Lovely story of an autumn swim by The Danna Dooker….
There’s a strong sense of changing seasons now that we’re on the autumn side of the equinox. I had a mini-storm swim this morning amongst sunshine and squalls. Got down to the rocks and there was a tiny otter bobbing around fishing just a few metres away. I brought Dannach in very close to me, and turned her away from it so that she wouldn’t get the scent. The otter worked its way along through the turbulent water, diving and then munching on a small fish before diving for another as it progressed parallel to the shore. It was squeaking when its head was above the water as though calling for its mother. I think it got our scent briefly because it stopped and looked for a few seconds, and then continued with the fishing. Once it had gone, I got ready to go in and then saw an ominous band of grey from the south west… I quickly covered my clothes with my dryrobe and weighted everything down with the wellies on top.
As I entered the water the squall hit, so I was pleased to be in sea and away from the wet rain! I had to swim away from the wind to start with because the rain was so heavy, but once your head is down it’s another world of turquoises and greens of the moving water, with intermittent breaths of air and a glimpse of the shoreline. And then, once the rain had eased off, back again towards the waves and rolling water. Came out after the squall and managed to get changed in the dry before the next one rolled in. The dryrobe is doing well at the moment keeping my clothes dry on the shore, and it was great to be bundled up in it as I walked back to the house.
Bored with being stuck indoors interminably (not uncommon during a Scottish “summer”) we sat moaning and looking out of the window. Eventually we became dimly aware that it might clear up and sure enough – it did!!!! We rushed to pack an attenuated picnic and bundled the two dogs and the Swift Swimmer into our little Drascombe Dabber “Olivia”, along with spare petrol, a mobile phone plus extra battery pack and our rarely used lifejackets (these last items being deemed rather important after our most recent, and nearly disastrous, outing). Brigadier Sootbag followed in his new sit-on kayak. This was a surprising, yet welcome, addition to our party, since he rarely graces us with his presence. In perfect calm weather we chuntered down to our favourite beach and set ourselves up for the afternoon. Little Teddy, our new pup, seemed quite at home on board, this being his first outing at sea. I had a wonderful long swim during which I made friends with several interested seals. Ailsa practised her hooping (something rarely seen on the beaches of Argyll) and then she swam and so did little Teddy. We made our bonfire and this necessitated various trips by kayak and on foot to collect driftwood. The menu consisted of veg sausages with baked beans stuffed into rolls, washed down with ginger beer and cider, followed by Kelly Kettle tea and Kit-Kats. We were in seventh heaven just being out of doors and we all stated that it was our life’s ambition to spend every day like this, being sea gypsies, reeking of woodsmoke, hair stiff with salt, faces weatherbeaten and streaked with ash, wading about in the seaweed, eating beans out of a tin with a razorshell. What could be more perfect?
My sister and I were SO LUCKY recently to spend an idyllic day walking and swimming on Oronsay. With its turquoise waters, white sand and panoramic views to Mull, Scarba, Jura and Islay, it is an island paradise. There’s nowhere more beautiful in the world.
We’ve been coming to this beach for many years, and until recently in Silver Strand, and it’s very special to come here again; a magical place with precious memories of happy childhood times.
A more perfect day could not be imagined. The sea was like a mirror all the way to Jura and the sun shone and shone.
We set off in Captain Duggie’s terrific small fishing boat, Ros Beag, which is powered by an electric outboard motor, and thus is so quiet that all you hear is the swish of her wake as she speeds along; no exhaust, no noise, no pollution. Fantastic.
Today’s adventure was to be a circumnatation of Carsaig Island – about 1 mile. This was attempted and easily completed by Lottie and Martin (having first ascertained that, so far, no stinging jellyfish were present) and with some tidal assistance.
Clearly certain swimmers were more keen to be photographed than others and afterwards the same keen-ite was to be observed drawing further attention to himself by standing on his head for some minutes, making observations about birdlife and generally showing off!
Lottie then produced a large tupperware full of goodies, including watercress sandwiches and oatcakes. These disappeared very quickly. We finished off by collecting some plastic debris from a nearby beach, which we try to do as often as possible.
It has since been revealed that the yoga master (otherwise sometimes referred to as The Danna Dooker) spent the afternoon lounging in a hammock – the perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Thanks Duggie for the use of Ros Beag and Lottie for taking us out; a really memorable trip.
Spring has sprung; indeed we had summer last week, with temperatures of over 30 degrees! Thus swimming is wonderful, cool and luscious. Walking is tricky – trying to make your way through swathes of primroses and bluebells without stepping on any is almost impossible. Little boat trips and picnics are now starting to happen and the whole summer is ahead! Here’s a flavour of the wonders of Argyll: (ignore my legs).
I’m always boasting to people that “the only thing you need in order to go swimming is a swimsuit”. So on doing a spring tidy up of my swimming things I was mortified to find that I have, amongst other things, 11 swimming hats, 4 helmets, 16 swimsuits, 2 dressing gowns, 3 changing robes, 6 pairs of flip flaps, 6 swim-bags, 4 fleece trousers, 4 shortie wetsuits and 1 swimming wetsuit! This doesn’t include flippers, slippers, gloves, vests, long johns, onesies, masks, night lights, thermometers, and lambswool sweaters, scarves, socks and hoods. Much of this “stuff” is for using after a swim, to get warm or keep warm. But still – it’s ridiculous!!!!
