Posted by: wildswimmers | July 18, 2016

Dreaming of being a sea gypsy

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?

 

Posted by: wildswimmers | June 22, 2016

Awesome swimming on Oronsay

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.

Oronsay beach

View from Colonsay to Jura

Turquoise waters

Perfect

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.

Our beach

Looking north

Over to Jura

Sun patterns

Watching the tide come in

Ailsa

An eccentric person

Perfection

Posted by: wildswimmers | May 29, 2016

Circumnatation Insulae Carsaig

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.

Sound of Jura

Sound of Jura

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.

 

Ros Beag, Lottie at the helm

Ros Beag, Lottie at the helm

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.

Carsaig Island

Carsaig Island

The swimmers set off.

The swimmers set off.

Dannach the dog watches

Dannach the dog watches

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!

The yoga master

The yoga master

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.

 

 

Posted by: wildswimmers | May 17, 2016

Wonderful swimming

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).

 

Posted by: wildswimmers | March 28, 2016

Equipment overdose

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!!!!

Colourful costumes

Pink flip flaps, Loch Sween

Zingy goggles

Wardrobe 2013

This is all you really need……

Iona

Posted by: wildswimmers | March 19, 2016

Three Peaks Swim by The Danna Dooker

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.

 

Posted by: wildswimmers | March 7, 2016

Seal swims and sculptures

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.

Posted by: wildswimmers | February 24, 2016

Wild Island – lovely new book

Thrilled today to receive my copy of Jane Smith’s new book “Wild Island – a year in the Hebrides”.  Jane is a plucky winter swimmer and talented film-maker and artist.  Check out the link for more info about her lovely book, which features her original and colourful images of nature on Oronsay.

 
Cax3gUMXEAA2OpI

Posted by: wildswimmers | January 30, 2016

Great Fun in Storm Gertrude

Fabulous fun in Storm Gertrude yesterday!  Terrific pics by Captain Duggie and Lottie capture the action…

Posted by: wildswimmers | January 25, 2016

January swims (by the Danna Dooker)

January has been good for wild swimming so far, enhanced yesterday by a swim at Carsaig Bay.

While it might be a few months yet until the water temperature starts to rise – and there will undoubtedly be a cold spell before then to cool it off some more – the light has certainly started to return. And so have the wild swimmers, with three group swims this year (and numerous others in between by Lottie and Iona).

P1220271

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P1220266

We started off the New Year at Scotnish picnic tables and an exhilarating dash across Caol Scotnish, round the point and along to Starfish Bay.

Next up was an icy swim at Dun Mhuirich. Linne Mhuirich is a favourite summer and autumn swim spot because it’s always slightly warmer, being more brackish than the sea; but this rule is naturally reversed in the winter. Plus it was raining. Raining hard. One of those times when you get wetter out of the water than in it (particularly if you left your towel out on the grass while swimming!). Icy was the word on everyone’s numb lips that day, but we soon warmed up with soup and cake in Tayvallich Coffee Shop (while Duggie warmed up with a bracing be-wetsuited cycle back along the road).

Then, this weekend, back to the old favourite of Carsaig Bay, with a particularly low tide. And, as with all the swims this year, another turnout of more than half a dozen. As we immersed ourselves and moved out and round Hans’s fishing boat and the first reef, there was a gentle but significant swell moving across the bay. Lottie called for a swim out to a usually deeply submerged reef that’s just in from Frothy Rock. The swell over the top of it was a bit sharper as we approached, but it took a little time to find the rock to stand on. In the meantime Melanie shrieked with concern as a selkie tried to take her to the underworld. I think we each in turn shrieked or screamed as the thick leather-like seaweed caught our ankles. But eventually we found the weed-free bit of the reef and tried to balance knee deep in water.

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So, with the days starting to get noticeably longer, there are many sunny swims to look forward to … and we know how much winter sunshine can lift the spirits both in the water and while getting changed. Plus, of course, now is also one of the best seasons to be in the sea: there will be no jellyfish for a long time yet!

(Pics by Captain Duggie and Iona)

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