Entering the Knysna Heads
The entrance to Knysna Lagoon must be approached with due care and attention to local conditions. If the following information is adhered to then the entry should be safe and easy.
It must be borne in mind, however, that the vessel’s skipper takes ultimate responsibility for any decisions concerning navigation through the Heads and within the lagoon.
Skippers entering Knysna Lagoon must be in possession of a relevant chart. This will provide information on the safe passage through the Heads.
A transit exists indicated by a forward white conical beacon surmounted by a white light signal group (1) flashing (3.0sec) and a rear mounted pole with inverted triangle and red flashing light signal group (1). The heading of this transit is 006(T). Whilst this line appears to bring vessels close to rocks on the port side (West Head) it is the safe approach and must be preferred to any other. Remember that magnetic variation in this part of the world is close to 24o west!
The entry at the Heads can be adversely affected by swell and tide. If the swell is greater than 3m then it is advisable to get local assistance before attempting a passage. Ideally one should enter or leave the Heads around slack water.
The local NSRI Station 12 will gladly supply visiting yachts with real time information. They can be contacted via telephone on 044 384 0211 or cell phone 083 324 6558.
There is no radio base station in operation although local yachts use VHF channel 10 for communications. Please feel free to call us on this channel and if in operation, we will be pleased to assist you. There is also a webcam at the Heads www.theheads.co.za that shows the current status.
Local skippers have an unofficial rule that whilst traversing the Heads all crew must wear life jackets and all hatches and the companionway must be closed. Better to be safe than wet and sorry!
Once through the Heads yachts should proceed toward the forward beacon until a clear view is seen around the point on the port side. A turn to port is then made ensuring that the shallow water on either side is avoided, especially at low tide.
The first bay encountered is “Featherbed Bay” so named by the skippers of the old sailing vessels due to the calmness of the water compared to the outside ocean. In Featherbed the first of a series of channel marker will be spotted indicated by red and white buoys. Keeping the channel markers on the port side these can be followed as far as the Clubhouse.
As one nears the yacht club there is a sand bar that is about 2m below the water level at low tide. If in doubt about crossing this bar the recommendation is to anchor near to yachts of a similar size and proceed to the club by tender. At other tidal heights this bar can be crossed but it is recommended that for a few cables it is best to move to the extreme port side of the channel – making sure, of course, that there is no oncoming traffic on this side. Once this bar is crossed proceed to the Club jetties or the Knysna Quays marina - call the Knysna Quays Harbour Master for assistance 044 382 0955.
Various ferries operate on the lagoon. However, their skippers are well trained and work to the rules. Pleasure craft will also be encountered ranging from speedboats, water skiers, kite boarders, fishing boats and small dinghies. It is advisable to be prepared to take avoiding action as necessary.
Should you have any queries please contact us at the Club 044 382 5724.
Our Keelboat group meets every Saturday morning from Breakfast at KYC from 8h30 and sailing.
Feel free to join them should you be interested in Sailing.