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Wild swimmers urged to stay away from boats and harbours

Wild swimmers are being urged to make sure they are visible when in the water and stay away from boats and ships.

The warning comes after a swimmer was swept out to sea near Newquay. Fortunately, they were wearing a pink swim hat which it made it easier for rescue teams to locate her.

There have also been several incidents where swimmers have come dangerously close to vessels in recent months.

Councillor Loïc Rich, Chair of the Cornwall Harbour’s Board, said: “We have seen a big rise in the number of people taking up wild swimming in recent years.

“It’s great to see people staying active but there have been several incidents where swimmers have come very close to boats and ships. Sometimes they cannot be seen by other water users and this can potentially result in very serious injury.

“For their own safety, we are urging swimmers to stay away from harbours, which can get very busy, and to follow the advice given by the RNLI.”

Matthew Wheeler, Penzance Harbour Master, said: ‘’In recent years we have seen a significant increase in wild swimming at Penzance Harbour. We are encouraging swimmers to use the Abbey Basin for this activity and to remain clear of moorings and the harbour entrance where there are regularly vessel movements at all states of the tide. We have experienced a number of instances where swimmers have been in close proximity to manoeuvring ships and boats.’’

Michael Ridgway, Harbour Master of Newquay and St Ives, added: ‘’During periods of poor weather the harbours are seen as safe places to swim being less exposed to sea conditions, but even moored vessels can move unexpectedly during these times and should be kept well clear of.’’

Lifeguard cover on Cornwall’s beaches has finished for the season and weather during winter can generate difficult sea conditions.

Joel Ninnes, RNLI Water Safety Officer for the South West says ‘We’d encourage wild swimmers to join a group and always swim with a tow float, a bright swimming cap, suitable swim wear and keep your mobile phone in a waterproof pouch.

Make sure you acclimatise to cold water slowly as this will reduce the risk of cold water shock and always swim parallel to the shore. If you feel cold and start to shiver, get out of the water and warm yourself up.”

RNLI tips for wild swimmers:

  • Can you float? It might sound simple, but most people can’t do that picture-perfect version of floating. So we’re challenging you to go and find how you float effectively. Practise floating in a swimming pool as it’s a controlled environment. Then you’ll know what to do in an emergency in the open water.
  • Try sighting. In the open water there are no lane lines, so practise swimming in a straight line. Lift your head to spot a landmark in the distance to keep you on track.
  • Improve your technique. Lessons will really help with this. Put your head in the water to improve your body position. For front crawl, remember your leg kick – floppy ankles and long leg kicks from the hip. Practise more than one stroke so you can ease off when you need to. If you’re entering cold water, splash your face, wrists, ankles and back of your neck, to acclimatise to the cold.
  • Find a club. Before you try open water swimming, find an organised group. You’ll need to learn about all the conditions that can change – tides, rip currents, winds and more. Plus they’ll tell you about any local hazards.

If you’re unsure on harbour byelaws and where to expect ship and boats, contact your local harbour office.

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