DISCLAIMER: Open-water swimming is inherently dangerous. Open-water swimmers risk drowning, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heart attacks, panic attacks, cramping, jelly fish stings, fish bites, boat or jet-ski collisions, collisions with floating or submerged objects (including other swimmers), and other calamities that can be injurious, disabling or fatal! The "West Neck Pod" is an informal association of open-water swimmers who swim "outside the lines" with no lifeguard protection, it has no formal membership, organizational structure or legal identity, and its participants, including the author of this blog, make no representations and assume no liability with respect to its group open-water swims. All swimmers who participate in West Neck Pod group open-water swims do so at their own risk. Be careful out there!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Safety First: "No-see-'ems" in the Water?

Despite the overnight rain showers and some naysayers' dire warnings of possible coliform-laden runoff, a baker's dozen of hard-core (and hopefully iron-stomached!) swimmers took to the West Neck Salt this morning in conditions that were macroscopically, even if not microscopically, perfect! A swift outgoing tide nosed up against a steady northerly wind to stir up just enough wave-chop and underwater movement to make the swim interesting and exciting, and the water, under a brilliant sun in a cloudless sky, was remarkably clean and clear, for all the fretting of the nautical nabobs of negativism...!

All of the fuss and flurry about the runoff issue reminded me that I used to be one of those cautious swimmers who would wait for two tidal "flushes" after a heavy rain, but after years of swimming in this harbor without any intestinal ill-effects, I've become satisfied that the close proximity of West Neck Beach to the wide-open mouth of Long Island Sound keeps this harbor cleaner than most on Long Island -- and unlike other local beaches, West Neck Beach has almost never been closed due to a high coliform count...So I've become willing to take my chances on the "no-see-'ems" in the water and not pass up an otherwise perfectly good swim...!

There's a difference, though, between risking those "no-see-'ems" in the water, and being one of those "no-see-'ems" in the water -- hence those brightly colored orange buoys you see floating along behind several of the swimmers in these pictures!  Having come "this close" to being hit by a speeding powerboat last Father's Day while swimming (see my blogpost at http://thewater-blog.blogspot.com/2010/06/happy-fathers-day.html), I'm acutely sensitive to how relatively invisible, and how vulnerable, we open-water swimmers are to the many boats that traverse this busy harbor -- a problem that's not adequately solved by our brightly-colored caps on our tiny little bobbing heads, which can barely be seen by other swimmers at the water's level, let alone by speeding boats in a heavy chop when their drivers are not expecting us to be there!  So when I first learned about the new swimmer safety device being promoted by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, I ordered one online and tried it out, then ordered a dozen more more for the Pod!  These inflatable floating dry bags enable swimmers to carry personal items with them (including medical supplies like asthma inhalers or Epi-pens, or the camera I took these pictures with!), provide flotation assistance if needed, create virtually no drag, and are highly visible to boaters and other watercraft. (They're apparently even visible to people on the shore -- Carole and Kathy said they saw our buoys way out in the harbor today as they were walking our dogs on the beach!)

These swimmer safety devices are a relatively easy and inexpensive way to enhance our safety and the safety of our fellow Pod members, as well as the peace of mind of our friends and family who love us, as we pursue our passion for this wonderful but dangerous sport of open-water swimming. I urge every Pod member, and every open-water swimmer, to get one -- and look forward to seeing a flotilla of bobbing orange buoys every time we hit the Salt this season! (For more information about the device, go to http://www.ishof.org/safety/faq.htm.)

As for the other "no-see-'ems" in the water today, dysentery may yet set in, but if it doesn't, most of this morning's crew will be doing it again tomorrow morning at 8:00 -- See you (safely) in the Salt!

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