By ADRIAN CLAYTONEditor’s note: the links from the magazine article have been updated, September 2012
Weather and Sea Conditions
BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY (BoM)
A great site offering loads of information to help you plan your kayaking activities. It also provides archival data that is very useful in completing logbook entries in respect of the conditions actually encountered. These are the BoM pages I frequently refer to:
This page links to forecasts for eight different coastal regions from the Tweed River in the north (the Byron Coast) to the Victorian border in the South (the Eden Coast). These pages include forecasts for up to four days (the closer the forecast, the more detailed it is) and include information on average wind speeds and direction, average sea height and swell size and direction. Any maritime warnings and an outline of the general weather situation are also included. There is also a general warning in terms of what you might expect outside average forecast conditions i.e. for wind speeds and wave heights. (Regional forecasts for coastal waters are available for all around Australia).
Similar information to what you will find on the coastal waters forecast except there is no reference to swell. It covers local waters from Broken Bay in the north to Port Hacking in the south.
This page provides links to both land and coastal regions of NSW. The land regions include 7-day forecasts including information such as maximum temperature, the prospect of rain, thunderstorms, warnings, UV ratings and more. The Sydney region is broken down to links to eight sub-regions.
This page provides links to 7-day tide tables for around thirty coastal regions around Australia. Each of the eight regions indicated for NSW is broken down into various sub regions each showing time adjustments that need to be made to the predictions on the parent page. Don’t forget, all NSW times are given as EST (Eastern Standard Time) and need to be adjusted when daylight saving is in effect.
This page displays a graphic of Australia overlayed with forecast weather systems for a 4-day period in 12-hour intervals. A basic understanding of high and low pressure systems and fronts will provide for some reasonable assessment of what to expect in the way of weather conditions (and their impact on marine conditions) over the four day period.
Over is an example of a composite document that I prepare by cutting and pasting from the above sites prior to undertaking any on-water club or commercial activity in Sydney coastal waters:
This page shows animated graphics of both wind and wave forecasts for four days with information shown in 3-hour intervals. The area covers the NSW coast from Newcastle to Wollongong.
This page provides links to animated modelling of wind forecasts for up to seven days all around Australia in 3-hour intervals. Clicking on NSW will reveal modelling for that state and provides another link to the Sydney region extending from Broken Bay to Port Hacking.
This page provides links to the numerous Automatic Weather Stations for seventeen regions throughout NSW. Each region has numerous AWS locations (Sydney Metropolitan has thirty). The degree of data supplied varies from each station; however, the more important ones in coastal regions will contain relevant information for sea kayakers (such as wind speeds and direction) mostly updated every half hour or more frequently when sudden changes for the worse occur. This information can be useful for establishing trends (e.g. tracking a southerly change up the coast to establish how soon is likely to hit Sydney). It can also be useful for verifying logbook entries.
This page shows rainfall within a 128km radius of the measuring point. The movement of rain and its intensity is modelled in 6-minute intervals. Links on this page provide for smaller (64km) and larger radii (512km). Also, there are some useful overlays that can be added as well as links to other pages of graphics presenting rainfall information in other formats.
This is a site developed for wind surfers and kite boarders. Hence the interesting portrayal of the arrows used for wind graphics – high winds are green arrows, low winds are red arrows. There is a provision on the site for this order to be inverted for those preferring green to indicate more benign conditions. The above page applies to Sydney and provides a 7-day forecast in graph form for wind speeds and wave heights, swell direction and period, predicted tide heights and moon phases. Archival data is shows of actual wind speeds at various places around Sydney. On the navigation bar of this page you can find links to graphs in other parts of NSW and in other states of a similar nature.
This page provides similar information to the BoM’s rain tracking radars. It also includes a lightning tracker. The modelling is presented over the last hour with intervals of ten minutes. Not a bad site to have access to if you are on the water when thunderstorms are forecast.
One of my favourite sites when planning to paddle along Sydney’s coastline. The information available establishes a trend as to what is happening with both wind and waves – whether the conditions are improving or getting worse.
