lifeguards at sea offer ten safety tips that apply to practically everyone who takes to the sea, whether they are at the helm of a cruising sailboat, paddling a sea kayak or simply swimming with their family at the beach.
1 Safety tip : Stand together at sea!
Many of you revealed your sense of solidarity during the coronavirus crisis. Carry on. Solidarity at sea is not reserved for Rescuers at Sea, ready to go out voluntarily three hundred and sixty-five days a year, twenty-four hours a day
. Sailors, listen to channel 16 on your ship’s radio to find out if another boat needs help near you. Worry if you see one that appears to be broken or messed up. If you notice anything abnormal, such as an
UFO (unidentified floating object that can damage a boat) or an unlit buoy that a gust of wind has managed to move, report it on channel 16 of your radio VHF (70 on a DSC VHF), starting your message with “Security, security, security” .
Solidarity concerns absolutely all users of the sea. The first form of solidarity is moreover that which consists in not being imprudent so as not to endanger those who will try to save you. Experienced surfers, kitesurfers, windsurfers or kayakers know that their safety is largely ensured by other surfers watching them out of the corner of their eye and will worry if they have a problem. Experienced divers know that you never dive alone, even in apnea. In the event of discomfort or an incident that gets you stuck at the bottom of the water, the rapid intervention of the other is decisive. This principle is valid for all nautical practices, sea scooters, paddleboards… Even swimmers are concerned. Keep an eye on your bathing neighbours.
Contrary to what one imagines, the drowning person does not manifest himself by great gestures and loud cries. Drowning is often “silent”, as specialists say. Be concerned about any abnormal behavior.
Solidarity, finally, can consist of attending basic first aid training courses which are increasingly offered to citizens. Sometimes by the Rescuers at Sea during the various festivals of the summer season. They make it possible to provide
first aid which can be decisive while waiting for the arrival of help.
2 Safety tip : Prepare yourself before any activity at sea!
Tell yourself that this is part of the pleasure of navigation and nautical leisure: having prepared enough so that the outing remains a pleasure. The checklist is extensive. Let us limit ourselves to a few examples. You cannot imagine the number of calls for help due to basic engine failures, or even empty fuel tanks. Attention, the saving of human life is free; not that of the hardware. Lifeguards will charge you for towing your boat (check your insurance). Getting
ready also means, for example, making sure that someone who has fallen overboard from your boat can get back up. Man overboard remains the leading cause of death recorded by sea rescue. By far: 33 out of 80 in 2019. We also drown in
ports, marinas, and at anchor. Even on a small motorboat, even on a semi-rigid inflatable, only athletes will get back on board if you have not provided at least a small ladder. And of course, make sure your inflatable vests are in working order and that your teammates know how to use them. Getting ready also means marking your equipment, whether it’s
a diver’s marker buoy, a kite wing, an inflatable dinghy… A name, one or two telephone numbers. If you have lost your gear adrift, rescuers will be able to quickly check if someone is really in danger. For a
family at the beach, getting ready means having spotted the lifeguard station or, on an unsupervised beach, the call terminal, the useful telephone, or even the signs that warn of particular dangers: currents, rocks, sharp , etc. And, once again, to have
learned first aid. Children are often more receptive than adults. Take advantage of the holidays to do it with them.
