Safety during an open water swim

Doing a solo openwater swim is risky, doing it in a group is safer, but even then the risks are still there.

If you are planning to do an open water swim, make sure you inform someone where you are going to do your swim, if possible have someone look over you during your swim, either from the shore,  or from a water craft like a boat or a standup paddleboard. But for.most of that would be a luxury. In any case, this post will cover some of the aspecrs of safety based on my experience.

WATER TRAFFIC

If you are to swim in area where motorboats past by, I highly recommend with a swimming buoy, this is so that they can easily spot you from afar and then avoid you. 

JELLYFISH 

Most people have a fear of openwater swimming because of jaws or sharks, just keep in mind that sharks attacks are actually quite rare. A friend who SCUBA dives shares that she has done more than 80 dives in Brunei and has never seen a shark. I have snorkeled in sabah once and there was a certain small fish that kept on pecking on me, but i guess I was invading its territory and it was being protective. Otherwise most fishes just pass by or swim away. One occassion I puked in the water, there were small fishes swimming along side me for a while. The hazard that I keep on facing  during an openwater swimming is jellyfish, and not just the big ones (like the one that stung my wife), the small ones can pack quite a sting. The pain is not much different to an ant bite or a bee sting (which i have also experienced). During a swim we may swim through them, and they are just reacting to us bumping into them, in my case its usually around the neck and chest area, a few times the armpit (so it was painful when i pulled and recover during a swim stroke).

PROTECTION AND TREATMENT FOR STINGS

Jelly fish protection is either wear a rash guard, or I have seen people use an anti jellyfish gel in Labuan, I haven’t seen it sold in Brunei though. Now treatment for stings is quite confusing if you google around. 

Generally do not touch the tentacles if they are still attached, use an object to help pull it off. I have seen people use a credit card to scrap of any stingers that might be still attached, but others share that the pressure from the cards might inject more venom from the stingers. 

A common suggestion is to urinate or pee on the affected area. I haven’t personally try this, but what I have tried is vinegar spray and warm water. The idea is the acid may deactivate the stingers or neutralize the venom,  others suggest that the warm water may do the same thing. The general idea is if the temperature or pH of the solution matches the venom it will be neutralized, but if it doesn’t it will be activated, on that note there are those that suggest rinsing in the salty ocean water would suffice. I admit a warm shower does sting a bit initially, but it does feel soothed afterwards. 

GROUP SWIMMING ๐ŸŠ ๐ŸŠ 

Group swimming is not much different from a group hike. It is best to swim in a group.  After all in the case of a predator,  what matters is not that you can swim faster than the predator, but that you can swim.faster than the other swimmers. ๐Ÿ˜œ 

Jokes aside, group swimming is the best way for a beginner to try an open water swim. The number of people may give comfort, confidence and moral support to the person, especially in knowing that someone may accompany them or may even help them during times of need. So the first important part if a group swim is…

HAVE A SWIM BUDDY

Ideally partner up with someone your speed, or at least doesn’t mind slowing down to keep you company. If there is an odd one out, then there can be a swim buddy of threes. But keep in mind despite being with conpany, even those who can swim, there are no guarantees that they can help you in an emergency situation. Which is why I recommend the swimmer to have at least a few basics before they begin to swim open water.

SWIMMING BUOYS

If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you have a swimming buoy, Note that even though it is not meant to be a flotation device or a lifesaving device (it says so on the package or the buoy) it can give the beginner a bit of confidence boost knowing that they might be assisted by a floating device if they get tired. Note that most people won’t need a floating device if they know how to relax in the water, especially since most people will float easily in sea water. 

Another important use of a swimming buoy is as a dry bag. To place your  belongings like your key or your wallet in it while you swim.  You may be able to safely keep your mobile phone dry in it, but there is no guarantee. 

An important note if swimmimg against the waves, if the waves are crushing, it is recommneded that you hold the buoy in your arms instead of leaving it staying behind.  As the forces in a wave may brEak the tether to the buoy.

SWIM SKILLS

Before we begin it is best to identify the prequisites for you to be able to swim openwater. 

  1. You know how to swim, at least 50 metres
  2. You know how to swim relaxed. You can swim 500 metres without feeling tired. This usually requires to be comfortable with breathing rythm.
  3. You can float, tread easily and comfortably. The sea water does make this a lot more easier than in the swimming pool.
  4. Sighting. In the swimming pool you have the lines and tiles to guide you, in the open water there is no such thing. Swimming breast stroke is easy to sight. Freestyle or front crawl is more tricky. What I would recommend is to lift head up to sight, right before turning the head to the side to breathe in.
  5. Swimming straight

SWIM ROUTE

Before the swim, communicate to the group of the route. 

