I ALWAYS look forward to writing the January article as it makes me think of the coming year.
With lengthening days and the promise of warmer weather , thoughts turn to what adventures the following year might bring.
As a diver, January usually sees me looking over my diving gear to see what needs testing, what needs servicing and what needs to be replaced. Friends who have boats will no doubt be checking rigging and the numerous bits of rope and shackles that are needed to keep a vessel operational.
If engines are involved preparations will be made to arrange the de-winterising service, ready for the start of the season.
Being prepared before going to sea not only leads to a more enjoyable time but also to a safer time.
Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution for all water users would be to make basic preparations to ensure that our friends in the RNLI and the Coastguard rescue teams don’t have a busy season.
The RNLI ran a fantastic campaign several years called #Respect the Water. It has now been taken on by the National Water Safety Forum (NWSF) and aims to highlight the potential dangers of water and to encourage people to reconsider their actions and adopt safer behaviour.
At its heart is a desire to reduce the number of deaths by drowning and as a water safety organisation it’s something the NCI is keen to support.
Current drowning figures show a clear gender divide, with men accounting for the vast majority of those who die.
A lot of the messages in the campaign are primarily aimed at men, but the safety advice is just as relevant for anyone who finds themselves in difficulty in open water, both at the coast or inland.
The #Respect the Water campaign can be summarised by two words, “Stay Safe”
Staying safe on the water is all about ensuring that we have the appropriate skills to undertake our activities. This might mean undertaking training with one of the national watersports agencies (eg Royal Yachting Association or British Sub Aqua club) or joining one of the local clubs, to gain experience that way.
It also means that we have the right equipment. A simple thing like wearing a life jacket or buoyancy aid should be second nature but, all too often, we often see people on the water without one.
Knowing the conditions we are going to face when we go out is vital to staying safe. Back in October, I talked about the Met. Office’s Inshore Waters Forecast and this should be everyone’s first port of call before going afloat. Not only does it give the expected weather over the next 24 hours, it also gives us a heads up about the following day.
The weather along the Purbeck Coast can be extremely changeable and what can be calm and benign sea one day can be an angry maelstrom the next. There are also an increasing number of apps that you can use. Popular ones include XCweather, the intriguingly named Magic Seaweed and Wind guru.
The tide can make a major difference and finding out the times of high and low tide is simple with a good set of tide tables. We’re very grateful to the Gazette for publishing the tide tables we produce, and you can find the tide times for Peveril Point in the front of each edition. Getting a copy of the Gazette every two weeks not only gives you tidal information for the month, but also gives you a good read! (We agree! – Ed)
Even with the best preparation in the world, things can go wrong and, when they do, having a way of calling the emergency services can be essential. The ideal method is a marine short wave radio. The safety channel, channel 16 is monitored continuously by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and a May Day call to them will bring a swift response. The MCA are the organisation that manages emergency response at sea and on the coast and would the ones that call out the lifeboats and coastguard rescue teams.
The big drawback about having a radio is that you need to be licenced to use it. Having a mobile phone is the next best thing. Calling for help at sea is the same as calling for help on land – ring 999 (or 112) and, instead of asking for the police, ambulance or fire and rescue, ask for the Coastguard. This will put you in touch with the local rescue coordination centre, which in our case is Solent Coastguard.
Both our stations will be offering refreshments on New Year’s Day so , if you want advice about preparing for the summer, why not pop along and speak to the watchkeepers? If we can’t help, I’m sure “we know a man who can”!
This is St Alban’s Head NCI and Swanage NCI wishing you a happy and safe New Year. Listening on Channel 65, NCI Out.