3 Safety tip : Follow the weather forecast
Most often free information, the weather forecast is available today much more widely than yesterday. Radio, telephone, internet, all channels are good. On the beaches, it is often displayed on the post of the lifeguards, in the ports at the
captaincy. From one-day forecasts, with trends for the next day, we have moved on to forecasts for the week and trends for the fortnight! Take advantage of it, while being aware that the situation, and therefore the forecasts, are constantly changing! Do not stop at the situation watched on the internet or heard on television the day before your outing. Update when you go via the internet or the radio, if you’re on a boat. Trends longer than three or four days, consider them as general indications, for a wide area. Do not rely too much on detailed forecasts at this time. Numerical models are great, but the experience of the meteorologist is not bad either. The official Météo France marine bulletin is written by a human who can correct according to his experience, while the digital models have not yet finished running. Don’t limit yourself to the direction and strength of the wind. Look at the height of the waves which can be surprising, especially after a period of rough weather (the height is the difference between the trough and the crest). And don’t consider that the weather is made only for fishing skippers and sailboat skippers. If the wind drops when the kite-surfer has gone far away, he is very bored. If the fog catches you, when you’re fishing on foot, you’ll remember it (make sure your smartphone has a compass). If you are new to sea kayaking, you may learn the hard way that a force 3 wind, ideal for sailing, quickly becomes difficult to paddle up. And at the beach,
4 In the Channel and the Atlantic, pay attention to the tide
The tide hides or uncovers the dangerous rock near the beach, prevents or allows you to return to port, creates the risk of grounding (more serious at low tide than at high tide, of course). The tide which rises quickly in areas of high tidal range can quickly catch up with the fisherman on foot or the simple walker, even isolate him on a higher part where he believes he is safe, when it already closes his way back. . As soon as it begins to rise, abandon shrimps and crabs and return. The sea creates tidal currents which can be very, very strong in places. It can prevent swimmers from returning to the beach, especially in areas with “tarpaulins” or “baïnes” (rips for English speakers), in the north or along the Landes coast. These large ponds empty at low tide, creating a current that carries them offshore. Don’t struggle; let yourself be carried away by trying to signal yourself and come back further.
Sailing enthusiasts, if you are new to sailing in the Channel or at the tip of Brittany, the first document to look at to plan a sail is the current chart, and its evolution hour by hour. It’s obviously better if the treadmill
takes you in the right direction. Except for a few strong nuances. In certain areas such as the raz de Sein, the current, even bearing, raises such a sea that it is necessary to change to slack, when the current weakens and is canceled before reversing. It is also necessary to check
the relative directions of the wind and the current, because wind against current raises a choppy sea which quickly creates problems.
Alcohol and drugs on board
Water sports enthusiasts are not yet subjected to the Alcotest. But we risk soon all going through it
because of a few revelers who don’t know how to stay quietly at anchor or in port when they’ve had a drink (being careful
not to fall in the water and not to annoy the neighboring boats). We see too many accidents, sometimes fatal, which are clearly
due to an excess of alcohol, or even drugs at the helm. Remember that the general principle of yachting regulations is that of the
5 In the Mediterranean, take the wind seriously: It kills
It’s the first day of vacation. It’s big blue, warm. We have only one desire: to jump into the water. Absurd to be interested in the weather. Worse, we look at it and we don’t take it seriously. Impossible for this splendid weather to turn into a gust of wind so quickly. And yet it is true. In the Mediterranean, the weather can change very quickly: the wind picks up and the gusts are worse than in the Atlantic. Take the Big Blue seriously, whether you are a swimmer, paddleboarder, motor boater or sailor. The sea, shorter than in the Atlantic, breaks the boats. The anchorage, so quiet an hour ago, is turning into a trap. An almost daily phenomenon gives you a taste of the problem in certain areas: the thermal “breeze” that rises in the middle of the day and blows from the sea towards the land.“In the Mediterranean, the wind kills” , said Antoine Ferri, the former director of CROSS Med, quoting Yves Joly, former maritime prefect of the area.
6 Know how to say no
No one likes to give up, yet sometimes wisdom demands it. If the weather is not good, in particular. When the wind and the sea are “limits” for your boat, the strategy of “going out to see” is very bad. In bad weather, it is often more dangerous to turn around, return to the coast and try to return to port than to stay offshore. Always have a margin of safety that allows you to give up leaving, for example if you have to bring back a rental boat or go back to work. This precept does not only apply to skippers. It concerns as well the father of a family depriving his children to go swimming on the unsupervised beach which was “so brilliant” yesterday, before the arrival of the wind and the waves. It is difficult to apply for everyone. Think of the diving instructor,
Even Lifeguards at Sea have the right and the duty not to go there if they consider it unreasonable.
