21. Beach Bummers
By Tom Neale, 1/27/2005
By Tom Neale
1. A beach exploration on one of those small isolated islands in the Bahamas or Caribbean can easily become disastrous.
2. An amazing number of people don’t adequately anchor their boats when they land at a beach and go ashore to explore. When the tide rises, their boat floats away. They are then stranded on a “tropical island,” and it isn’t fun. In isolated places, such as the many small islands in the Bahamas, you can’t call for help because your VHF hand held is in the dinghy that’s gone.
3. If you leave your tender (or primary boat) anchored off an island and walk away to explore, take your hand held VHF with you (or cell phone if you are in an area of coverage) so that you can call for help should your dinghy “un-attach itself” from the island, or should someone steal it.
4. If you see your dinghy drifting away, don’t swim after it unless you are certain of your ability, the lack of current, and other safety factors. Even then, swimming after it may be a very poor choice in terms of your safety. Although there may be no current at the beach, most islands have current just off their shores because of the sea flowing around them.
5. When implanting an anchor on a beach or just below the water’s edge, be sure that it’s buried so that it won’t injure people walking barefoot.
6. Anchor right for the tide. Know what it’s going to be doing. It’s not only important to leave out enough scope for a rising tide; it’s also important to anchor far enough off the beach so that your boat won’t be stranded high and dry should you come back to it after the tide has fallen.
7. Consider the sea state on the beach. Waves that aren’t very big can wash over and fill a small boat if it’s become beached at the water’s edge.
8. If the wind changes while you’re exploring an island, consider whether it may now be blowing your boat onto the beach, with waves building.
9. Normally it’s not a good idea to leave your outboard down, even if you’ve anchored off the beach in deep enough water. Tilt it so that it’ll be safe should the tide drop. However, in some situations, such as crowded beaches where there are a lot of dinghies anchored just off shore, it may be better to leave the motors down so that the skegs and propellers don’t damage other dinghies. In these situations it’s even more important to keep an eye out for your dinghy while you’re ashore.
10. Don’t assume that an island is deserted without finding out. In some areas of the Bahamas, local people may raise pigs or goats or chickens on small islands. Not only do we not want to interfere, we also don’t want to tangle with an angry wild animal like an upset pig. These guys can hurt. They can also seriously injure small dogs.
11. If you clean conch near a beach, be sure to not leave the shells in the sand or shallow water. These can cut feet and can damage inflatables. It’s best to not clean fish anywhere near a beach from which people may be swimming. This attracts sharks and barracuda.
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Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale