Reader: Safe Sea Swimming

LHR CerroG ReefIt’s not every day that you know you may have saved lives. I have a healthy respect for the sea. It’s an unpredictable animal. I have nearly drowned myself a few times.

In the summer of my 20th year, while studying for social science undergrad finals, I went swimming every morning in the Irish Sea to wake myself up for the numerous hours of study I had set myself. A few days before the exams a thick bank of fog surrounded me as I swam out as usual and suddenly I could no longer hear the waves break on the shore or anything else. I kept my cool somehow. Perhaps it was a skill I needed to acquire for life.

Another time swimming off the coast of Mauritania, after months of successfully negotiating the currents off the coast of Senegal, with my friends the delightful manta rays, I realised I was being taken out to sea. By the time I got to the shore I was utterly spent and very grateful for another chance at life.

Even on tranquil days here in this bay, there are currents that can sweep you out. Recently, while swimming with a friend in her 70s, a strong and experienced swimmer, we found ourselves in a strong current being taken out to sea off the Punta de la Mona.

I’ve experienced this a few times but it was the first time for my friend. As she was beginning to wonder if we were going to make it back to calmer waters I decided that holding on to the rocks and hand swimming around one outcrop would be advisable. Keeping calm is paramount in these situations. You don’t want to upset your family by having a marine accident.

Today the sea was wavy and turbulent off Cerro Gordo. I love it when it is like this. I feel freer than usual from all the cares of the world. Half way to my destination, a set of rocks where waves can crash and break in wondrous shapes, I saw a group of four children, led by a teenage girl, being encouraged by her to jump off rocks into the churning sea. The youngest, a girl between seven and eight, was terrified and the teenager stayed close to her. The other two, boys around 10-12 were intermittently frightened as well.

I stayed behind the group as they swam until they reached the set of steps that led up to their cliffside home. At any time there could have been disaster. Panic affects us all differently and the three younger children were not competent swimmers. I spoke to the teenager and asked her not to repeat the exercise and stressed the danger into which she had led them all.

As well as water sports of all kinds available in this lovely bay I wish there were swimming classes available in the early mornings subsidised by the income we should be getting from the numerous dive companies who come in every day and pay nothing into this community. Swimming with confidence and competence and knowing the challenges of the waters in this lovely place should be part of the heritage of every child growing up here.

Mel O’Gorman Davies

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