Carnarvon yacht club closed to boats with Fascine too shallow for anything but tinnies

As the sun sets in Carnarvon, an unlikely flurry of activity appears in the distance as boats enter the town.

The shallow sandbar created a surf break, which is now frequented by a group of longboard enthusiasts who have formed their own weekly surf club.

Sophia March said she’s been riding that wave for the past two years.

“Carnarvon has no surf. You definitely shouldn’t come here,” she laughed.

However, for boat owners, the shallow banks have created an ongoing saga.

Locals say that apart from the occasional high tide, the town’s waterway, known as the Fascine, has been too shallow for anything larger than a canister for five years.

The entrance to Fascine de Carnarvon is currently so shallow that it houses a surf spot.(ABC Pilbara: Kate Ferguson)

Barry Scott helped build the waterway next to the Carnarvon Yacht Club in 1952 and says for the first time in 60 years he had no choice but to sell his beloved boat.

“It’s so sad that the boaters in this town and all the people who have boats and want to go out to sea, they’re really bored,” he said.

An elderly man stands facing the camera in a checkered shirt.  Palm trees and sailboats in the background
Carnarvon boating enthusiast Barry Scott helped build the town’s original harbour.(ABC Pilbara: Kate Ferguson)

crane brought

Veteran sailor and boat builder Wolfgang Lantzberg took charge in February, hiring a 20-tonne, 936 Bobcat crane to launch his 22-metre boat, the Hybrid Arc, into the adjacent waterway at high tide.

“I’m a thrifty man, so I decided to organize it. The crane is there so the boat doesn’t take off,” he said.

Its launch is successful.

Wolfgang Lantzberg
Wolfgang Lantzberg hired a crane and other machinery to launch his 22-meter boat in February.(ABC Pilbara: Kate Ferguson)

The Carnarvon Yacht Club shipyard, however, tells a more dismal story, looking more like a nautical graveyard as frustrated owners abandon their ships high and dry.

Barry Scott said that since the construction of the Fascine, a dredge had been regularly used to unblock the waterway.

In 2018 this dredge was used to dig a deeper channel for boats, but Cyclone Damien filled it again with silt and sand in 2020.

The dredge is abandoned
The dredge used to open the Fascine entrance to Carnarvon in 2018 is now abandoned at the yacht club.(ABC Pilbara: Kate Ferguson)

Boat enclosure on the way

In the same year, the County of Carnarvon handed over management of the waterway to the state government, claiming that the dredging process was becoming too expensive.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti announced an interim measure – 16 new boat pens, worth $2.1 million, on the south side of the Carnarvon Waterway.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti stands in front of the new Carnarvon boat paddocks wearing a white jacket
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti announced 16 new $2.1 million boat pens in Carnarvon.(ABC Pilbara: Kate Ferguson)

She said they would be free for local boaters affected by the decommissioning of the Fascine.

“We understand the frustration. So we…sort of took over the project, because we knew the County had…limited funds to really push it forward,” she said.

Two men and a woman stand in front of the Carnarvon boat pens, pointing into the distance.
The Minister of Transport launches the new boat parks.(ABC Pilbara: Kate Ferguson)

With the next safe port 350 kilometers away at Exmouth, the Minister could not confirm when the Fascine would reopen.

“That’s why we want to make sure our solution is tested and re-tested so that whatever we do is sustainable in the long run,” she said.

For now Fascine de Carnarvon will remain a place to release metal.

A boat sits on stuck sand at the entrance to Carnarvon's main waterway
A boat sits high and dry at the entrance to Fascine de Carnarvon.(ABC Pilbara: Kate Ferguson)

Comments are closed.