One page provides information from a waverider buoy just off Botany Bay. Wave size and wave periods are graphed over a moving week. The plot lines are updated every ten minutes.
Another page I refer to regularly from the Sydney Ports web site provides information on measured wind speeds and direction at Fort Denison. Again, the data is presented in a form which allows to you to easily identify an improving or worsening trend. Data is updated every ten minutes.
This page provides links to data taken from seven waverider buoys on the NSW coast between Byron Bay and Eden and includes Sydney. The information provided for each site comes in the form of two graphs on a moving 4-day basis and includes wave heights (HighSig and HighMax) and wave period.
This site has quite a following in the kayaking community. What I like about it is the information it provides regarding tide information in many more places than you find on the BoM resource. Jervis Bay, for instance, has six locations where tide information is provided. Predictions are limited to one week.
Explore the links on this page and you should find a good idea of tide predictions in just about any coastal region in which you are likely to want to go kayaking in NSW.
Surf Reports and Forecasts
This page provides links to numerous popular surfing destinations around Australia. The NSW contribution comprises of twelve sites between Ballina and Wollongong. A daily update includes the nature of the surf, its size, swell direction and wind. Also included is a moving 5-day swell graph. This page is definitely worth a look at when you are contemplating a trip that may involve a surf landing or breakout (intended or unintended!).
NSW Roads and MARITIME
NSW Roads and Maritime publishes a Boating Handbook. Kayakers should know that they have no special rights when on the water and that they are bound by the same rules that apply to other recreational boaters. An understanding of these rules and the different markers used (e.g. port and starboard lateral markers, cardinal markers) and how they apply to safe kayaking is also essential.
This page has an interactive map of NSW indicating where the Volunteer Marine Rescue units are located along the NSW coast. Icons indicate the type of unit located there (e.g. Marine Radio Base, Marine Rescue Unit or Search & Rescue Coordination Centre). A click on the icon will provide the unit’s name, its hours of operation, VHF call sign and telephone number. When undertaking a coastal trip I usually log on and log off with the local VMR and store its phone number in my mobile phone.
Kayaks must stay away from ferries. They have right-of-way no matter the direction of their approach to you. When conducting a trip that involves crossing ferry lanes or getting close to wharves, I like to know whether or not I’m likely to encounter a ferry. The following links provide information related to the major ferry services on Sydney Harbour.
Matilda Cruises – ferry services, click on the navigation bar to find the link to the different services. The related link will include timetables
Links to the timetables for ferry services that run in other popular kayaking destinations include:
http://www.palmbeachferry.com.au/ (this page provides a link to the timetables for ferry services out of Palm Beach to Ettalong and Wagstaff and return as well as the service from Palm Beach to The Basin and Mackerel Beach and return)
This page identifies all of the Local Area Commands within NSW. Click on the LAC link to find the police stations within it. Details provided include the station name, address, phone and fax numbers, hours of manning, etc. I usually will store the phone number of the relevant police station in my phone when conducting club trips.
Whether securing your kayak to your car, tethering it to a pole, securing a bit of kit to your deck, fashioning a tow line, etc, knowing how to tie the appropriate and secure knot is an essential skill (assessable at Australian Canoeing Sea Skills level). This page provides links to some easy-to-follow animation on how to tie some of the more popular boating knots.
Although lacking much of the information that is contained in charts and maps, this page provides heaps of information for planning a trip. Zoom in to identify shoreline features such as beaches, rocks, wharves; land-based features such as settlements, roads and tracks. This page also provides a distance-measuring tool which you can use as part of your trip planning or trip review.
Special Note:The information provided above is of a general nature only. It is not to be regarded as complete in the sense of ensuring safe kayaking activities. Although I have taken care in compiling this information, it is up to the individual concerned to determine whether it is correct at the time they intend to use it. Also, much of the information supplied is changeable and may require updating without notice. I do not take responsibility for any of the content contained within the web pages associated to the links provided in this document. However, I believe the web pages cited are credible.