Lake Macquarie's tourism economy will likely take a hit and the region suffer reputation damage due to the state of Swansea Channel.
That's the opinion of various stakeholders impacted by the channel's recent shallow depth, from sailors to businesses to politicians.
Dozens of vessels have required help near Swan Bay in recent weeks, having to be placed on an angle or towed to pass through shallow areas. Many sailors have been forced to abandon plans to enter or exit the lake.
NSW Maritime moved navigation markers in the channel before last weekend, but it offered little comfort.
Marine Rescue attended to about a dozen calls for help across the long weekend. NSW Maritime responded to about the same and private marina vessels were also called in to render assistance.
Marine Rescue unit commander Mal Wardrop said it was "almost inevitable, that even at high tide, you're going to get stuck at the moment".
But Mr Wardrop said the volunteer service was limited in the help it could provide.
"We've got a standing operating procedure that we don't heel vessels over, where you put a rope on top of the mast and pull the yacht over on its side," he said.
"We want to help people but at the same time you've got to look at the risk.
"We're just trying to advise people as they book the bridge ... letting them know that if you've got a draft over about 1.5 [metres] or more you're going to get stuck."
Peter Watkins, 57, skippered a yacht through Swansea Channel on Sunday.
The vessel, which will be used in the Sydney to Hobart race later this year, was bound for Newcastle Harbour.
Mr Watkins said the crew had anticipated problems and booked the assistance of a marina boat.
"It was 1.3 metres in the marked channel at the top of the high tide," he said.
"Marine Rescue dragged us with the assistance of the Marks Point work boat holding us over.
"We knew we were going to hit, [but] we had to get the yacht out of Lake Macquarie."
Mr Watkins said given the amount of vessels coming into trouble, it was likely Lake Macquarie's tourism economy would suffer as word spread of the issues sailors can expect to encounter when entering the lake.
"There was other people wanting to get out but they couldn't get out," he said.
"They're tied up in the lake and they can't get their boats out.
"You've got Trinity [Point] Marina, they probably can't get people to come into the lake to fill their berths.
"Same as Lake Macquarie Yacht Club, they've got the same trouble wanting people to come into the lake and they don't.
"They [sailors] want to spend their money here, and Lake Macquarie is advertised as a great yachting place, but why come? You can't get into the lake, you're wasting your time."
Lake Macquarie Yacht Club general manager Mark Norden said the city was "certainly" suffering reputation damage as a result of the channel's reoccurring issues.
"It would be damaging tourism," he said.
"To what extent, I'm not sure, because obviously you don't know what you haven't got.
"But I know a lot of our guys haven't been able to leave over the last couple of months because of depth issues without being pulled over."
The ongoing quagmire of maintaining the channel, which provides access to one of the country's busiest recreational waterways, has led to renewed calls from Swansea MP Yasmin Catley for a permanent dredge.
Mr Norden said the club had missed out on hosting multiple regattas in recent years due to the channel's depth and if a permanent dredge could be funded, the club would be willing to store it free of charge.
"If it was viable, we would find a spot for it," he said.
"Because it does significantly affect, particularly with regattas, in attracting [visitors]. It's hard enough to get sailors out of Sydney without the added inconvenience of either they can't get into the channel or it is iffy."
Ms Catley said Lake Macquarie was taking a "huge" tourism hit from the issues.
"People just sail straight past," she said. "It has a terrible reputation. It's embarrassing to think that the entrance to the largest saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere is not navigable."
The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment last week said 10 days of dredging would be carried out this month. However, it would not say when the dredging would start in a response to the Herald.
"The trailer-suction dredge, operated by Sandpiper Dredging, is a larger capacity dredge than the machines that this contractor has previously used in the channel," a spokesman said.
"The company is currently completing dredging work at Ettalong and will arrive at Swansea a couple of days after that work is complete."
The contractor is set to transfer the 5000 to 10,000 cubic metres of dredged sand onto a stockpile at Marks Point.
The site has previously been used to pipe sand under the Pacific Highway and onto Blacksmiths beach, but the department did not say whether that would occur.
"The dredge will pump the dredged sand via a pipeline to the former Belmont Sands site ... where it will be stockpiled," the spokesman said.
A Lake Macquarie council spokesperson said council continued to work with Crown Lands "about the preferred governance and financing model for long-term maintenance dredging of Swansea Channel".
"Council supports the categorisation of Swansea Channel as a 'key investment location' as described in the NSW Coastal Dredging Strategy 2019-2024," the spokesperson said in regards to a long-term solution.