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Wave Heights: Port Phillip Bay Boat Guide

Last Updated on by Dave

Port Phillip Bay, while a beautiful bay to go fishing on a boat, demands you treat it with respect.

It's a wide and shallow waterway.  Weather conditions change fast.  The bay can go from glassy and calm wave heights to choppy and dangerous very quickly.

Keep an eye on the weather forecast - particularly marine weather bulletins and updates at all times.

If in doubt - stay off the water.  No fish is worth your life.

This is only a guide. Nobody can predict how your particular boat will behave.  Use common sense.  Smaller boats are more restricted in the conditions they can go out in.  Sometimes heading inland to a lake or river just makes sense!!

Content adapted from the NSW Government Wave Heights Guide

Every year people have close calls, or even capsize, on Port Phillip Bay in their boat. Sometimes lives are lost. Hence this Port Phillip Bay Wave Heights Safe Boating guide is offered as a heads-up before you venture out.

Note it is only a guide. Nobody can know your specific boat or how it handles. Always leave a margin of safety. Port Phillip Bay is notorious for sudden weather changes, quick squalls and some very extreme conditions.

Check the BOM Meteye webpage. Subscribe and stay up-to-date with weather alerts and broadcasts. Consider a marine radio. Don’t take unnecessary risks or overestimate your boat or your skills.

Remember to ensure you are carrying the required safety gear in working condition. You can find out more about the legal safety equipment here.

Forecasted Wave Heights Caution

It’s easy, as a beginner, to underestimate wave heights. A 1-meter wave can swamp a small boat. The distance between waves is critical too. Also always keep in mind that forecasted winds and waves are an average. Winds can be 40% higher than forecasted and wave heights will increase accordingly.

Getfished Tip, Blueys Boat Hire

Note – a point that cannot be emphasised enough. Wearing a properly rated lifejacket is not optional on most vessels. Only a complete fool ventures out in a small craft without a lifejacket. Check the requirements to find out what your boat requires here.

Boats 3.5 (12 feet)

Boats 3.5 (12 feet)

Not Port Phillip Bay Safe Wave Height 1.0 meters

Dangerous. At this wave height, you’re going to struggle in a boat with this size.  Combine this with a strong on-shore wind and getting back to the ramp is going to be extremely difficult.  Water is going to come on board – a lot of water!

This is considered the maximum safe limit for a boat of this size and leaves no room for an unexpected peak wave that are common enough on Port Phillip Bay to be a concern.

Waves 0.8 meters

Potentially Dangerous. Your speed will need to be reduced significantly in order to be safe. Water is going to come on board at this height.  You will need to take the utmost care.  Keep in mind some peak waves may be over one meter in these conditions.

Take winds into consideration.  Especially on-shore winds as these can make returning back to the ramp more difficult.

Waves 0.5 meters

Caution Required.  At 0.5m you are still going to have to proceed at slower speeds.  You will experience some pounding on the hull.

Other than peak waves water shouldn’t come on board – but this will depend on your vessel.  Some spray may occur.

Keep an eye out for strong on-shore winds.  These can make returning back to the boat ramp more difficult.

Waves 0.2 metres

Ideal Conditions.  Waves will gently patter on the hull.  Water should not come on board.   No spray should be present.

This should present pretty comfortable conditions for a boat of this size.

Keep an eye out for weather changes – and plan to be off the water before a change comes through.

Boats 4.3  (14.10 feet)

Boats 4.3 (14.10 feet)

Waves 1.5 metres

Dangerous. You are going to really have to be very experienced to even consider taking a boat of this size out in these conditions.

There’s going to be a lot of water thrown aboard, much of it heavy.  Take it really slow.

Waves 1.2 metres

Dangerous.  Make sure you pull that throttle right off. Slow and steady.  You’re going to get wet because there’s going to be lots of spray coming in.

Really scary – rightly fully so – for average boaties.

Waves 1.0 metres

Caution, Dangerous.  You’re going to get water on the deck.  A fair bit of spray. Keep the speed down.  Keep an eye on the onshore winds.

Not really suitable for newbies or weekend warrior fishos.

Waves 0.8 metres

Caution. You should keep your speed reduced.  There’s going to be some pounding on the hull.  Some spray is going to be taken aboard your boat.


0.5 metres Waves

You should be able to use maximum safe speed with only slight bumps being felt.  Most spray should be thrown clear of your boat.

This is good, reasonably comfortable conditions for a vessel this size.

As always, keep an eye on the weather bulletins and updates.

Waves 0.2 metres

Spray shouldn’t be there to bother you, just a gentle patter of water on your hull.

Pretty close to perfect conditions.  Great to be out on your boat!

Keep an eye on the weather updates, make sure no changes are expected.


Boats 5 metres  (16.4 feet)

Boats 5 metres (16.4 feet)

Waves 1.8 metres

This is the limit considered safe to operate a vessel this size with passenger comfort.

Experienced master advised.  Keep in mind wave swells on Port Phillip Bay can be higher than the forecast average.

Waves 1.5 metres

Tackle each wave individually while steering, using throttle at all times is best.  Expect lots of spray and some waves can be expected to break over the deck.

An active eye on forecast bulletins is advised.


Waves 1.2 metres

Keep your speed down to slow speeds.  Expect a lot of spray on board with waves breaking over decks.


Waves 1.0 metres

Keep at or below half-speed.  Expect some spray and green seas to come aboard.

Keep alert and aware of forecast bulletins.

Waves 0.8 metres

Keep the speed down is best.  You will experience some moderate pounding on the hull.  Possibly some spray.


Waves 0.5 metres

Set throttle for cruising.  There’ll be some slight bumps. Most of the spray will be thrown clear


Waves 0.2 metres

Like sitting in an armchair.  Next to perfect conditions.

As always keep an eye on forecast broadcasts.   Otherwise, enjoy smooth sailing!

Boats 6 metres (19 Feet)

Boats 6 metres (19 Feet)

Waves 2.0 metres

Keep it slow and steady. Recommended for experienced boaties only.

You’re going to get some water breaking onto the decks at times.


Waves 1.8 metres

Keep the speed down and tackle waves individually.



Waves 1.5 metres

Spray on your windscreen.  Water over your foredeck.  Keep the speed to a safe level.



Waves 1.2 metres

Keep speed to half.  You’re going to get a fair bit of spray.  Some water on your foredeck.



Waves 1.0 metres

Slightly reduce your speed.  You’re going to get some spray over the aft end of your vessel.



Waves 0.8 metres

Keep speeds down.  Some pounding on your hull is going to be experienced.



Waves 0.5 metres

Maximum cruising speed on your throttle.

You’ll probably experience some slight pounding on your hull.


Waves 0.2 metres

Things feel awesome.  Smooth ride.  Almost “glass” conditions.

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By Dave - from Getfished!


Dave spends most of his time split between fishing, working on Getfished and on boating and kayak fishing. After 30+ years as a programmer spending more time as a fisho has allowed him to grow his passion for the hobby. Running Getfished has meant Dave's been able to share some of the places he loves to fish at. As well as some of his favourite tackle and gear.