WATER SAFETY: Nicky Marr offers advice for those thinking about swimming in open waters around the Highlands
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Popular columnist and open water swimming enthusiast Nicky Marr, from Inverness, has given her advice on keeping safe.
Saying she understand the water looks so tempting, especially on hot days, Nicky explains the lengths she goes to, to make sure she, and her sister are safe when they swim.
Nicky said: "I’m so aware of the numbers of people who have taken up swimming since lockdown, the explosion of swimming posts on social media, and how that might lull people into a sense that it’s safer than it actually is.
"I started swimming in lochs and the sea around the Highlands about four years ago – I started with my sister, who was already a strong and experienced open water swimmer, and she taught me how to stay safe.
"We started in full neoprene, just short dips at a time, and she was constantly checking in with me to make sure I was ok."
She continued: "We swam in different lochs each time – that meant I got to know safe entry points for loads of lochs in the local area, and to understand what was safe (still water, shallow entry points) and what was not (fast moving water, currents, blue/green algae, reservoirs, lions mane jelly-fish!).
"I got to know how my body reacted to the cold over a long period of time, and to know the signs that it was time to get out – numb hands and feet, tingling in the extremities, shortness of breath or beginning to feel warm.
"I got to understand just how important it is to warm up quickly afterwards, especially in winter, and the danger of ‘after-drop’, when your core has got too cold and you keep getting colder after you’ve got out of the water, with violent shivering and sometimes nausea.
"I always come out of the water before I feel I need to – better to come back again another day! – and always have a hot drink and something sweet to eat afterwards, even in summer."
She added: "Even after four or more years I never swim alone, always check with a Facebook group or other swimming friends for safety tips/advice before swimming in a new location, and I always use a float.
"As well as being great for visibility, I’ve been really glad of my float several times – once when the wind picked up at Loch Ness and started pushing us away from the shore - I used it then to rest during the long, hard swim back to the beach.
"On another occasion it kept me afloat when I developed cramp in both legs, and I’ve been able to pass it to a less confident swimmer who became tired and a bit freaked in the water.
"It’s so tempting to want to jump into the water and cool off, but my advice would this:
- know the body of water you are swimming in – it’s deep and shallow points, its tides and currents and stay away from dams and the working ends of reservoirs
- enter the water slowly – your body might not react the way you’re expecting to the sudden cold.
- never jump or dive unless you are 100% certain of what’s under the water.
- never swim alone
- use a float for both visibility and safety
- alcohol and deep water don’t mix
- If you do get into difficulty, try and stay calm and float on your back to rest before you try and attract attention/help
- keep a really close eye on children and
- if you’re swimming in the sea, be aware of when jellyfish are prevalent, and consider wearing long, tight-fitting leggings and t-shirts to prevent stings. Some can be really nasty.