Keep safe message to seafarers
KEEP out!That's the message today to sailboarders, jet-skiers and yacht owners who have this summer been found inside Felixstowe's safe swimming zone, set up so people can swim without fear of being struck by a fast-moving craft.
By Richard Cornwell
That's the message today to sailboarders, jet-skiers and yacht owners who have this summer been found inside Felixstowe's safe swimming zone, set up so people can swim without fear of being struck by a fast-moving craft.
Volunteer emergency groups keeping watch over the resort's beaches and sea say it is lucky there has not been accident so far – but say there is great danger to swimmers when vessels intrude into the area.
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Ron Bright, station manager for the resort's Coastwatch operation, said there had been several craft seen inside the zone.
"Intrusion into the zone has been our biggest problem this summer – there has been plenty of publicity about the zone, so I don't know why craft are suddenly coming inside," he said.
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"We have had to report several incidents of sailboarders whizzing along in there but also bigger craft like yachts coming inside.
"It is happening regularly and while we have been fortunate not to have any accidents yet, the potential danger to people is there every time one of these incidents happens.
"Swimmers think they are safe because it is their zone, while craft which may not realise it is a swimming zone will not be looking out for people."
The incidents have been reported to Suffolk Coastal council, which is looking into the situation and considering how to improve awareness of the zone among other water users.
Meanwhile, John Cresswell, chairman of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service, is still concerned about how far the zone goes out to sea.
He has asked Suffolk Coastal if it would move the line of buoys which indicates the extent of the area out to sea closer to the shore because it at present it could encourage people to swim farther than they are able.
"I still think it is too far out – it is 1,000 feet from the beach and back and that is too far for many swimmers, especially in the sea," he said.
"It will only take some youngsters to challenge each other, and then go ahead through bravado and find they cannot make it, for us to being dealing with a very serious incident, possibly a death."
People should be encouraged to swim parallel to the shore and not too far out.
The swimmers' zone, which runs from the pier along the south beach, was set up on the advice of the Blue Flag organisers and was granted permission by the Secretary of State for the Environment.
There was extensive consultation including expert advice from the coastguard Harwich Haven Authority and the Department of the Environment.
The resort also has zones where dogs cannot go onto the beach, a zone for sailboarders and attempts are being made to try to create one for jet skiers.