Lifeguard staff on alert at Mackerel Cove
Thanks to its calm waters and responsible safety personnel, the beach – located on Southwest Avenue – is a favorite for local families and visitors. Lifeguards are on duty seven days per week through Sept. 6, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Although they rarely deal with incidents more serious than jellyfish stings and stubbed toes, beach-goers can rest assured that these “beach police” are ready for anything.
Jill Goldstein, program supervisor for Jamestown’s Parks and Recreation Dept., is in charge of hiring beach employees. She said that besides making sure lifeguard applicants fulfill state requirements and gain certification through passage of a surf test and a professional level CPR certification class, she encourages Mackerel Cove lifeguards to be prepared for water rescues and first-aid medical response.
“It’s true that [Mackerel Cove’s] waters don’t usually pose much of a threat, but then again, there are tons of little kids that swim there,” she said. “I try to encourage daily exercise and practicing saves so that my [lifeguards] stay in top shape and are ready for anything the water or beach might throw at them.”
On any given day, at least two lifeguards are busy patrolling the cove. Of the six staff lifeguards, four are returning veterans who are familiar with the temperament of the water and the character of the beach.
Jamestowners Victor Lambert, a lifeguard for three years at Mackerel Cove, and Erin Brennan ensure beach safety from their posts above the crowds.
Lambert, 19, is a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston, where he studies chemical engineering. A competitive swimmer for most of his life, Lambert said his job as a lifeguard comes naturally to him and helps him stay in shape for his club swim team at school.
After three years, Lambert can attest to the safety of the cove. He has never needed to make a rescue or respond to any medical emergencies, but he said almost every morning, he and the other lifeguards take to the sand for sprints and core training to keep themselves ready – just in case.
“I give out a lot of Band-aids,” he said. “You just have to deal with things as they come because you never know what’s going to happen.”
This is the first summer as a lifeguard at Mackerel Cove for Brennan, 20, but she is no stranger to the town beach – or the water. For the past four years, she has spent her summers as a parking attendant for the beach. Since last year, she has served as a lifeguard at Cottrell Pier, which does not require its lifeguards to be surf certified.
This year, she decided to go out for the surf test certification in June and thanks to her training as a runner, she said, she passed it with no problems.
Brennan runs for the cross country and track teams at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she is majoring in professional writing with a minor concentration in journalism.
She said her training as a runner helps keep her in shape to be a lifeguard, but besides running for her school teams, Brennan said she practiced swimming for the surf test certification in her school’s pool all winter.
So far, Brennan said, she enjoys her new spot on top of the chair.
“Mackerel Cove is a lot busier [than Cottrell Pier]. There are a lot more people coming and going, and a lot more rules to keep in mind,” she said. “The rules are more clearly defined and they’re important to keeping the kids and everyone safe.”
The other first-year guard at Mackerel Cove, Kristen Reis, 18, of North Kingstown, also has previous lifeguard experience at her town’s beach. But like Brennan, this is Reis’ first year as a surf-certified lifeguard.
Reis, who will enter her sophomore year at the University of Rhode Island this fall, said she runs laps on the beach almost every morning and trains with a kayak, paddleboard or surfboard almost daily to make sure she’s ready in case anything goes awry.
She said the most important part about being a lifeguard is paying attention to the water and the beach.
“We just started doing hourly rotations where the lifeguards get up every hour and switch,” she said. “When you’re sitting up there alone, after a few hours you start dazing out. We’re so much more on our toes since we’ve been doing the hourly rotations.”
Trevor Kenyon, 17, in his second summer as a Mackerel Cove lifeguard, agrees.
He is a competitive swimmer, has taken a three-weekend-long lifeguard training class at St. George’s and is well equipped to deal with any turbulence in the water. But he said much of the danger at the town beach lies in the sand, rather than the waters.
He said that with all the families and young children, regulating play on the beach is just as important to everyone’s safety as watching the water.
“Little kids stub toes, they fall on the rocks or sometimes they will throw [rocks] at each other,” Kenyon said. “We deal with it all, but there is always someone watching the water.”
Another North Kingstown resident, Lory Marsocci, 19, is also a competitive swimmer and returning lifeguard of three years. She is a junior at Radford University in Virginia, studying interior design and studio art.
Like the other guards, Marsocci exercises on the beach and at the gym daily. She said the job is about regulating safety, both in the water and on the sand.
People often don’t realize the safety issues of bringing flotation devices, dogs and snorkeling equipment to the beach, so Marsocci said she’s always explaining hazards to beach-goers.
Keeping everyone in line is the cove’s head lifeguard, Karina Carlson, 18. Although Carlson didn’t start swimming until she was a junior in high school, she rocketed to the top ranks of her team and served as co-captain in her senior year at North Kingstown High School.
As the woman in charge, Carlson is responsible for scheduling shifts, enforcing the rules on sand and sea, and making sure her peers stay in shape. Daily sprints on the beach and rescue drills using the surfboard, paddleboat and kayak keep the guards ready – even though Carlson said she’s never had to make a rescue in her three years at Mackerel Cove.
This is her first year as the head lifeguard, and Carlson said she’s already been making a few changes in the interest of safety.
“We’re starting to crack down on the rules more,” she said. “[Beach-goers] are not supposed to use flotation devices or surf boards when in the swimming area.”
Although these rules are nothing new, a new sign – posted toward the end of last season – prompted Carlson to take a stricter stance on beach regulations.
Since so many young children and families enjoy Mackerel Cove’s waters, Carlson said safety is nothing to take lightly. Boogie boards are one of the only water toys allowed in the designated swimming area, but Carlson said the rocky areas on the sides of the cove are not within the swimming area boundaries – or subject to its rules.
“We don’t run into many problems at all,” she said. “People are usually really respectful and listen to us.”
Beach parking passes are available at the beach, at the recreation center and 24 hours per day at the Ft. Getty guard shack to residents for $15 for the entire summer. Non-residents can pay $15 per day to park, but summertime visitors who stay for one month or longer are eligible for resident rates. Contact the Jamestown Dept. of Parks and Recreation at 423-7260 for more information.