Summer Season with James Turnham - Port Macquarie Head Lifeguard
It's Autumn on the Mid North Coast but the beaches are still busy. Our beautiful climate keeps the holiday makers visiting. With the school holidays and Easter long weekend around the corner we catch up with James Turnham, Port Macquarie-Hastings Lifeguard Supervisor for a quick Q&A.
As the summer season draws to a close what has been a highlight for you?
It's always great seeing the lifeguards working professionally, especially our new lifeguard recruits who develop new skills throughout the season and quickly gain more and more confidence in their public relations. It's a very busy period for lifeguards, requiring plenty of concentration and good decision making skills.
What's been the highest ocean temperature at Port Macquarie beaches this summer and the lowest? If BOM say it's 27 but it doesn't feel that warm in the water why would that be?
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) sensors are located off shore, giving readings that are ocean current temperatures. These readings are potentially quite different to the temperatures we experience closer to shore in the surf zone at our beaches. The average surf temperatures we have in the Port Macquarie-Hastings area are between 18 and 21.
There's been a few blue bottle stings in recent weeks - can you remind us of the best action people can take.
Generally we see a few bluebottles wash in after a day or two of strong north easterly winds. Lifeguards will place a warning sign up and advise beach goers that if stung, ensure the tentacles have been brushed off their skin as soon as possible. If the sting is causing severe pain they are best to sooth the area under hot water (as warm as they can tolerate). If hot water isn't readily available lifeguards can offer ice packs and sting gels that can also help to sooth the pain. Generally the pain won't last too long, but a day or so later the sting area can become quite itchy. If any allergic reactions develop, people are advised to approach the lifeguards or lifesavers for first aid if at a patrolled beach, or to call triple zero if the patient deteriorates.
What's the biggest swell we have seen this season?
The biggest swell so far this season has been approximately five meters, causing very large waves at our beaches. It should be noted that swell size forecasts are often larger than the wave size forecasts that we see breaking at the beaches.
How many rescues have taken place this season across the beaches you patrol?
Lifeguards patrol 6 beaches in the Port Macquarie-Hastings area. Across these beaches so far this season lifeguards have saved the lives of 46 people. This does not include minor assists or rescues that lifesavers have undertaken during volunteer patrols. Lifeguards have also responded to an increased number of emergency call-outs to un-patrolled beaches this season.
If you were stuck on Pelican Island for a week what or who would you take with you?
I'd say most Lifeguards would probably just choose to swim back over to mainland! Pelican Island at the Town end is probably 200m. From Settlement Point it's around 50m and you can wade across at low tide. But if I was stuck on an island I guess I'd hope to have some insect repellant, snacks, a lighter and water with me. A swag wouldn't go astray either!
What's the most amusing thing to happen this season?
I'll have to mention two things here. Firstly it was a good laugh when one of the lifeguards' sunglasses slipped off the top of their head and into the toilet. Secondly, during a jet ski rescue at the Town Beach rock-wall, a swimmer lost his pants while hanging onto the back of the rescue-sled due to the powerful jet underneath. At least we saved him and he made it back to shore (unfortunately de-panted)! And if you happen to have lost your sunnies there's a good chance we have them.
How many schools have you visited in the last 12 months?
So far this season we have made 51 surf education presentations across all the primary schools in our area, equating to over 4,000 students. We aim to reach similar numbers every season as we believe in the importance of educating everyone about our beaches from an early age.
Which beaches are patrolled at the moment?
During the school term, Town Beach and Flynn's Beach are patrolled 7 days, and the other beaches are just weekends (Lighthouse, Rainbow and North Haven Beaches). Over the Easter long weekend and autumn school holidays all these beaches will be patrolled 7 days. The patrol season comes to an end on April 29, and resumes for the school holidays again in September.
Do you have a final safety reminder for our readers?
Please, please, please choose a patrolled beach if you want to swim. If anything at all was to go wrong (not necessarily just in the water) you know that lifeguards or lifesavers are there to help with rescue and first aid equipment. At an unpatrolled beach it is a different story. It takes time for emergency responders to arrive and unfortunately sometimes this can be too late.
Thanks to James and the team for keeping us safe this summer. Stay safe in the school holidays everyone.Check out the video from Wilson Visuals featuring Port Macquarie Lifeguards.