Life on the ocean is about to get a little easier for boaties crossing the dangerous Bowentown Bar thanks to the recent installation of a new directional wave buoy.
"This is a new wave buoy that's getting installed off Bowentown off Waihi Beach," said Daniel Rapson, Deputy Harbourmaster. "It's going to give us and the local boating community information on wave size, period, and it's all about boating safety. It's an extra tool to help people make an informed decision on what the conditions are like for a day on the water."
Data collected from the smart buoy will be made available to the public through the Bay of Plenty Regional Council's website.
"The key users are going to be the local boating community, recreational fishermen heading out on boats crossing the bar. There's some larger moored vessels that cross the Bowentown Bar regularly, and also just the cruising vessels heading up the coast from Tauranga."
It's position – four nautical miles off the Bowentown Bar – was chosen after the local community and coastguard raised concerns about the dangers of crossing the sand bar.
"The Bowentown bar is quite a different kettle of fish to crossing the Tauranga entrance," Rapson said.
"It's not dredged and it is quite shallow in the shifting sands. In certain conditions, in large easterly or northeasterly swells, it can get really nasty and rough in there.
"It's about being able to get that information before you turn up at the boat ramp and so you've got an informed decision.
"Around the Bay of Plenty there are some other wave buoys but the Waihi Beach area is one area that was lacking in that information so it's specifically going there for that part of the Bay of Plenty.
Anyone can access the data, even surfers, to find out information such as wave size, wave direction, wave period and also water temperature.
With the new buoy in place, regular maintenance is now required to keep it clean.
"The mooring system and the buoy itself do get a lot of growth on it," Rapson said. "It will need a light waterblast every three months because the weight of the growth will actually start to weigh the buoy down, and that will affect the solar panels and then the wave action on it.
"Every six months we'll probably lift the whole mooring system up and give it a check. Check for shackles, wear, any weak links in the system, so it's not going to break free. And then on an annual basis we have a technician come down from Auckland who will actually go through the main buoy system and the technical side of it."
But for now, local boaties can rest easy knowing they can access all the data they need before leaving home.