The Coast Guard is advising boaters in the Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Island region to exercise caution during the holidays when they choose to go for a swim.
According to the Coast Guard, since Friday, rescue teams have responded to multiple search and rescue cases involving swimmers, surfers and boaters who were swept out to sea or overcome by the dangerous surf and rip currents in the area.
In one such case, the Coast Guard responded to a search and rescue case in Peterborg Point in Saint Thomas where a Canadian citizen, 27, was overtaken by a wave that washed him into a rocky channel. Reports say the man was swimming with co-workers in a tidal pool; he was last seen being submerged by the seas.
St. Thomas rescue authorities communicated that the man’s body was recovered Saturday afternoon, following an interagency search and rescue effort. Though these cases seem to apply to beach-goers, the same principles apply to cruisers of the area that elect to swim off their anchored yachts.
“Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the victims on the loss of their loved ones,” said Captain Robert Warren, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander in a press release. “Swimmers and the general public must exercise caution by staying away from shoreline rocks and jetties during periods of high surf, and be wary of undertow and riptides, even in shallow water. Doing so could save your life, or the lives of your loved ones.”
The Coast Guard’s primary concern is the safety of persons engaged in water activities, especially during this holiday high travel period where thousands of visitors to the region may be unfamiliar with the hidden dangers of unmarked or open sea beaches.
According to Tuesday’s National Weather Service Advisory for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands small crafts should exercise caution across the local waters due to winds up to 18 knots and seas up to five feet. There is a moderate to high risk of rip currents today across the north facing coasts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The full Weather Service report is available here: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/view/validProds.php?prod=hwo&node=tjsj
A rip current is a powerful channel of water that flows quickly away from shore. They often occur at low spots or breaks in the sandbar. Any object or person caught in a rip current can be pulled out into deeper seas.
If you become caught in a rip current, do not panic. The way to escape a rip current is to swim parallel to the shore. Once you are away from the force of the rip current, begin to swim back to the beach. Do not attempt to swim directly against the current, as you can become easily exhausted, even if you are a strong swimmer.