Everyone is trying to find a way to stay cool in this summer heat.
Everyone is trying to find a way to stay cool in this summer heat. And rightfully so.
This week, high temperatures have reached into the middle and upper 90s. High humidity levels have created dangerous conditions where heat stress and heat exhaustion are real possibilities, conditions that could lead to death.
When it gets this hot, many people head to the water. Temperatures are slightly cooler at the beach, thanks the slightly cooler ocean water.
However, the ocean can be a dangerous place, and unfortunately, it can kill, as it did on Monday when a Tennessee father drowned in Beaufort Inlet off Shackleford Banks as he attempted to rescue his daughters from the water.
If you have never been to the western side of Shackleford Banks — or to Fort Macon on the other side of the inlet on Bogue Banks — describing conditions in the inlet is difficult. Just imagine being stuck in a washing machine. That’s the best way I can describe it.
Depending on the tide, water flows in and out of the inlet, and where the ocean meets the water of Bogue Sound, an upheaval of liquid takes place. Water sloshes back and forth, creating turbulent conditions and crashing waves. White caps are frequent, and even boaters heading out for a day of fishing try to avoid spending any more time in the inlet than they have to.
If boaters can struggle with the inlet, imagine what it’s like for swimmers, even good and strong swimmers.
On the Fort Macon side of the inlet, signs warn people not to go in the water. Steep dropoffs exist just a few feet from the shore, and once footing is gone, the current takes over, pushing swimmers toward the inlet or whisking them away farther into Bogue Sound.
There are no such warning signs on Shackleford Banks — or at least there weren’t on my most recent visit there last year. However, if taking the passenger ferry to the island, the boat captain warns everyone not to go in the water near the inlet.
I once went in the water in the inlet, though it was not anything I had planned. I was fishing at the inlet on Shackleford Banks when two young girls suddenly floated by me. I had seen them earlier up the beach and can only manage that they took one step too far, lost their balance, went into the water and were quickly swept by me toward the inlet.
I went in after them.
I’m no expert swimmer, but I have been swimming in the ocean since I was in the second grade. I know how to handle rip currents and have been in them before, escaping because I know how to handle such situations.
The inlet is different. I took off swimming after the girls, and soon, I was joined by a Marine who realized what was happening and jumped in as well.
I went after the girl who was farther away, leaving the Marine to handle the girl who was slightly closer. I grabbed her and then turned back to shore for the swim in. I realized just how much trouble we were in. The current had swept us about 200 yards from the beach.
I knew trying to get the girl back to the beach against the current would be darn near impossible. Realizing the commotion the whole ordeal had created on the beach, I knew rescue would be coming. Someone on the beach had run down to yell at a boater to come get us.
I told the young girl that we were just going to sit and float until the boat came to get us. And to her credit, she didn’t panic, though she made sure to tell me that I was not to let her go.
The boat came to pick us up. We lifted both girls into the boat. I boarded a second boat that had come our way. As for the Marine, he decided to fight the current and swim back to the beach, being a Marine and being in far better shape than me.
The mother of the two girls enjoyed a happy reunion on the shore, and I thanked that Marine for his actions. I don’t know how I would have handled both girls out there in those conditions by myself.
We somehow managed to be OK, but I do sometimes think what might have happened had others not come to the rescue as quickly as they did. Monday’s drowning brought it all back to me. It’s a reminder of how dangerous the sea can be, despite the fun it offers to us all on these hot summer days.
Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Havelock News. He can be reached at 635-5673 or at email@example.com.