It has to be said that a holiday at Anna Bay, in the Port Stephens area, ticks a lot of boxes for me… Particularly in the apartment at Fishermans Bay, where we were staying.
Nice beaches nearby… tick
Ocean Views… tick
Dolphins swimming past… tick
Fighter Jets… tick
Fighter Jets? A benefit for some, and possibly an annoyance for others (though I can’t imagine how), is that that the RAAF Base Williamtown is nearby. This means that frequently throughout the week you may see F/A-18 Hornet Fighter Jets or the like flying past at high speed, doing manoeuvres, and generally making lots of cool jet noises and looking awesome.
The beaches around that area are also awesome, and I would like to draw special attention to One Mile Beach. I would also like to point out at this time that the rumours of converting the beach name to the Metric System are totally unfounded. The name “One-Point-Six Kilometre Beach” was deemed to be unpronounceable and “a really dumb idea” by the Port Stephens Council.
Weather permitting, we hit One Mile Beach at least once a day, but often two or three times. It is a great location and a clean beach with the Tomaree National Park off to your right. In fact, there were some kind of birds of prey hovering around the cliffs which just added to the spectacle of the place.
On our last day of swimming, we had the misfortune of being caught in a rip. Much to our delight this story actually has a happy ending, but it could have been a much more horrific experience.
After swimming for about an hour, we chatted and decided to head back in. My pregnant wife caught the next wave safely back to the sand bank, and my sister-in-law and I waited for the next one. The next one never arrived, as the waves suddenly appeared to stop breaking. There was also a clan of teenage girls swimming nearby, and two of them had become separated from their friends and were parallel to us. It was at this stage that I noticed that all of the people we were swimming near were becoming smaller and smaller and smaller… simply because we were caught in a rip and were heading rapidly out to sea.
The friends and family of the teenage girls were yelling out to “swim parallel to the shore” and there was a slightly elevated mood of panic. I also noticed at this stage that the entire beach was watching the drama unfold. The four of us attempted to swim but we were all visibly starting to get short of breath.
In what to me is an undeterminable length of time, a young lifeguard came out on a smaller and wooden version of one of those Bondi Rescue boards and grabbed the teenage girls and turned towards the beach. My sister-in-law yelled something that can be loosely translated as “excuse me sir, please do not forget that there are two more people here to rescue.”
Shortly after a couple of surfies came up and offered there boards for us to rest on. We took them up on the offer. In fact, I really can’t thank them enough. We were helped onto a wave and glided back to the sand bank.
Now, here is the important thing to acknowledge: We started swimming BEFORE the flags were put up and lifeguards were on patrol. In hindsight, a really silly thing to do.
Just because there are other people swimming, does not make it safe.
Just because you can touch the bottom, does not make it safe.
Just because you can swim, does not make it safe.
Swimming between the flags is the safest course of action.
I will never criticise anyone for getting caught in a rip. That thing was totally invisible, crept up on us in a flash, and was a force to be reckoned with.
There are multiple opinions on what to do in a rip with the most common being “swim parallel to the shore” or “stay afloat and let the rip take you”. I do not know which one is correct, but maybe a combination of the first followed by the second – as a rip can seem to sap your swimming strength in a pretty short time.
My wife reckons I was in shock because I didn’t say much for the next couple of hours. And it just so happened that the weather turned bad after that, so there were no more opportunities for swimming.
Interestingly enough, I looked up One Mile Beach and came across www.beachsafe.org.au – which quotes “A popular but potentially hazardous location owing to the prominent and persistent rips. Best in the south between the flags. If elsewhere stay on the bar if attached and watch for rip holes and side currents.”
The other hazard that the beachsafe.org.au site suggests is sharks. Which I have to admit, I did not think about once as I was being dragged seaward. And what is amazing about that, is that I have a severe irrational fear of sharks… to the point where I think about them in swimming pools. Selachophobia appears to be the term for it.
Growing up in Newcastle and frequenting Bar Beach, Newcastle Beach and Redhead Beach, you think I would know better when it comes to rips.
Learn and live.