Rip Tour of Port Phillip Heads 


19 April 2020 Rip Tour has been postponed until further notice. For expression of interest to join the rescheduled tour (date to be advised), please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

We conduct a regular, on-water practical tour of the entrance to Port Phillip. The ‘pincers’ of the two peninsulas are known collectively as The Heads and comprise of Point Lonsdale in the West and Point Nepean in the East. The Rip is the passage of water between these two points.



As part of the ORCV Rip Tour, very experienced offshore navigators and yachtsmen provide expert commentary. This makes for an informative and enjoyable day for all yachties and their families. Over the years that it has been running, the Rip Tour has grown in popularity with all manner of boaties, fishermen, historians, beach walkers, surfers and holiday makers, so come along and get set to enjoy a memorable day out on Melbourne’s Bay. Please also remember that this is an on-water and outdoor activity that is subject to weather conditions and sometimes postponements, so your co-operation and understanding is very much appreciated.


‘The Rip’ is the narrow entrance to Port Phillip Bay and the only access for shipping to the ports of both Melbourne and Geelong. More than 4,000 commercial vessels transit this gateway annually, where underwater reefs limit the navigable entrance to just 0.6 of a nautical mile.

This narrow entrance acts to restrict the tidal flow within the Bay, which holds some 25km3 of water therein and sets up a difference in the relative water levels between Port Phillip and Bass Strait. Consequently, the tides can run very fast in both directions and when you add some of the strong winds the area is famous for, it all brings about some very interesting and precarious conditions, where the tide can be up to six knots and the water can stack up to over a metre and sometimes three!

The Heads are governed by the Port of Melbourne from Point Lonsdale Light, more correctly known as Point Lonsdale Signal Station or Lonsdale VTS (VTS = Vessel Traffic Service). They close the Heads when conditions are unsuitable.


To provide for well planned and executed transits of Port Phillip’s Heads, with an emphasis on doing so in low-powered vessels (like yachts) and provide information to participants on the numerous navigational aids and strict procedures required for safe passages through.

• Knowledge of safety procedures
• Identification of navigational aids
• Familiarisation of the leads and use of safe water channels
• Understanding radio protocols
• Awareness of expected inbound and outbound traffic and obligations
• Confidence in traversing The Rip either during day or night with identification of leads and tidal flow
• Weather conditions and their effect on tidal streams


• None

Rip Tour Content

This course begins when the ORCV vessel steams from Sorrento Pier to collect the other passengers from Queenscliff, where there will be commentary on certain key elements of the area. Once the other passengers have boarded, the instruction by experienced offshore navigators and yachtsmen will begin. This covers:

• Underwater topography
• Points of interest
• Major channel beacons, marks and navigational aids
• Traffic data and radio protocols
• Queenscliff lead lights and shipping channels
• Tides and tide signals
• Identification of safe conditions and/or dangers
• How to perform a correct and safe passage in both directions
• Pertinent historical facts and points of interest

From the instruction, you will learn about the patterns in tidal flow, how to set up for safe transits of the Rip and experience the correct channel protocols in use. Favourable conditions will either be observed or described depending on the day, as well as learning how to anticipate and therefore avoid, dangerous situations.

You will also traverse the leads under Shortland Bluff and depending on tide and traffic, there may be the opportunity to venture seawards to view the effects of ‘The Rip’ before returning to disembark at your nominated port.

Drapers_Reef FourFingersWest


• None


The ORCV requires the sailing master of any yacht entering an ORCV race for the first time to have demonstrated an understanding of navigation protocol at Port Phillip Heads, either from experience within the last six months or by completing this course.


Course Registration Information

This course is weather dependant and requires a minimum number of participants to go ahead.  If unsuitable conditions are forecast, registered participants will be notified by telephone on the morning of the scheduled tour.

Bookings are essential, as there is a limit on the number of passengers the vessel can take.

We require one registration for each person accompanying you, as this also allows us to inform all of you if there is a postponement due to weather or the like.

For you convenience, you can board from either side of the Bay - Sorrento or Queenscliff.   pdf Click here (292 KB)  for a map of both boarding locations. You must nominate which Boarding Location you would like to embark/disembark from when you register. The ORCV vessel will be departing on time, so please ensure you are ready to go, ahead of schedule.

Once you have boarded, you should NOT disembark until after the tour is completed and only disembark at the scheduled times at Sorrento and Queenscliff.  Toilets and cafeteria are located onboard for your convenience.  Timing of the tour is critical including scheduled arrival at the Rip near Slack Water.  The ORCV will not be responsible for anyone who is not onboard by the scheduled departure times.

Boarding location

Board Time

Return Time


Sorrento Pier

   09:45 12:47 ~ 3 hrs 

Queenscliff Marina 

10:45 11:57

~1.5 hrs



Tickets are $110.00 per person for ORCV members and $125.00 per person for non-members. 

Course Materials

During the course, all participants will receive a copy of ORCV’s Rip Guide.

What to Bring

• Weather appropriate clothing including non-slip footwear
• Lunch – there are barbeques available at various shore locations near both piers or enjoy the delights of the fare available on both peninsulas
• Binoculars, notepads, Dictaphones, still and video cameras are optional at your discretion
• Life jackets will be available on board
• Snacks and refreshments available on board

Course Presenters

Very experienced ORCV offshore navigators and yachtsmen will provide not only commentary, but also highlight particular points of interest, provide aide-mémoires and include any pertinent historical facts or points.

More Information

A boarding location map of Sorrento Pier and Queenscliff Marina can be found HEREPlease remember to be ready ahead of time as the vessel is on a strict timeframe.

"Transiting the Rip". An article written by ORCV Member, Nick McGuigan, for the 2010 RBYC Short Tacks magazine. Click   pdf HERE (354 KB) .

If you have a question, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or alternatively, phone 9088 7210.