Safe Swimming?

Posted By: Go South

Safe Swimming? - 08/01/16 01:08 AM

I was doing a long swim on Saturday from the old Palapa bar to the Grand Caribe around 1:30 when the captain of Coastal Express diverted his southerly route and came directly towards me full throttle. He quickly turned the boat away from me and pointed directly to the shore, implying that I should be closer to shore. This aggressive bullying behaviour on his part was not necessary as I was well within the boundaries in line with the end of the dock and was currently in waste deep water.
Where can I do laps without being in danger from boat traffic? I've been coming here since 2008 and never had a confrontation or have had scare tactics like that before from a captain while I was doing laps.
Posted By: Amanda Syme

Re: Safe Swimming? - 08/01/16 02:46 PM

Were you dragging a swimming buoy? If not then it can be nearly impossible to spot swimmers. Our boats do go into the shallows on a routine run. No doubt the captain was actually concerned for you and for the others that would be impacted if you did get run over. We have a lot more boat traffic now and not all Captains are as experienced other others. Perhaps working with the tour guide association in conjunction with the Coastal management team some swimming lanes can be established.
Posted By: elbert

Re: Safe Swimming? - 08/01/16 05:18 PM

I have to stop my boat often and warn swimmers. Chopping them up in the prop is a mess and makes the captain feel awful. I can understand if you got an attitude from him. This is 2016 and we have 10 times the amount of boats and half of those new captains are snowbirds that haven't a clue. It's not OK to swim in and around the docks anymore. Way to much boat traffic.
Posted By: ragman

Re: Safe Swimming? - 08/01/16 05:53 PM

Grand Caribe and it's dock are sort of at a point and the boat traffic passes very close to it's dock. I have warned many swimmers of the dangers of swimming out any further than the docks. You are taking your life in your hands by doing so because you can not be easily seen by the boats. Signs where posted a few years ago, after a tragic accident just south of town, warning against swimming out past the docks. It is extremely dangerous and most resorts discourage it.

Many resorts including Grand Caribe put floats buoyed off front of their docks to keep the fast traffic a little ways off. I think they are still there. But swimming between the old Palapa Bar and Grande Caribe is not a good idea. You have private boats, water taxis and commercial boat traffic using these waters so you must exercise some caution and commonsense. I've witnessed at least 6 close calls myself over the years.

In my opinion the boat captain that approached you was trying to do you a favor and prevent you from being hurt.
Posted By: Phil

Re: Safe Swimming? - 08/01/16 09:39 PM

I disagree with some above. There should be safe swimming within docks and further out. From your description of where you were and what he did I'd consider reporting him to the Coastguard. No excuse for a change of course, on the plane, flying right at you, unless he was heading off another boat that hadn't seen you.

Boats should be way out - hundred plus yards from Dock ends and then come inshore off plane - no excuse or exception other than emergencies. It should be enforced, other than areas where they have to come closer to shore due to shallows/reef etc but thats almost exclusively further North with maybe a couple of exceptions. There's room for boats and swimmers n almost all areas with a couple of exceptions perhaps.

We are a tourist destination and people should be able to safely swim in waist depth areas in spots like described above. Otherwise its lazy and cutting corners or trying to save a shilling here or there.
Posted By: bywarren

Re: Safe Swimming - 08/01/16 11:48 PM

You are right Phil. AC is a tourist destination. That is why there are so many boats operating. It is unrealistic to think you can safely have boats and swimmers in the same areas. That is an accident waiting to happen. Whoops, it has happened. I have found it best not to do my sit ups and push ups on an interstate highway. There are numerous ways to exercise besides swimming in high traffic areas where boats are operating. You could jog on the road, but then you take the chance of being run over by a speeding vehicle. Moral of this is, exercise can be dangerous to your health. grin
Posted By: ragman

Re: Safe Swimming - 08/02/16 12:22 AM

People stand out on the docks at Capt. Morgans; Aji; Grand Caribe and Ak'bol to flag down water taxis in addition to other boats picking people up for tours etc. Naturally they pass close enough to be able to see the people and their intentions. GC is a projection in the coast where the deeper water is and the boats pass by close. Other boats see these boats and probably set roughly the same course.

