Henry Gilbey
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We did some RNLI fishing safety related filming on the north Cornwall coast this week - fascinating difference between swell and those “rough” conditions we had in their training pool

At 8am on Wednesday morning, a bunch of us met at the Padstow lifeboat station and then we headed just down the coast to Porthcothan where the aim was to do a load more shore fishing safety related filming work. Bearing in mind that I had headed out fishing the morning before on the north coast and walked away because it was verging on too dangerous where I was to be there on my own, I was interested to see how things were going to pan out - and especially because I was one of the anglers who was going to be going in the water………….

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I am not going to try and cover everything from Wednesday in this one blog post, indeed when I was driving home in the evening I was obviously going through how the day went in my head and trying to work out the one thing that stood out the most to me. I can think of a lot of stuff I want to talk to you about - and I will in due course - but it was actually a shore angler called Cronin who went into the sea towards the end of the day in a floatation suit and what this showed that really stood out to me. Mark and I had told him to expect all sorts of problems after how horrible it was for Mark when he did the same thing but in the RNLI pool earlier in the year, as per the video below.

A lack of chop on the water simply wasn't continually forcing water into Cronin's airways as what was happening to Mark in the video above

A lack of chop on the water simply wasn't continually forcing water into Cronin's airways as what was happening to Mark in the video above

But to be honest Cronin was okay when he was wearing the floatation suit, and on my drive home I was thinking about why Mark was in all kinds of trouble in the RNLI pool whereas here was Cronin out on the open coast and he looked pretty comfortable. Then I got to thinking about the rest of us anglers who went into the sea on Wednesday (with and without lifejackets on, and with a big thanks to Marc, Mark, Jamie and Nathaniel for coming along and helping out) and we weren’t really in much trouble when we were actually in the water - note as well that three of the guys are serious surfers and are extremely proficient and confident in the water.

Marc is a surfer, he is extremely fit, and he is very confident in the water, but without a lifejacket and in a short space of time he was getting a lot of water washing around and no doubt into his airways

Marc is a surfer, he is extremely fit, and he is very confident in the water, but without a lifejacket and in a short space of time he was getting a lot of water washing around and no doubt into his airways

So what were the conditions like on Wednesday? Well there was a big swell rolling in on the north coast of Cornwall, but if you know Porthcothan and how there’s a bit of protection as you take the coast path south then this is where we were hoping to find some shelter - with the backup of the not very realistic looking Padstow lifeboat slip if needed. Setting up for filming and getting a load of establishing shots and interviews always takes a lot of time, but regardless of that we simply couldn’t go in the water around the HW because the swells surging in would have caused us all kinds of issues trying to get back out onto the rocks. I know we are trying to show what happens if it all goes wrong, but we’ve got the RNLI and a bunch of RNLI lifeguards there making the decision on what is as safe as can be for us - and for a few hours on Weds morning there wasn’t a single person who wanted to “fall” in and then try and get out of that surging water!

I haven't asked Marc how much easier it was getting washed around at the base of the rocks and trying to get out whilst wearing a lifejacket, but to an observer it was easy to see how much more in control he was, and how little water was washing around his face and airways

I haven't asked Marc how much easier it was getting washed around at the base of the rocks and trying to get out whilst wearing a lifejacket, but to an observer it was easy to see how much more in control he was, and how little water was washing around his face and airways

Which of course throws up a big issue with what we are trying to do - how do you go about showing an angler getting washed in and churned around in a properly raging sea (as it often is when we are out fishing) and then getting them out safely? We are working with the RNLI and they are obviously not going to let anything go wrong and I don’t know of any sane angler who would volunteer to go in the water when it’s raging anyway, so I guess that it shows how much more we should be trying to avoid ending up in the water, and of course wearing a (so damn easy to wear) lifejacket AND having a means of calling for help if you are fishing on your own. If you can’t call for help or at least alert a passerby then help ain’t coming. You so badly don’t want something to go badly wrong in hectic conditions especially, and we can’t show this anyway, but we are trying our best to at least give some ideas on how to give yourself the best chance of surviving if the proverbial does hit the fan.

