JOHN ROBERSON is a Freo resident and ex-journo who’s kept his eye on the South Beach saga. He says plans to give part of the beach to young sailors might backfire, as prevailing winds might drive a few of them onto dangerous rocks.
THE three-way tussle over the future use and users of South Beach, and in particular the most northern dog beach section, is filled with ambiguity, misleading information, hype and maybe a few hidden agendas.
The three parties involved are the Department of Transport, Fremantle Sailing Club and the Save Freo Beaches group.
At the centre of the kerfuffle is Transport’s “South Metropolitan Aquatic Review, Proposed Plan”, and the nub of the problem is the proposed access channel for boats at the northern end of the beach closest to the club.
Transport’s proposal says: “Gazette new Closed Waters Motorised Vessel (CWMV) area 100m from shore from approximately 120m south of the Fremantle Sailing Club (FSC) breakwater to the second South Beach groyne.”
This would suggest it is proposing a 120m wide corridor following the curve of the club breakwater starting 100m offshore for boats to access the beach.
However on the map which accompanies Transport’s proposals there is also an arrow pointing to this area of the beach with the note, “30m Beach access for vessels”.
A bit ambiguous don’t you think?
Perhaps this ambiguity is the cause of some of the scaremongering and conflicting information being handed out by the people supporting the Save Freo Beaches group. They have a worthy cause, though their tactics are actually putting thinking people off signing their petition.
This channel, or corridor, for boats is supported by club commodore Terry Baker in his letter to the Herald of December 12, 2015.
However, anyone who knows anything about boating and our prevailing winds would know that from a seamanship point of view this is the wrong place to put a boating channel for beach access by boats.
In sea breeze conditions, which occur most afternoons during the summer, this is what sailors call a “lee shore”.
You only have to go down to the beach any afternoon when the sea breeze is blowing to see the build up of waves in that corner of the beach, and along the club breakwater.
Boats coming into the beach along this proposed corridor will be perilously close to the rocks, and getting pushed towards them, before arriving at the beach where the waves are biggest and most confused.
Once boats arrive at the beach what are they going to tie up to? They will lie on the edge of the surf getting pounded by waves, and it will be extremely difficult to get off again.
Basic seamanship that anyone who is in charge of a boat should know, would dictate that they come ashore on the sheltered, downwind side of a groyne or breakwater, not the windward side.
Commodore Terry Baker says of the proposed corridor, “the boating community can land safely in its dinghies to allow small children to swim in the relative safety of the beach, exercise their dogs or to enjoy and support local cafes”.
This is definitely not the safest part of the beach to land on, and is further from the local cafes than almost anywhere else on the beach. The cafes, public barbecues and toilets are all adjacent to the non-dog part of the beach, further south.
The appropriate place for boats to come ashore would be within the club’s enclosed and safe marina, when they can tie up to a dock and use the club’s facilities.
Surely the reason the club is supporting this proposal is that it is the thin end of the wedge for it to apply for the launching ramp that has previously been rejected. What few people realise is that land currently used as the carpark for the dog beach, is actually Fremantle Sailing Club land.
If this boating corridor, be it 30m or 120m wide, is permitted it will give the club a good reason to re-apply for its launching ramp, and this ramp will have the same lee shore problems as the beach and the breakwater, which will make it dangerous for launching and retrieving boats.