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debbabcock 08-10-2001 11:25 AM

Hello. We recently purchased a Helson 22 and we plan on sailing around the coasts of Florida, The Keys and Bimini. We live in Florida and I am a native but I have recently become terrified at the thought of sharks in the open water. We have a 6 yr old and a 9 month old baby and I know we are going to jump off for a swim quite freqently. Has anyone ever experienced any problems with sharks and does anyone have any tips on how to keep us all safe while swimming in open water? Both my husband and I are avid scuba divers but it is a different ball game when you are on top of the water--especially with small children. I think a big problem with sharks are the dive tours that feed them (duh--how stupid can those people get, the sharks follow the sound of the boat motors to get food, just the same as alligators inland) Does anyone have any shark stories to tell? The only encounter I have had is with a 13-14 foot Tiger Shark that decided to take a nap under the shade of the boat and I did not see him until I had already jumped off of the boat--talk about scared!! He was scared and bolted for the deep so I was lucky. Anyways, any tips would be appreciated.

BigRed56 08-11-2001 07:24 AM

Ahoy debbabcock, I took a lady friend of mine to the keys for a vacation and after three wonderfull days of swimming and snorkling and free diving for lobster in open water we took the john boat off to fish. After catching many edible fish I hooked into a 4'' shark which I landed and then on the second day a 4'' barracuda. My friend never went back in the water again!! I''ve taken my 8-10 yr old daughters in the same waters and swam with barracuda and sharks without problems. Like most things if you only think of the worst that can happen it''s time to return to dry land. With very small children I would never take them in open water without very carefull precautions. We have an, in the water pool (a 12'' diameter inflatable ring with a fine screen net attached to the underside) which keeps jellyfish away and provides a safe bottom to not lose younger ones. Although I am sure it would not stop a determined shark I do believe it would confuse and scare off a first attack or confuse thier sonar . I have no evidence to prove this but We feel better using it. Otherwise save the swimming for the areas of water where shark attack is less problematic. The odds of any shark attack are related to many factors including habitat and food supply, time of day (your incident the shark was more interested in resting than eating) and is more the normal reaction to human activities. Keep a watch out , be prudent about where and when, and there are worse things that could happen every day and none of us thinks too much about it. Big Red 56

sailteachr 08-18-2001 04:15 PM

Hi just thought that I would throw my two sense in here.
While Florida is home to one of the most dangerous sharks in the world (the Bull Shark) 90% of all attacks occur in shallow water (i.e. within 100 yards of shore) "MOST" shark attacks on humans are thought to be cases of mistaken identity (little consolation to the sailor that gets hit by a curious shark) and occur in places where sharks might not be able to see clearly, as in the surf zone or shallow silty beaches.
Remember that you have a better chance of getting killed by bee stings or lightening than ending up a sharks afternoon snack.

mvicsail 08-28-2001 08:43 PM


Where do you get those floating screens from? Sounds like an excellent idea Big Red.

Marco (who in ST Louis has a much greater chance of getting hit by lightening than getting bit by a shark;-) ).

seawolf1 09-02-2001 06:39 PM

Hello there,

I live in Australia, there are more sharks here then people and we hardly ever hear of people being bitten, it does happen of course, but mostly to surfers ( that look like seals from under the water). I have never heard of a sailor being attacked by a shark when swimming. Worry more about the boom then sharks...


pelagia 09-04-2001 07:21 AM

I wouldn''t worry too much about sharks if I were you. I used to work on a shark fishing boat off Florida. Most of the species tend to hang out fairly deep. And for the most part, they''re not really interested in eating people. I guess we taste funny! However, there are some precautions that it is reasonable to take. Don''t swim with schools of baitfish. Don''t swim if you''ve been fishing and have dumped fish guts over. Don''t swim if you''re leaking blood from a cut.

And keep in mind that decades of overfishing have really decimated the shark populations. There really aren''t too many left out there. More sailors are hurt by overused liquor lockers than by sharks.

sailteachr 09-04-2001 02:09 PM

Just wanted to get on again and point something out. This weekend there were three reported attacks on humans in US coastal waters, two being fatal. In all three cases the victims were within 100 yards of shore in very shallow water. They probably would not have been hit in deeper water with better visibility.

TomFoster 01-01-2002 04:03 AM

My wife and I were about 2 miles off the Gulf Coast near Sarasota in a Sunfish Sailboat. It was light air and water visibility from the Sunfish was good. We were closely examined by a really large the 12-14 ft size range...probably a bull. As you know, a Sunfish only has about 8" of freeboard so we were really there with him. I pulled out the daggerboard and was prepared to bring it down on his nose if there was any aggressiveness. He kept a serpantine movement as he examined the Sunfish from stem to stern...spending a little quality time with me and the daggerboard and then was gone.

There is a lot of curiosity from sharks. The rule of thumb from experts at Mote Marine when I relayed the story was...if you can see headlights on the road, don''t be in the water. This is feeding time. Also don''t be in the water fishing with bait boxes.

Also I heard...don''t be splahing a lot when swimming as it can cause cunfusion down there.

valhalla2005 01-01-2002 08:27 AM

Hi. Hope evrything''s been going well for you.
Saw that you''ve recieved some tips in the shark issue. Please ignore the screen, misstaken identity etc. No screen will ever deterre any shark from doing anything, nor has there ever been any strong evidence that sharks has bitten humans as a result of misstaken identity. Two things will make a shark stay away though. Electric current and soap. Now, that''s not very practical, but if you don''t swim at night, late afternoons, when bleeding or close to inlets, you''ve got nothing to worry about. Sharks don''t eat people as we''re not fat enough (they would actually starve to death), and they don''t hunt for fun. Some sharks, like the Bull, is known for attacking humans, so if you see one, don''t go in the water. Tigers don''t attack often, and if you like to swim, the water''s probably to warm for a Great White.
No other speices have attacked humans without provocation to my knowledge.
If you''re attacked or approached by a shark, try very hard to stay calm. They are sensitive to heart rates and chemical reactions caused by stress.
Take care now, respect sharks, but don''t fear them, enjoy them.
Sorry about the spelling and the grammar, but I''m Swedish.

BigRed56 01-01-2002 07:08 PM

Ahoy, valhalla never heard of the heart rate and fear nonsense but come on down I''ll troll you behind my boat and well test your theory. As far os the swimming net I just don''t recall where we got it and carefull reading of my note about its effectiveness is required.To the sunfish sailor you deserve an ATTA Boy and will be piped aboard my sailing vessel anytime. But you really need to keep in mind the vessel you were on does not make the experts list of suitable sailing craft. All the more reason I like you.!!Big Red 56

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