Tides &
Arrivals &

Guernsey Coastguard sea safety message

Guernsey Coastguard is warning all swimmers to consider the risks when sea swimming given the rapidly changing nature of Guernsey's tides.

This follows a dramatic incident in Jersey on Sunday night, in which a member of the Jersey Fire & Rescue Service had to jump into a strong swell and fast current to help a swimmer in distress at high tide in St Ouen's Bay.

The swimmer was unable to get back to shore, was not wearing a wet suit, and did not have any flotation aids. Once ashore, the swimmer received immediate medical attention from paramedics before being taken to hospital.

"The sea can always catch you out"

Guernsey Harbour Master Captain David Barker said it highlighted the risk that such incidents pose both to the individual and to the rescue teams. He reiterated some important guidance for local sea swimmers on staying safe in the waters around Guernsey. With a high tidal range of up to 10 metres, and strong tidal currents in some areas which move faster than you can swim, it is vital that swimmers think ahead and prepare accordingly.

"Sea swimming all year round is an increasingly popular pastime," said Captain Barker. "While the benefits are well known, people must understand the risks and how to enjoy the activity safely. Regardless of your experience, the sea can always catch you out, even in the summer.

"Running into danger at sea can have severe and life-threatening consequences. As such, you should always consider the risks to yourself and to others, always have a plan forgetting back to shore and keep the weather conditions in mind, as the state of tides around the Bailiwick can change very quickly."

Individuals risking their own lives and those of others

Earlier this month, emergency services in Guernsey rescued five children who were stranded on the K2 Rock at Grandes Rocques.

The light was failing and a combination of strong winds and large swells made it impossible to get the St Peter Port Inshore Lifeboat close to the children, who each had to jump back into the water under the supervision of emergency volunteers before being pulled to the ILB by a throw line.

Captain Barker said: "Given the precarious conditions in which those five children were rescued at Grandes Rocques, the outcome could have been very different, just as it could have been for the sea swimmer in Jersey on Sunday night, were it not for the bravery, skill and determination of the emergency services which serve our islands."

Sea swimmers are advised to:

• Check the weather and tides before you take to the water.

• Make sure you can enter and leave the water safely - bearing in mind that Guernsey's tides rise and fall by up to 10 metres.

• Avoid swimming where there are tidal currents - those around our islands are often faster than you can swim.

• Make sure someone knows that you are going sea swimming and where. Ideally, you should have a safety person ashore who can keep an eye on you.

• Consider using a high-visibility buoyancy aid with a leash if you are distance swimming.