Haven’t seen the film or read the book but I have done the swims! And boy am I glad those winter swims are OVER! We’ve swum in wind, hail, snow, ice, storms, sleet, rain, mist and fog. But suddenly, Spring is here! We’re being dazzled by sunshine and clear skies, and it’s a joy to swim in gorgeous green cool water and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Months of lovely swimming lie ahead and I, for one, am looking forward to it immensely. To celebrate I’ve been bidding on a vintage swimsuit on eBay…. fingers crossed!
Here’s two cartoons by my talented nephew Kelvin: the first one shows a scene from a recurring nightmare Lottie has about being chased up the road by the local Sheriff, after her morning swim, casting garments left and right in her haste to escape his ogling eyes. Thankfully this event has never happened in real life!
Next up is a happier scene in which Lottie and me (scoffing champagne) are luxuriating in the hot tub, while being towed along by Captain Duggie’s fishing boat, serenaded by seals. Again, this is just a dream!
Hear some of Kelvin’s music here, with his band “All the luck in the World”.
The Swift Swimmer is my 86 year old mum Eileen, who has loved swimming in the sea from childhood. Last summer she swam in the sea regularly, from our summer “bathing hut” – our tiny vintage caravan, parked by the beach. In September she was struck down by heart problems which resulted in 4 months of inactivity and ill health. She ended up being pushed around the house in a wheelchair, breathless and anxious. Happily she’s now on the mend and determined to get fit for the summer swimming season. With this aim she has started training gently in our local pool where they run a terrific hydrotherapy session, with skilled and attentive staff who are very encouraging and kind. She’s coming on slowly but surely and we’re very proud of her. Well done the Swift sea-going octogenarian Swimmer!
January – the grimmest month for winter swimmers is OVER! Having spent most of the month asleep I was pleased that I still managed to achieve 23 swims out of 31 days. This is the month when willpower really matters and teeth have to be well and truly gritted to get into the water. On the plus side we had some terrific storms swims, culminating in Saturday’s nutty Sound of Jura “sprachle” which involved taking Capt Duggie’s yacht out into the Sound of Jura and throwing ourselves off into 80m of green and white wave topped water. This was a new experience which required much forward planning (by the captain) and an immense quantity of neoprene, warm clothes and (of course) food. Seeing the yacht pitching and rearing up out of the water from close quarters was certainly eye-opening! Having practised getting back into the dingy before setting off, it proved to be slightly more difficult while being bashed by waves and I ended up getting clonked on the head and shoved underwater while righting the dingy (Duggie found this most amusing). I bounced up pretty quickly and we got back on board, had the usual battle with our wetsuits and swiftly moved on to my favourite part: scoffing hearty bacon sandwiches, hot juice and home made gingerbread cake. See a wee video here:
This week we welcomed Mark, a lone swimmer from our village, and here’s his epic account of his initiation into the exploits of the Sound of Jura Swimming Club:
I’d been sea swimming for 3 months – ploughing my lonely way back and forth across the sea loch in front of my house, charting the same course every day across flat, sheltered water between the village septic tank outfall to the east and the few remaining raw sewage pipes entering the bay to the west. It was still exhilarating; compulsive even; but not exactly fun. I’d heard of the crazy wild swimmers from the west side with their multi-person expeditions and brightly coloured hats, but was sure that my way was the best, in my elite club of one, over on the east side.
Then one day after I’d returned from another swim (or jobbie dodging as my family like to call it) I watched “Assault on Frothy Rock”, the video of the wild swimmers’ latest adventure in rough seas and white water out west. The water bore no resemblance to my sea on the east side; it was a wild, turquoise-blue maelstrom. It looked more like surviving than swimming. But the thing that struck me most was that, even over the banging music track, I could hear the constant sound of laughter; manic, joyous laughter. “Well” I thought, “this looks like…….fun!”
One phone call later and Lottie had generously invited me over to join her, Iona & Duggie for another assault on Frothy Rock.
And so a couple of hours later here we all are on Carsaig pier, Duggie and I in our wetsuits, Iona and Lottie elegant in their swimsuits and colourful hats. The wind is a brisk south westerly, with short choppy whitecaps lit by the low winter sun out in the bay, a world away from poo soup over on the east side. Adrenalin is present. And then we’re off, heading straight out west into the waves toward the reef at the entrance to the bay. My brain is in overdrive; breathe in, splutter on a mouthful of sea spray, stroke, breathe out, splutter, stroke, choke. Then after a while I begin to time the breathing with the waves and things calm down a bit. I look around to see Lottie, Iona and Duggie whooping with the exhilaration of it all, lost in a moving landscape of froth and sunshine. A little further out, starting to get the hang of it, Iona shouts and points upwards to the sky. A sea eagle is silhouetted black against the blue, its broad wings holding it above us in the stiff breeze. Perhaps we look like a disaster waiting to happen and it sees a potential meal! But a few seconds later and it’s away north up the coast in search of easier food.
Iona and Lottie began to feel the cold a bit sooner than the wetsuit brigade and after 20 minutes or so turn back to the pier. I follow a way behind Duggie as he continues to Frothy Rock. Once there, we stand on a kelp covered rocky ledge surrounded by calm white water as the waves pound the west side of the rock but leave us untouched. And then the journey back, the waves now urging us on, me wondering how many gallons of sea water it’s possible to swallow and still float.
It all goes in a bit of a blur but back at Duggie & Lottie’s house, over a cup of delicious hot chocolate held in shaking hands, we recount the journey and fix it in our memories. Thanks to you crazy people from the west side, poo soup may be missing a floater from now on.
Photos by Duggie and Lottie; text by Mark Smith (thanks Mark, for a great post!).
Our most exciting and arduous storm swim yet took place a few days ago when we swam out to Frothy Rock, fully wet-suited. I hadn’t realised how tiring it would be to swim in a wetsuit and was pretty tired out by the time I got there. With a full Westerly blowing in and big waves breaking, we were keen to get onto the rock; this proved almost impossible! It took all my energy to swim against the current, but Capt. Duggie advised a sideways approach and I managed it on my sixth attempt. Clinging on like large black limpets, we enjoyed the sensation of being in a car-wash, with lorry loads of water being dumped on top of us as the waves broke relentlessly. Ever resourceful, Capt. Duggie had fashioned a little boat to mount his Go-Pro on, which he towed behind him to get some great video. You can see it here:
Thanks Duggie for the use of the video and to Lottie and Duggie for chumming me on this fun swim!
We’ve been keenly anticipating this “Weather Bomb”, forecast widely for the past few days. Scary looking graphs and diagrams indicated massive waves and terrific squalls of wind. During the night the wind increased to a howling gale and so, mid morning, the hardy group gathered for our Weather Bomb Dip. The Polar Bear was the only un-wet-suited swimmer – full marks to him for bravery. We were lucky to get a superb sunny spell, with white wave tops and spray and deep green water and we spent fully half an hour in a sort of giant washing machine type situation, shrieking and yelling with exhilaration. Capt. Duggie disappeared almost out into the Sound of Jura, and returned only when the rest of us were back at the house, dressed and half way through a giant box of biscuits won by the Polar Bear at the local Co-Op. Just before dusk Iona and Lottie (both on a sugar high) crazily decided to take a second dip, which was dark, dramatic and ever so slightly daring!