  • The simplest route is straight out and back, its easier if there is a target to aim for. Most people wont be able to swim straight even with a swim marker.  
  • Another route is one that triathlons usually do, which is a triangle loop, a few hundred metres outwards to the left, swim to the right parallel to the shore, and then back to starting point.  its easier if you have a swim marker buoy. But its doable even if without.
  • Probably the safest and easiest route to swim far is to swim outwards for a fww hundred metres, at least past the wave breakers, and then swim parallel to the shore, and then back

It is helpful if you have a GPS swim watch to keep track of the distance during a swim, it may also be use as a guide during the swim.

    SWIM IN A PACK

    This is the part that is often difficult to maintain, especially if there are people different swimming abilities. Keep swimming in a pack, you don’t want to leave anyone behind. A slow beginner swimmer in the back may feel pressured to keep up and they may tire and quit sooner. In a bigger group, people with different abilities might split into 2 or 3 groups. But as long as you stay with your swimming buddy you shud be fine, and the groups should stay together. In the case of splits the choices are to maintain the group by stopping frequently at 50 or a 100 metres and wait for the rest, or to split the group between fast and slow, so the fast groups don’t need to stop so frequently and maintain their pace.

    There is probably a few more things that i could cover, but these are the important things I can remember right now. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions to ask any other issues or to clarify certain aspects.

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    Safety during an open water swim

    Doing a solo openwater swim is risky, doing it in a group is safer, but even then the risks are still there.

    If you are planning to do an open water swim, make sure you inform someone where you are going to do your swim, if possible have someone look over you during your swim, either from the shore,  or from a water craft like a boat or a standup paddleboard. 

    Common hazards

    WATER TRAFFIC

    If you are to swim in area where motorboats past by, I highly recommend with a swimming buoy, this is so that they can easily spot you from afar and then avoid you. 

    JELLYFISH 

    Most people have a fear of openwater swimming because of jaws or sharks, just keep in mind that sharks attacks are actually quite rare. A friend who SCUBA dives shares that she has done more than 80 dives in Brunei and has never seen a shark. I have snorkeled in sabah once and there was a certain small fish that kept on pecking on me, but i guess i was invading its territory and it was being protective. Otherwise most fishes just pass by or swim away, one occassion i puked in the water, there were small fishes swimming along side me for a while. The hazard that I keep on facing  during an openwater swimming is jellyfish, and not just even the big ones (like the one that stung my wife), the small ones can pack quite a sting. The pain is not much different to an ant bite. During a swim we may swim through them, and they are just reacting to us bumping i to them, in my case its usually around the neck and chest area, a few times the armpit (so it was painful when i pulled and recover during a swim stroke).

    PROTECTION AND TREATMENT FOR STINGS

    Jelly fish protection is either wear a rash guard, or I have seen people use an anti jellyfish gel in Labuan, I haven’t seen it sold in Brunei though. Now treatment for stings is quite confusing if you google around. 

    Generally do not touch the tentacles if they are still attached, use an object to help pull it off. I have seen people use a credit card to scrap of any stingers that might be still attached, but others share that the pressure from the cards might inject more venom from the stingers. 

    A common suggestion is to urinate or pee on the affected area. I haven’t personally try this, but what I have tried is vinegar spray and warm water. The idea is the acid may deactivate the stingers or neutralize the venom,  others suggest that the warm water may do the same thing. The general idea is if the temperature or pH of the solution matches the venom it will be neutralized, but if it doesn’t it will be activated, on that note there are those that suggest rinsing in the salty ocean water would suffice. I admit a warm shower does sting a bit initially, but it does feel soothed afterwards. 

    GROUP SWIMMING ๐ŸŠ ๐ŸŠ 

    Group swimming is not.much different from a group hike. It is best to swim in a group.  After all in the case of a predator,  what matters is not that you can swim faster than the predator, but that you can swim.faster than the other swimmers. ๐Ÿ˜œ 

    Jokes aside, group swimming is the best way for a beginner to try an open water swim. The number of people may give comfort, confidence and moral support to the person, especially in knowing that someone may accompany them or may even help them during times of need. So the first important part if a group swim is…

    HAVE A SWIM BUDDY

    Ideally partner up with someone your speed, or at least doesn’t mind slowing down to keep you company. If there is an odd one out, then there can be a swim buddy of threes. But keep in mind despite being with conpany, even those who can swim, there are no guarantees that they can help you in an emergency situation. Which is why I recommend the swimmer to have at least a few basics before they begin to swim open water.