As we found out back in February at the RNLI tank, you don't just sink like a stone in a pair of chest waders! But as Mark found out once again, when they start filling up with water it's a lot, lot harder hauling yourself up and out of the water - and bear in mind that our "exits" as such on Wednesday were not tough

As we found out back in February at the RNLI tank, you don't just sink like a stone in a pair of chest waders! But as Mark found out once again, when they start filling up with water it's a lot, lot harder hauling yourself up and out of the water - and bear in mind that our "exits" as such on Wednesday were not tough

So as that tide dropped we were all able to fall/jump into the sea and successfully get out, with and without lifejackets, and to be honest the only real difficulty was a bit of surge from a bit of swell that was still getting into where we were - and that to me is the one thing that really, really stands out from Wednesday. For sure there were some serious waves crashing into the more exposed parts of the north Cornwall coastline, but this was purely a decent swell rolling in - once you were in the (relatively sheltered) water you are going up and down with the swell and it was a bit awkward getting out in some places (I got a hurty on my hand!), but what none of us experienced on Wednesday that the four of us all experienced at the RNLI pool back in February was consistently choppy conditions. This is how I described it: “let me tell you how bloody horrible it is when you are in the water and now you’ve got water breaking into your face and in no time at all you start spluttering and gagging and spitting and you can’t get enough air in your lungs before getting water in your face again and then as safe as you are in the tank you’re already getting tired trying to stop water getting in your face and down your throat and in no time at all you’re not thinking straight and you want the hell out of there and I went for one of the ropes at the side of the pool because it was so bloody horrible - and that’s in a controlled talk and the water wasn’t even very cold. I dread to think how bloody horrendous and scary and panic-inducing it is in real life when you get washed clean off the rocks into cold, raging water.”

I know I keep saying it these days, but it's true - wearing a lifejacket when you are fishing more hectic and or fast current conditions especially is a complete no-brainer, and especially with how inexpensive and unobtrusive they are to wear these days

I know I keep saying it these days, but it's true - wearing a lifejacket when you are fishing more hectic and or fast current conditions especially is a complete no-brainer, and especially with how inexpensive and unobtrusive they are to wear these days

So we had a bit of swell that was lifting us up and down out on the open coast on Wednesday - and there simply is no getting away from how much easier it is to float in the right position (head out of the water and the right way up) when you have got a lifejacket on, indeed at one point I was bobbing around for at least ten minutes without any bother at all - but at no point other than a bit of surge when we were clambering out did any of us experience anything like those “rough conditions” what were of course artificially created in the RNLI pool, and which to me were scarily realistic. I don’t know about you, but I often fish choppy/rough conditions when if I ended up in the water then I would be facing exactly the sort of issues that the wave machine created, and it’s an unavoidable fact that without a lifejacket you are most likely going to be in very serious trouble very quickly. If you can’t keep your airways clear then it’s no good, end of.

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That's a 275N lifejacket with the floatation suit

That's a 275N lifejacket with the floatation suit

And I guess that the RNLI pool and its perfectly horrible wave machine showed how dangerous a floatation suit without a lifejacket can be, whereas in non-choppy conditions as we had on Wednesday, Cronin was able to keep himself upright and pretty comfortable. But would I personally be trying to judge conditions and whether I should wear a floatation suit or not? Not a bloody chance, or at least not without a lifejacket, and I wonder if you knew that it is recommended you wear a minimum 275N lifejacket with a floatation suit primarily because of the greater buoyancy required to turn you over the right way if you aren’t able to do so yourself.

Nathaniel is a surfer, an angler, and also an RNLI lifeguard. He is extremely competent and confident in the water, but now imagine you have been washed in like this in say December and you are on your own and you aren't wearing a lifejacket and you are fighting for your life and you are struggling to keep your airways clear and/or get out of the water. It doesn't bear thinking about. 

Nathaniel is a surfer, an angler, and also an RNLI lifeguard. He is extremely competent and confident in the water, but now imagine you have been washed in like this in say December and you are on your own and you aren't wearing a lifejacket and you are fighting for your life and you are struggling to keep your airways clear and/or get out of the water. It doesn't bear thinking about. 

Anyway, there will be plenty more to come. Thanks as ever to the awesome RNLI, the film crew (short films to come in due course), and those kind anglers who gave up their time to come along and help out. On Wednesday it was the first time I got to go into the sea with a pair of waist waders on as opposed to chest waders. I don’t want to go into what I found out now, but very briefly let me say that I was rather pleased that some of my theories on waist versus chest waders if you end up in the water proved to be true………………..
 

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