British and Irish waters are dangerously unpredictable. You might think that adrenaline sports and rough weather pose the greatest threat, but casual, everyday activities around the coast can cause fatalities. In fact, over 200 people accidentally die each year around our coast; the RNLI want to change this.
The charity that saves lives at sea has a goal to halve the number of coastal drownings by 2024. ‘Respect the Water’ is the RNLI’s national drowning prevention campaign and will play a key role in helping them to achieve this. The RNLI still want you to enjoy the water, but they also want you to ‘Respect the Water’, acknowledge its dangers and never underestimate its power.
Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) is one of the first UK harbour authorities to be working jointly with the RNLI on promoting the Respect the Water campaign, and so you may see Respect the Water messages in and around our Harbour Commission sites, on CHC vessels, at Cowes RNLI lifeboat station, in yacht clubs and even local pubs.
CHC’s collaboration with Cowes RNLI also involves our harbour authority staff including Dave Lewis, our Berthing Master and Supervisor at Shepards Wharf Marina who works as Deputy Launching Authority for the lifeboat, and Neil Archer, a Port Operative at Shepards Wharf, who has recently qualified as a lifeboat helm.
One of the targets for this year’s RTW campaign will be lifejackets. The RNLI will be focussing on getting more people to wear them, making sure people have them donned correctly and ensuring that they are fit for purpose.
Wearing lifejackets is a sea safety must and the hope is that an increasing number of boat users passing through Cowes Harbour will wear lifejackets. Operations Manager at Cowes RNLI lifeboat station, Mark Southwell, said: “I have worked in this building since 1982, first when it was a Customs Office before then becoming a lifeboat station. And 30 years ago, I would have been surprised if more than 10% of boat users passing by were wearing lifejackets.
“Encouragingly, people have not only become more safety conscious since then, but lifejackets have also become more ergonomic and comfortable. Already, our own station’s surveys over recent years indicate that more and more boat users are donning lifejackets when going to sea,” Mark said. “And we can only hope this upward trend will continue. After all, lifejackets are useless unless worn.
“By wearing a lifejacket, a person who finds himself or herself in the water clearly has more chance of being recovered alive, instead of drowning or dying because of cold water shock,” he added.
As well as wearing lifejackets, the RNLI would also like to see owners have them regularly serviced and checked. CHC will be supporting this aim by providing a venue for the RNLI to run free lifejacket clinics. Local lifejacket manufacturer and service agent SeaSafe Systems Ltd will also be present to provide advice and replacement parts. The dates for these clinics are yet to be announced and will be published on the CHC website.
Along with supporting this campaign through advertising and lifejacket clinics, CHC will be sending all of our operational staff to ‘Respect the Water’ training sessions hosted by the RNLI. This will ensure that our staff will be able to convey this important safety message and raise awareness amongst harbour users.
Remember – whatever your activity, and whatever your ability, the water can always catch you out. It’s very easy to underestimate its power. Stay safe, be prepared and Respect the Water.
Top photo L-R: Keith Colwell (RNLI Community Incident Reduction Manager), Dave Lewis (CHC Berthing Master/Supervisor & RNLI Deputy Launch Authority), Neil Archer (CHC Port Operative & RNLI helm), Mark Harker (RNLI trainee helm), Mark Southwell (Cowes RNLI Operations Manager), Jon Kidd (CHC Assistant Harbour Master), Dave Davies (RNLI Community Safety Officer)