    SWIMMING BUOYS

    If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you have a swimming buoy, Note that even though it is not meant to be a flotation device or a lifesaving device (it says so on the package or the buoy) it can give the beginner a bit of confidence boost knowing that they might be assisted by a floating device if they get tired. Note that most people won’t need a floating device if they know how to relax in the water, especially since most people will float easily in sea water. 

    Another important use of a swimming buoy is as a dry bag. To place your  belongings like your key or your wallet in it while you swim.  You may be able to safely keep your mobile phone dry in it, but there is no guarantee. 

    An important note if swimmimg against the waves, if the waves are crushing, it is recommneded that you hold the buoy in your arms instead of leaving it staying behind.  As the forces in a wave may brEak the tether to the buoy.

    SWIM SKILLS

    Before we begin it is best to identify the prequisites for you to be able to swim openwater. 

    1. You know how to swim, at least 50 metres
    2. You know how to swim relaxed. You can swim 500 metres without feeling tired. This usually requires to be comfortable with breathing rythm.
    3. You can float, tread easily and comfortably. The sea water does make this a lot more easier than in the swimming pool.
    4. Sighting. In the swimming pool you have the lines and tiles to guide you, in the open water there is no such thing. Swimming breast stroke is easy to sight. Freestyle or front crawl is more tricky. What I would recommend is to lift head up to sight, right before turning the head to the side to breathe in.
    5. Swimming straight

    SWIM ROUTE

    Before the swim, communicate to the group of the route. 

    • The simplest route is straight out and back, its easier if there is a target to aim for. Most people wont be able to swim straight even with a swim marker.  
    • Another route is one that triathlons usually do, which is a triangle loop, a few hundred metres outwards to the left, swim to the right parallel to the shore, and then back to starting point.  its easier if you have a swim marker buoy. But its doable even if without.
    • Probably the safest and easiest route to swim far is to swim outwards for a fww hundred metres, at least past the wave breakers, and then swim parallel to the shore, and then back

    SWIM IN A PACK

    This is the part that is often difficult to maintain, especially if there are different swimming abilities. Keep swimming in a pack, you don’t want to leave anyone behind. A slow beginner swimmer in the back may feel pressured to keep up and they may tire and quit sooner. In a bigger group, people with different abilities might split into 2 or 3 groups. But as long as you stay with your swimming buddy you shud be fine, and the groups should stay together. In the case of splits the choices are to maintain the group by stopping frequently 50 or a 100 metres and wait for the rest, or to split the group between fast and slow, so the fast groups don’t need to stop frequently and maintain their pace.

    There is probably a few more things that i could cover, but these are the important things I can remember right now. 

    Raya day 1 – the 3 fathers – late father, father-in-law, and stepfather

    1st day raya, woke up 5am, pondered if I wanted to do an early morning run or ride. Didn’t.  Weighed myself at 87.2kg.

    10am prepped to go to a annual function on my late father’s side. My uncle often organizes it. The only time I get to see all my relatives on my father’s side. To be honest, I don’t know half of the people. Especially considering my father’s severed relationship with them. I grew up rarely seeing most of them. Arrived late, missed the tahlil, just when they all started eating. Ate fish fillet, some rice, chicken, some water melon. Nearing the end of the meal my uncle did a quiz on our lineage. I didn’t get to answer any of the questions. As I was leaving, salam (malay/Muslim version of shaking hands) with my 7ncles and some cousins, met my grandfather, he hasn’t attended this function in a long time. Might be last 5 years since my father died. 

    12 pm, picked up one of my wife’s sister and her kids from lamunin, to go to Kuala Belait to my father-in-law. Met with the sibling in laws (is that a thing?) all the nephews and nieces made the house so lively. Had beef soup, cucur udang, some vegetables, a lightly spicy fried floured chicken, a banana and a drink soya bean. After that had a group photo before visiting a close family friend of in laws, a few minutes drive nearby.  There I had spaghetti, some rice, prawn, beef, and a fruit cocktail drink in sweetened milk.

    4pm. Left and sent back the sister with kids to lamunin, had a pitstop at home in kulapis to go to the toilet, and to throw away the rubbish bags from house cleaning yesterday. Then headed to meet with my mother along with my stepfather who was headed towards his relatives at jangsak.

    Before 6pm. We arrived jangsak a few minutes before my mother and stepfather. 2 tanah jambu family members were missing, one was working offshore, another probably has a shift coming up. I had a few pieces chocolate cakes with chocolate cornflakes, and a can of pepsi. My nose at this point started to sniffle, it was only later at home I remembered that this house has cats along with other exotic pets, which might have triggered my runny nose. Went to the house next door for dinner, which then I had some Kampung rice, yellow rice, beef in soysauce, and I think was goat in curry, and sayur umbut (boiled bamboo shoots cooked in coconut milk).

