Never underestimate the power of the sea – whether it’s a rough day in winter or a still beautiful day in summer – it will always be stronger than you.
The beaches here on the Fylde Coast are particularly prone to sandbank formation.
With a long, straight coastline the sands move about constantly with the action of the waves, which carry beach material northwards, continually reshaping our shore and creating highs and lows depending on the force of the waves.
I’m no hydrologist or sea specialist, but I know that this continual action from two tides a day creates deep gullies and high sandbanks which are a problem to people using the beach on an incoming tide.
You can see in this photo on the right taken at Cleveleys that islands form on the beach as the water comes in and around the back of the high points, filling the channels first before the higher patches of sand then cover.
You only have to be stood on the sandbank looking out to sea and you are very quickly cut off, without even knowing it.
This photo shows a relatively little sandbank but they – and the corresponding channels full of water – can be very long, sometimes too long to enable you to outrun the speed of the incoming tide, which means you are trapped.
The water in the channel can be quite deep, certainly a few feet or maybe more, with the incoming tide moving with a strong current that makes it dangerous for anyone who is young/old, short or wobbly on their legs.
Send for the Lifeboat
To highlight this, these are just a few of the latest call outs which the Blackpool Lifeboat has recently attended to:
2 May – RNLI volunteers were called out at 11.20am to a person cut off by the tide and in deep water at the Pleasure Beach.
12 May – RNLI volunteers were called out at 7.30pm to two people cut off by the tide at the Pleasure Beach. The casualties managed to reach safety before the RNLI lifeboat reached the scene.
On 18 May – they were called out shortly after 8.20pm to take part in a multiagency search for two overdue jet ski riders. Lytham CG, Lytham RNLI, Southport Rescue & the police helicopter were all involved and after an hour of searching the casualties were found stranded on a sandbank at Lytham.
21 May – they were called out to a family who had been cut off by the tide at South Shore, opposite the Mirror Ball.
Between 2009 and 2013 Blackpool RNLI have launched on 26 occasions to people cut off by the tide. They have also launched on 134 occasions to people in danger of
drowning so there’s a good chance that some of the 134 ended up in danger of
drowning as a result of being cut off on sandbanks.
Be Sandbank Safe
What should you do to avoid this happening to you?
1. In or Out? When you go to the edge of the sea, no matter how far out you are, first of all have a knowledge of whether the tide is coming in or out.
If you are a regular beach user you can get a Tide Table book which gives you the high and low tide times each day. You can also get the same information online.
If you haven’t got internet access or a Tide Table an easy way to tell is by looking at the beach. If it is very wet the tide is going out. If it is very dry it will be coming back in.
2. What’s Behind You? The second, vital thing to do, is to keep looking back to shore.
ALWAYS make sure that there is a wide, dry, safe passage of sand back up the beach behind you. DON’T stand looking out to sea, oblivious of what’s at the back of you.
3. Have a Phone Handy. If you’ve got a mobile phone, make sure you take it with you when you go on the beach. You never know when you’ll need it.
IF YOU’RE IN TROUBLE DIAL 999 AND ASK FOR THE COASTGUARD
It Can Happen to You
We’ve always enjoyed the beach and even when holidaying and before we lived here have always been tide conscious and aware that the sea is a dangerous thing which is not to be underestimated.
One day not long after we bought out house, Chrissie and I were on the beach, enjoying an evening stroll in the sunshine and we’d just taken our mind off the water for a few minutes and not realised that we were on a big sandbank with water filling the channel between us and the top section of beach.
I’m a reasonable swimmer and many moons ago had taken lifesaving exams – not so for Chrissie who can manage a few strokes in a still pool – so I was quickly planning how I was going to life-save her to safety.
In the event, we managed to run like the clappers along the length of the bank, wade through quite deep but manageable water and just get back to dry land before it became a crisis. It happened once and we’ve made sure it hasn’t happened again – it was quite frightening.
Living here at Cleveleys we frequently see people wading through seriously deep water with small toddlers and dogs to get back to safety. One day someone is going to be in serious trouble, so make sure it’s not you.
Sandbank forming at Cleveleys with the incoming tide
This couple with two toddlers waded through waist deep water to get off a sandbank at Easter 2014
You can see in this photo how an island forms once the tide starts coming in