As with any oceanic locale, our islands are subject to the mercy of the sea. This means that the dangers of the ocean, such as rip currents are a very real threat to you and your loved ones during your stay. If you want to stay safe and happy during your vacation, you’ll need to remain vigilant about rip currents in the Bahamas and their dangers. Fortunately, we’ve put together a brief Bahamas travel guide to rip currents below.
The Danger of Rip Currents in the Bahamas
A rip current refers to a strong, jet stream-like return flow that results from waves continuously circulating along the shore. If the waves are higher without much break in between them (often associated with a stronger wind onshore), the rip current becomes extremely strong and pulls back out to sea.
Rip currents are incredibly dangerous because they are extremely fast and hard to swim in, even for the strongest of swimmers. Rip currents can range from 1-2 feet per second (or .7 – 1.4 miles per hour) to as fast as 8 feet per second (5.5 miles per hour)—faster than an Olympic swimmer. They can extend out past the beach, past wave breaks, anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand feet before dissipating.
How to Spot a Rip Current
You’re more likely to encounter rip currents in the Bahamas in areas where the flow of water is obstructed close to shore. Areas with reefs, jetties, piers, and parallel sandbars just offshore are common sites of rip currents. In particular, areas with offshore sandbars are known for stronger rip currents, as they block the return flow of water.
Avoid rip currents by checking the local rip current conditions before getting in the water. Ask locals and lifeguards and take a good look at the water around the beach. If you see anything floating quickly out to sea, such as seaweed or debris, there may be a rip current. Areas with water colored or textured different from its surroundings, such as choppy water, can also indicate a rip current.
How to Escape a Rip Current
Should you find yourself in a rip current, the first thing you must do is not panic. Unlike undertows, rip currents do not generally pull swimmers underwater. Instead, non-swimmers and weak swimmers often get tired out as they are pulled into deeper water out at sea.
If you’re caught in a rip current, swim parallel to shore; do not swim against the flow of the current. Float or tread water while calling for help. You will eventually break free, provided you remain calm and keep parallel to shore.
If you see someone caught in a rip current, ask a lifeguard for help. If possible, get a flotation device to the person, or keep them calm by talking to them and giving them instructions for how to escape. Never rescue someone unless you have the proper training, as that’s a common way that many people drown.
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