    7pm, we left for home. 5 houses and I was already bloated and gassy. In my youth I seem to remember hitting at least 10 houses in a single day. But then again not all of those houses had buffets. During my time we walked around to go from house to house, I didn’t see any kids walking around today. Heard a few more firecrackers tonight, but not so close to home this time.

    I couldn’t properly sleep with a gassy tummy and a stuffed and runny nose. Didn’t flush and drain my nose properly while taking a bath. Used the buteyko method of controlled hypoxic breathing to help clear my nose enough for me to sleep comfortably. Slept before midnight, but woke up at 3am, slept back after 5am.

    Day 30 – dreamt of lailatul qadr, henna wife’s hair, house cleaningย 

    Woke up at 4am, drank 750ml of water, couldnt go back to sleep, so I read online stuff again, slept after 5am. Woke up after 8am. That last sleep I dreamt of seeing lailatul qadr, keep in mind I am not saying I saw it, I dreamt what I think it would look like, in my dream anyway. Must have been that fake picture that people claimed what it looked like, found out that it was actually pictures of an annular eclipse.

    In my dream I saw at night alongside the new moon was a faint circle, that if looked at closer was a reflection of the earth, in my dream I was even rationally trying to explain the phenomena scientifically. It was either the angle of the celestial bodies or the weather conditions.  In any case I woke up wondering how it would look like in reality. Apparently no one has, or at least no one has seen it has posted, and then there those who posted a few fake claims that didn’t make any astronomical sense to me. Maybe lailatul qadr isn’t of what it looks like, but more of what it feels like. I guess I may never know. Looking up, lailatul qadr either means the night of power, or the night of decree. It is only said that the night will be quiet, and the sunrise will be clear with no rays.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laylat_al-Qadr
    Almost mid day and my wife asked me to help her with dyeing her hair with henna, looked up a few articles and youtube videos for some guidelines. It took a painstaking long time. Especially in order to make sure every strand gets covered. I understand why saloons charge high for this type of services.

    Today is one of the rare days we didn’t go out, our break was water, kurma, maggi noodles ๐Ÿœ , an egg ๐Ÿณ , some biscuits ๐Ÿช for dessert and later veggie juice.

    Spent the night cleaning house, while the the neighbours were playing firecrackers. (It is actually illegal without permission.  But people are able to acquire and pay them any way). While cleaning found a lot old lost items. Cleared out a few expired items in the kitchen. 

    Today will be the last day of ramadhan,  but it won’t be my last post. I will be posting on open houses and food I eat during syawal, as well as my training and sports events. Hopefully intermittent fasting during syawal and a few training will maintain my weight loss and improve my performance.

    Day 29 – servicing the car, fuel traffic jam, and eid moonsighting announcement

    Woke up at 4am, but didnt sleep till sun up. Booked an appointment for car service today by calling last Wednesday. Thankfully Saturday morning was available. Got picked up and went to post office at airport lama to try to get a package, but the mislabelling on the card didn’t state it was supposed to be picked up at sengkurong instead. I guess I will pick up on thursday when all government offices are open.

    My car has been making screeching sounds ever since I drove through floods a few months ago. Before that the engine has been rattling when it goes up hill. Apparently, it was related to the fan belt. The workshop also recommended replacing the air filter. I just accepted. It all amounted to $215. That used up a bit more than my usual car budget. With the recent bike purchase I need to tighten my own belt.

    Planned to buy fuel, but every fuel station was jam packed. I guess everyone was preparing for their long trips on the first day of raya. I decided to forego until convenient. Slept most of the afternoon replacing my lack of sleep in the morning.

    Broke fast with air bandung, fried noodles, sardine puffs, and dessert with mangoes. Checked whatsapp for any updates regarding the moon sighting,  but it was mostly filled with jokes. A few reliable sources shared.  But from past experience, it was best to wait for the official announcement. At 7:30pm, the announcement came, no new moon sighted. I bet its due to the weather. So Brunei wipl celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri or Eid on Monday. Later found out that. Malaysia and Indonesia announced that they will celebrate it on Sunday. Its funny how Brunei doesn’t follow Malaysian ruling on moon sighting anymore. It was even more funny to think about the consequences of crossing the border to Malaysia on a Sunday. Would I fast? Or do I celebrate raya? Especially considering the first day of raya is haram to fast. In any case I would be grateful in either case.  If eid was on Sunday,  then it would be 4 consecutive days of raya.  If it was on Monday it would just be 3, but it would be an extra day to fast in ramadhan. 

    Slept early, expected to sleep in on sunday morning.