By Larry Shane, Coordinator, RipTide Warning Signs Project
No one — not one swimmer, has drowned in a riptide on Bocas beaches since Riptide Warning Signs were installed 4 years ago.
Before, we were losing an average of 5 souls a year to our menacing waters, mostly tourists, sometimes, a local child, unaware of murderous currents that lurk within our shores.
Now, we have not needlessly lost any swimmers due to riptide unawareness. Riptide Warning Signs are installed on all windward beaches on Isla Colon and Bastimentos. Riptide Warning Posters are hung at hotels, hostels and public places in Bocas Town and other bay area locales. The bi-lingual signs even include an instructional drawing of how to escape a riptide, for those who speak other languages or do not read.
The printed vinyl signs have withstood years of weathering, but they finally faded. So, we have replaced the printing with a new & improved version, and added some new signs where needed. There are now 41 signs on all our hazardous beaches, alerting fun seekers to only find our waters wondrous.
In late November, 2013, we sent an appeal to the people of Bocas, persons and businesses, requesting $25 sponsors to fund sign renewals. It took us two months to accrue sponsors however; we received an overwhelming amount of support.
After having the vinyl printed and applying it as wallpaper, most of the signs were installed by May 2014, though Sponsor Tags were not placed until June. The logistics of installing signs turned out to be challenging. After considering varied installation possibilities, the most practical method was to physically take a new vinyl sign to each locale. There we would repair metal as needed and clean surfaces, apply new vinyl over existing; or carry a new wood-framed sign to the locale and screw it to a tree, with esthetic and environmental regard. Since beaches and their use have evolved over time, the total number of signs were unknown until all essential locales were visited, chosen and installed. Only thereafter, Sponsor Tags were assigned, and added to each sign on a second visit.
You may know the story of Stuart Lutz, father of Joey, who drowned at Red Frog Beach six years ago. Stuart heard of our original sign effort, and demanded to be included as a sponsor. When we undertook renewing the signs, I contacted Stuart, informed him of how successful our project had been, and told him we’d be renewing Joey’s dedication sign at Red Frog Beach. He then insisted on sending his own donation in honor of his son.
These signs save lives, but so do local surfers and swimmers, experienced with our perilous waters. Often, I’ve heard about a tourist rescued from a riptide, returned to shore on a surfboard or a swimmer’s back. We need to reward this behavior, and encourage it. We also printed new RipTide Warning posters (same graphic as sign), now hung at about 100 locations around Bocas Town and elsewhere throughout the bay. If you have a public place and want a free laminated poster, contact me. Now we have the opportunity to expand our program. Thanks to our special sponsor Hostel Heike, Mono Loco Surf School will be teaching a RipTide Rescue Class and hosting periodic Surf Sheriff Salutes, awarding badges to all who take the class or save a life.
The idea of badges came to me as a good use for our surplus funds. Discussing the idea with Stuart, and the design of a badge, he noted that he happens to be a professional graphic artist, and offered creative support. So now we have a badge especially designed by Stuart. Thank you, Stuart, for sharing consummate closure.
Special thanks to all our sponsors and everyone who worked so hard to make this endeavor possible and successful yet again.
*For more information on this project, contact Larry Shane…. email: email@example.com or cell: 6621.1897 .