7 Adapt your practice to your age
Vous avez un an de plus que l’été dernier. C’est incontestable. Pour les petits qui ont appris à nager entre-temps, c’est un progrès. Pas pour les autres. L’âge donne éventuellement sagesse et expérience au skipper d’un bateau, mais il n’améliore pas sa résistance physique. En dehors des plus jeunes, qui se noient surtout en piscine, la noyade menace surtout les plus âgés, au-delà de 65 ans. Difficile d’accepter qu’il faille faire plus attention au choc thermique de l’entrée dans l’eau froide, ne pas trop s’éloigner de la zone où on a pied, etc. En fait, la lente érosion des moyens physiques commence assez tôt, quels que soient nos efforts pour rester en forme (et la baignade raisonnable en fait partie). Dès l’âge de 25 ans, la fréquence des noyades augmente régulièrement avec l’âge. Nous trouvons normal qu’un grand sportif comme Martin Fourcade (biathlon) ait pris sa “retraite” de la compétition, en mars 2020, à 31
year. But we find it difficult to accept the consequences.
True for swimming, this precept is true for all nautical activities where it is necessary to avoid exhaustion in order to return safely, whether it is a question of facing a gust of wind offshore or returning to the beach with his kite. The great specialist in diving accidents, Doctor Mathieu Coulange, points out that many accidents affect experienced divers who, as they get older, do not agree to dive a little shorter, a little shallower. Like Dr. Pierre Michelet, a leading
drowning specialist, Mathieu Coulange emphasizes the importance of cardiac risk. Discomfort in the water, and even more so at the bottom of the water, turns tragic more quickly than discomfort on dry feet.
8 Have something to call for help
The ideal is a VHF radio that allows you to directly call the CROSS, the official center that coordinates the rescue, but also all the boats around you, and which allows the rescuers to locate you with precision from after the direction your call is coming from. It is not reserved for large boats. A portable, waterproof, floating VHF weighs around 300 grams, and there are some from 150 euros. It has its place in a semi-rigid that goes to tease the rocks a little far away or on one of the kayaks of a group outing. Remember to load it well before leaving. Failing that, a laptop in a very waterproof pouch
is obviously useful. Be sure to record the two short emergency call numbers, 112 and 196, the first being more general, the second more dedicated to navigation, as it directly calls the CROSS in the area.
If you swim on unsupervised beaches, be sure to locate any call terminal or sign indicating the local number that can be called. For lack of electronics, everything is good for attracting attention, distress flares of course, but also the small mirror reflecting the sun or the waterproof flash light, clearly visible at night. We leave during the day, but we may be unable to return and need to report at night.
Finally, there is DIAL (see box). DIAL is an individual alert and localization device designed by Rescuers at Sea to alert rescuers in the event of difficulty. On sale on the SNSM online store, it allows you to first alert a loved one (solidarity) who calls the emergency services if he cannot help you on his own.
9 Avoid “over-accident”
At sea, an accident is often the result of a chain of incidents: you lean overboard to untangle a net and you become a “man overboard”; the electronics are broken, we persist in continuing anyway without a paper map or a light book and we end up at night, on a rock; the boat that was to pick up the divers broke down adrift, when the wind picked up, and prevented them from joining the boat. The secondary accident is the one that is added to all this. The most classic: the end that gets caught in the propeller of the boat and deprives it of propulsion while it tries to get out of a bad situation or to help another.
The worst, you have often read it: “He or she drowns while trying to rescue.” Lifeguards honor ordinary citizens who save others. They even award a prize every year to these “citizens of the sea”. They strongly advise you not to attempt the rescue. Or at the very least, take the little weather that changes everything, to make sure someone calls for help and provide yourself with a floating object that the victim can cling to without dragging you. The lifeguards themselves are instructed to always take their precautions. Don’t be surprised if they start hovering around you to assess the situation. An example: before The lifeguards themselves are instructed to always take their precautions.
Don’t be surprised if they start hovering around you to assess the situation. An example: before The lifeguards themselves are instructed to always take their precautions. Don’t be surprised if they start hovering around you to assess the situation. An example: before
embark a kite-surfer in distress on their boat, they will start by controlling the wing that has fallen into the water and deflating it so that it does not risk being picked up by the wind and injuring someone during the process.
10 Support Rescuers at Sea
To continue their missions, in the best conditions of intervention and safety for all, Sea Rescuers – who monitor beaches and coastlines in summer, and who intervene offshore all year round – need to train and form. Their equipment,
maintenance and training are not free. You can therefore support the SNSM in two ways. By helping them financially through a donation. And encourage your loved ones to imitate you if you already do!