Coping with Harbour events
  |  First Published: December 2005

NSW Maritime assists in the staging and management of hundreds of aquatic events each year, providing assistance in planning and event navigation restrictions to ensure the highest standards of safety afloat.

Most aquatic events occur from December to March, with the biggest events including management of the start to the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race and New Year's Eve and Australia Day on Sydney Harbour.

NSW Maritime advises that small craft need to be extremely cautious in large aquatic event environments and stick to the bays and inlets. The same advice applies to novice boaties, including those who may have hired a boat and are unfamiliar with the on-water environment.

Some other tips for boaters out on the water for an aquatic event include:


It can be tricky dropping anchor in a crowd of spectator vessels. With care, you can avoid a tangled mess at the end of the event. Follow these steps to make sure you anchor appropriately:

• Know the depth of water before you anchor.

• Ensure there is adequate chain on the anchor – generally one to two times the length of the boat.

• Ensure you have an appropriate anchor for the size of your craft.

• Keep your distance – multiply the length of your boat by three and that’s the distance to keep from other vessels anchored nearby.

• Watch the weather – as swell and wind can drag your anchor.


It is important to have the right communication tools so you can stay informed while afloat. A marine radio will give you a direct line of communication with authorities should you need to move your vessel or take someone ashore due to illness or emergency.

• 27.88MHz and VHF channels 13 and 17 broadcast general safety messages including weather forecasts.

• In the event of an emergency, boaters can communicate with authorities on radio VHF 16.

• NSW Maritime Info Line operates during all major aquatic events. Call 13 12 56.

• Follow the directions of all control vessels.


Skippers should make sure everyone on board has a lifejacket. Children and poor swimmers should always wear one.

Be bright at night: Ensure you have appropriate navigation lights, particularly if you intend to watch night-time events.


During an event, the Harbour is awash with small and large craft.

In the interest of safety, each skipper should maintain a safe speed, keep a proper lookout, avoid taking risks and obey navigation restrictions.

• When within 30 metres of another vessel limit your speed to 10 knots or less. Speed limit in an event area is 6 knots.

• Keep to the right side of channels.

• Keep 50 metres from naval installations. If boating in Sydney, stay inside the Heads unless you and your crew are experienced and the vessel adequately equipped.

• When operating in a special event area, limit your wash and keep a minimum of 30 metres from NSW Maritime Environmental Services vessels attending to buoys. Small craft should remain in calm waters, keeping well clear of larger craft, exclusion zones and congested areas.


With or without an event, NSW waterways are spectacular – let’s keep them that way. It is illegal to pollute any waterways in NSW with litter, oily bilge or galley water and sewage. Collect all your rubbish on board and dispose of it properly ashore – this includes cigarette butts.

Stow it, don’t throw it.


It can be a long day afloat and skippers and passengers can suffer from fatigue. Be wary of sunburn and keep under the 0.05 alcohol limit. Random breath testing is undertaken regularly by NSW Maritime Authority officers.

– NSW Maritime



• Stay 60 metres clear of naval shipping and wharves

• Stay 30 metres clear of berthed passenger ships

• Stay 100 metres clear of oil terminal wharves.

• Be aware of large penalties for non-compliance.

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