Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Deep Water

With every summer that passes, I find that owning a kayak, is useful when it comes to helping overstretched lifeguards on the bays. The problem is always most acute on a hot weekend with a south westerly wind blowing and is as old as, well me, at least when I used to have the job some thirty years ago, anyway between Palm Bay and West Bay.

It's not possible of course but there should be a voluntary ban on sales of plastic rings and dinghies when an offshore wind is blowing, as once the owner leaves the shadow of the beach front, they find themselves racing out to sea at a brisk walking pace. Fortunately, we're blessed with relatively shallow water off the beaches at high tide, here in Thanet, compared to elsewhere and as a result we don't experience the same risks as beaches with rapid tidal flows or a pronounced drop-off into deep water.

In today's paper I read that a man died saving the life of his granddaughter after the pair became stranded on a sand bar at a beach when the tide came in on Sunday afternoon at Lepe in Hampshire

I feel this tragedy personally because yesterday and on Saturday, I was pulling a big red and white, beach-safety banner along the South coast seafront at 500 feet, from Weymouth to Brighton, at about the same time. It warned swimmers that they should only use Lifeguard patrolled beaches and I know Lepe, as it's the point where I switch from the control of Bournemouth ATC to Solent Approach.

If Sunday hadn't already been booked by another client at Brands Hatch, for the same time I wonder if a water safety message would have made a difference, I'll never know.

Ironically, the beach safety programme's twice-weekly budget doesn't stretch to our part of the planet, which is a shame, as I'm sitting writing this, only 150 yards from St Mildred's Bay and yet I have to fly all the way down to Weymouth or even Dartmouth, to start the run along the beaches.

Just to think about, changing one person's mind would be worth it, given the family anguish of an incident like that on Sunday and indeed the total loss to the community and even the Treasury over a lost lifetime.

Anyway, we should be thankful that we have our Thanet beaches patrolled by Lifeguards and a Coastguard aircraft on thirty minute response from Manston. Now all we have to do is get rid of those pesky plastic rings!


Tony Beachcomber said...

Many years ago I was researching the Margate Coastguard log entries for 1948. There was one incident when the Margate lifeboat was called to a capsize dinghy in a strong SW one mile NE of the Lido pool. On arrival the lifeboat crew found a man face down in the water.He was taken ashore, when revived and able to speak he asked if his 2 small sons were okay.

Their bodies were never found. That incident alone really drove home water safety to me.

worm said...

What sad and tragic stories both. Part of the problem is education I feel. Many people come down only for the day or week and do not know the perils like the locals. So has it always been though.

Anonymous said...

Stiff off-shore breezes are a hazard to all paddlers whether attached to a rubber ring or a kayak! I do not believe it is sensible to ban the use of rubber rings, inflatable boats etc as correctly used and supervised they allow hours of safe fun. Water is always a hazardous medium and there is always a risk involved if you are on it, in it or below it. Sadly, we need to accept that tragedies will occur every summer and thank goodness the water is statistically a safer environment than our roads as far as children are concerned.

Nethercourt said...

You'll never get rid of the inflatable toys, but as someone who was rescued by a total stranger as I wizzed out to sea from Ramsgate's main beach 50 years ago, I sympathise with the thought.