Support boat with alpha flag paddling next to a swimmer

SwimSafe and Boat Safe code - full version

Swimmers, divers, skiers, speed boats, jet skis, ferries, sailing boats, fishermen, canoes and hire boats share the lakes.

Any of these activities can be taking place at any time of day or night.

Please follow this advice to help everyone enjoy themselves and stay safe.

SwimSafe code

Swimmers, remember you may be able to see the boaters, but they may not be able to see you.

Be Seen, have support

Hat, Float, Flag, Boat!

  • Wear a bright swim cap and tow a bright float so you are more obvious to other lake users.
  • Never swim alone. As a minimum have a safety spotter on the shore.
    Show to other lake users that there is a swimmer or diver in the water by displaying an Alpha flag on your boat.
  • Have a safety boat if going into open water, they can help you if you start to struggle and boaters will see your safety boat before they see you.

Be Water wise

Temperature, Depth, Quality

  • Exposure to cool water can unexpectedly and rapidly lead to hypothermia. We strongly recommend you wear a wetsuit, to keep you warmer and more buoyant.
  • Enter the water slowly to get used to it. The water temperature is colder lower down below the surface and can still be very cold on a hot day.
  • Don't jump in. Jumping into shallow water can cause serious injuries, always check the depth and the water bed by walking in with caution.
  • Check water quality through local sources and the Environment Agency. If the quality appears deficient in any way, don't swim. If blue green algae is found during the summer months do not swim in these areas.

Be Informed

Know the dangers, reduce the risk

  • Remember Windermere, Coniston Water, Derwentwater, and Ullswater are busy with lots of different boats on them. The other lakes in the National Park do not permit them so are much quieter. There is a list at
  • People on boats may struggle to see you. They may have restrictions in visibility due to weather, water conditions and their task of managing the vessel.
  • A collision with any boat can be fatal.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Let them know when you return so they know that you are safe and well.
  • Stay aware of your surroundings.

Be Mindful

Where? When?

  • Check maps, guides and access info and choose one of the quieter lakes that do not allow boats.
  • Avoid mooring areas, marinas and jetties used by boats, ferry routes and boating channels. Choose suitable entry and exit points.
  • Be aware boaters may be in any area of the lake at any time of day or night.
  • Only swim when weather conditions are suitable and remember they can change quickly so check the forecast. Wind chill, strength and air temperature can massively reduce your normal level of ability.
  • Never swim after drinking alcohol or eating a heavy meal.

In an emergency

Call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

BoatSafe code

Be aware

Swimmers are not obvious in the water

  • Keep a look out. Swimmers are not easy to see, know what you are looking out for.
  • If you see an alpha flag it tells you that there is a swimmer or diver in the water.
  • Make yourself aware of the lake byelaws for the National Park's lakes.
  • If you are using a powerboat, make sure you have had suitable training.
  • Know your lake.


Swimmers may be in any area of the lake

  • Swimmers and other lake users may be in any area of the lake at any time of day or night.
  • Maintain a proper lookout for swimmers and other boats.
  • Swimmers can be very difficult to see, especially when there are waves, sun glare or they do not have the means to make themselves more visible.


Take early action, keep well clear

  • Keep as far away from swimmers and their support boats as possible.
  • Remember boats supporting swimmers can not move out of your way.
  • Your wash can put swimmers and other lake users into serious difficulty.
  • Slow down and keep a safe distance.

Turn off engine

Kill the engine, protect the swimmer!

  • Always wear a kill cord and ensure it is attached to the driver and the boat. More info on the RYA Kill Cord web page (opens in new window)
  • In an emergency, if you do get too close to a swimmer, turn off your engine to stop injury from propellers.

In an emergency

Call 999 and ask for the coastguard.

Summary leaflets and posters

Check out our handy guides on