This is all you really need……
The day before had been still, warm and with bright blue skies. A deep overnight frost that reached down to the edge of the sea had quickly melted away, and the crisp clear light brought the houses on Jura, the Paps — and even the snow-covered peaks of Cruachan 55 km (35 miles) away — into sharp relief. But Friday was wet, grey and misty, and even the outline of Jura couldn’t be seen. Yet the bay at Carsaig was irresistible with its extensive sandy beach exposed by one of the lowest tides of the year. We usually jump in off the jetty, or clamber down the ladder, being buffeted by the swell, but on Friday the best way in was via the slipway and an easy wade over the soft sand. What a great start!
I quite like the term “ice-cream head” as you switch back and forth between head-up breast stroke and a few seconds of crawl: the pain across the forehead returns each time it’s under the water. But the discomfort gradually recedes, and it’s only after the event that you realise you had stopped thinking about the pain and simply enjoyed the salty silky water.
By this time Lottie and I had reached the first of the exposed reefs, where a few of us had balanced in the middle of the bay at a winter low tide a few weeks before. Today, the rock was above water, adorned with common Coral Weed, Fan Weeds and a smattering of Pepper Dulse. This was the start of an impromptu seaweed survey: Lottie’s expert knowledge guiding us through (literally) the fresh growth around Carsaig Bay.
It was a bit of a tasting session too: the delicate meaty flavour of the rare Pepper Dulse was enhanced by the location, the oak-leaf-like fronds spreading out as you placed a sprig on your hands. Then we were off to the edge of the bay and the bulk of Frothy Rock: named after the tantalising summit that’s almost insurmountable because of crashing white waves during a storm swim, and which marks the boundary between Carsaig Bay and the Sound of Jura. Today it was a huge mountain range set out of the water (I exaggerate, of course, but from sea level, even one or two metres looks quite high): it was quite a scramble to reach the peak and look back to the calm waters of the bay, and out to the gentle but persistent swell in the Sound of Jura. Here we found a few periwinkles and some pretty limpets with their jagged saw-edged shells. The reef extends further across the entrance to the bay, today with its banks of kelp sticking out of the water. On we went, across to this jungle of thick branches moving about in the swell, finding that here we could also stand on the semi-submerged anchoring rocks … unusual to be able to “walk on water” on the outer reaches of the bay. The kelp is thick and leathery but already new growth of Dulse is evident, and the flavour of this crunchy pepper-like snack was rich, salty and fresh. You have to remember though to chew and then swallow when your face is above water for fear of swallowing more sea water than anticipated.
As well as the Dulse, we spotted an edible sea urchin tucked into a crevice, and a snakelock anemone. All of this enhanced by the background of Pink Paint Weed: a light pinky-white calcified seaweed encrusting the rocks. The forest kelp posed quite a challenge for swimming: breast stroke left you stranded in amongst the branches, and the front crawl was a struggle as you hauled yourself through … but that’s all part of the fun, until you beach yourself on a half-hidden rock. The best way to launch back into the Sound seemed to be feet first, on your back and supported by the branches, leaving you wallowing as if in the bath. There was the inevitable healthy dose of giggling as we bobbed around like corks.
By now it was time to make our way back towards the jetty, reflecting on the relative calm today, in stark contrast to the turbulence during our winter storm swims. A light easterly had blown up so the return swim was more bouncy; we went back via the first reef to harvest some Pepper Dulse for lunch and to gather some Sea Beech, Siphoned Fan Weed and Northern Tooth Weed for Lottie to press for her art work … then onwards to the inner reef to complete our Three Peaks Swim. The metal pole was high up out of the water, and … there we were, one equinox on from the last Tuesday evening swim of 2015, bracing ourselves for another spring and summer season of long light evenings.
I’m not sure if it was eating the seaweed or clambering onto the three peaks and then bobbing about in the swell, but I felt completely energised that afternoon! Oh no, wait, it was the extra coffee that I had when I got home … A combination of all of the above, I think!
Buoyed by that seaweedy swim, a few of us met here again for our regular Sunday morning swim, this time armed with a snorkel. The ebbing tide wasn’t as low as on Friday, but that didn’t stop us standing ankle deep in water out in the bay, and resting on the benign Frothy Rock. The seaweed was more lively for being covered, especially the Coral Weed whose fronds were dancing in the water.
On a stunning Spring day the Danna Dooker and myself swam with seals in the Sound of Jura. With the snow dusted Paps of Jura in the far distance, we immersed ourselves in the glacial waters and glided towards a group of seals. They found us rather interesting and five of them followed with curious expressions, both seals and swimmers keeping a respectful distance! In the stillness we could hear various snorts, gasps and splashes, with occasional echoes of Ewan calling “there’s one right behind you!”. Beautiful creatures and a beautifully scenic and peaceful swim.
The following weekend our talented sculptor/swimmer Melanie joined us, bringing with her a little Silkie friend to have her photograph taken before going to Outback Art Gallery on Islay. Carved with skill and patience from limestone, she is quite exquisite. But weighing in at nearly 60kg it took all of Melanie’s strength to carry her down to the jetty for the photo session. Getting her back to the car involved much huffing and puffing and a good deal of giggling from Melanie. Silkie being safely esconced in the car, we continued with our swim.
- Autumn colours
- Away swims
- Awesome swims
- Club swims
- Daft stuff
- Holiday swims
- Hot tub
- Isle of Coll
- Isle of Colonsay
- Open Water Training
- Picnic swims
- Quick stuff
- River swims
- Silver Strand
- Standing stones
- Storm swims
- Sublime swims
- Sunny swims
- Swim Safaris
- The Swift Swimmer
- Winter swims
- Winter training swims