The swimmers I've observed swim parallel to the route the boats use and often unintentionally, maybe pushed by current or whatever go out further than they should. They are very hard to see and it is courting disaster doing this. The water in sections is quite shallow even way out but I'm not sure if the description of being 3' deep is accurate for the whole route.

By the description given the boat veered off course to warn the swimmer that he was in danger. I've seen them do this to swimmers in this area before. The swimmers usually have poor visibility while swimming and have to almost stop to look around in most cases. There is nothing illegal about swimming out there but there certainly is risk and people should be advised not to do this, for their good and everyone else. In the very lease they should tow a buoy with a flag on it with them. A friend of mine used to swim out to the reef every morning in this area and he would tow a kayak behind him with a flag on it if I remember right. This is a dangerous area to swim in and most people I've spoke to and explained this to have discontinued this and thanked me. They just didn't realize the danger.
Posted By: elbert

Re: Safe Swimming - 08/02/16 01:27 AM

We've rescued kayakers on two occasions this month and one last month and persons swimming away from their Kayaks I've had to stop the boat so I wouldn't hit them on two other occasions. I don't think there is any defense for persons in these areas with or without a Kayak.
If they make it to the reef the rip tide is very dangerous also. Remember the publicized deaths over the last two years. Those where victims of the reefs rip currents.
On Ambergris Caye the tides and waves bring the water over the barrier reef filling the inner lagoon (the area between the Island and reef crest). When the tides shifts to go out it escapes through natural breaks in the reef the locals call cuts. At the beginning of the outgoing tide the outgoing current in these cuts is moderate but grow in intensity until the end of the ebb. As swimmers, snorkelers and kayakers get closer to the cut the strength of the current increases, eventually becoming difficult or impossible to travel against and it carries the victim out to sea.
Think of the inner lagoon as a very large toilet.
When its full as it is at high tide, everything is calm and the tide is undetectable.
After the handle is pulled an outgoing tide begins to flow towards the vortex growing in strength on approach until the little turd is never heard from again.
Posted By: Go South

Re: Safe Swimming - 08/02/16 03:00 AM

To be more specific, I was between the old Palapa bar and Akbol's dock heading north when Coastal Express approached me, another words, I was not out as far as the Grand Caribe dock as I know that is further our on the point. From Akbols I swim towards the next dock and then over to the Grand Caibe at an angle. I do appreciate the input put forward, however I feel a bit concerned that pleasure swimming in the Caribbean is far more dangerous from the predators in the boats and not that of the seas.
Posted By: bywarren

Re: Safe Swimming - 08/02/16 11:20 AM

What people are somewhat politely saying, is the activity you describe can be dangerous. The water in front of the island is not an Olympic swimming pool for tourists to swim laps. It is a busy marine traffic area. Using it for swimming arguably puts an unfair burden on the boat captains to always identify and avoid swimmers. Boat captains foremost have a responsibility for the safety of passengers. To add the responsibility for the safety of often hard to see swimmers is unfair. Boat captains are not predators, and should not have the added responsibility for the safety of people doing dangerous things.
Personal responsibility is overlooked here. Participating in what can be a dangerous activity and expecting others to insure your safety is not being responsible.
Posted By: Conch Creative

Re: Safe Swimming - 08/02/16 12:32 PM

As someone who loves swimming in the sea and who also believes that our sea has so much more potential for use in sport activities, I hope some resolution can be found. Long distance swimming, swimming races and triathlons are popular on other similar islands in the Caribbean where swimming is encouraged and respected. The sea should be safe to use for everyone, whether on a boat or on a floatie.
© 2021 Ambergris Caye Belize Message Board