot," he said.

The sandbar at the mouth of the Grey River is treacherous and after a day of heavy rain, the two Riverton-based fishing boats were fighting an eight-knot current.

The men onboard were not wearing lifejackets and locals say they were crazy to even attempt crossing it.

"Well you always get concerned about it. You've got to treat the whole thing with respect," said Ray Haywood, a fishermen.

The Greymouth bar has claimed numerous vessels in the past and the lives of numerous fishermen.

Vessels have been destroyed in conditions not too dissimilar from today.

Safely in port, Ray Haywood explained why his crew decided to cross the bar.

"We're full of fish. We're out of ice. And with no more space we would've had to steam to Westport,"  he said.

There is a monument in Greymouth to fishermen who have lost their lives trying to cross the bar.

In 1993, the first mate of the Craig Ewan drowned when a six-metre wave caught the boat, while two men died when a boat was rolled in 2000.

Graham Bryce at the Greymouth Port Office told ONE News the bar was safe to cross if negotiated by an experienced skipper.

Advice on a website forum for crossing the bar is to pick a day when the fleet is going out.

"Many of the problems encountered by the commercial fishing fleet stem from the fact that their top speed is often about 8-9 knots," said one posting.

"Then the current can be 5-6 knots. So, you're only making 3 knots and you're trying to come in on a bar where the waves are travelling up to 22 knots."

The MetService reported a few showers in Greymouth today with some sunshine.