Our little tiny 1970s caravan “Bunty” was bought on eBay – the best £600 we’ve ever spent! She’s the perfect size for short holidays and very easy to tow. Mostly we use her as a glorified beach hut and she sits happily at the beach for much of the summer, providing the perfect space for pre and post-swim changing, afternoon tea parties, late afternoon drinks and peaceful little snoozes. She is an ideal base for the Swift Swimmer, who can change in comfort, have cups of tea (and quite often a nap) when she spends the day at the beach. Recently we carried out some interior decorating; upholstery & curtains by Ailsa, basic paint & varnish work by me. Best of all, the final touches were expertly applied by the Polar Bear, who used the technique of tole painting (the folk art of decorative painting) to embellish the wooden panels on the cupboard doors. We’re thrilled with the result and think this makes her quite unique – 10 feet of perfection!!
The sense of optimism was palpable. After last week’s perfect sunset swim in a flat calm Carsaig bay, with laughter, joy and waving hands silhouetted against a backdrop of Jura, this week it was dull, overcast and definitely twilight. At this time of year, a week (and the weather) makes a big difference for the 6.30pm swim.
But I think that “optimism” is a trait of wild swimmers. When I joked that we should perhaps have quit last week on the upper of a perfect sunset swim, the retorts came flying: “At least it’s not very windy,” said Lottie, as my scarf was whipped round by a gust. “I like swimming in the rain,” said Melanie as the drizzle gradually turned to a downpour. “The worst part is waiting around … it’s better just to get in,” said Fraser. And Iona pointed out how enthusiastic little Daisy the dog was to come and join in the fun. “It’s great swimming in the dark,” I added, not wanting to be left out.
It felt as though we were clasping at straws … and, unusually, there was a sense that on this occasion no one wanted to get into the water at all. It’s the dread before going in that’s the worst on a dull and chilly evening, but, once you’re in, the water is smooth, silky and enveloping (and numbing, of course).
As we submerged ourselves we were bathed by car headlights as Diana rolled up. She bounded along the jetty and joined us, but not without contemplating the fact that most people were sitting warmly at home eating their tea.
So, it was to be a short swim. But still enough energy to go to the rock on the first reef (that’s about 50 metres away, so don’t get excited about our stamina, dear reader). The water had quite a pleasant swell, gently undulating up and down: a tantalising taster of the winter swims to come. The swell helped as Lottie and I clambered onto the rock, to feel the warm glow of the body as you stand out of the water before jumping back in.
With goggles, it was well nigh impossible to see the jetty (mine are tinted), and intriguingly you could see more with your head in the water than out: the sandy bottom must have been reflecting the last of the twilight. Time to get some night-vision goggles, perhaps!
Afterwards, it was a quick change in the rain and then we all bundled back to Iona’s wood-burning stove for a cup of tea, some savoury snacks, Iona’s delicious bramble crumble and Fraser’s excellent banana cake.
So, we’re now moving from weekday evening swims to weekend daytime swims, starting at Dun Mhuirich this Sunday. And I think we’re all looking forward to the call for the first storm swim! It probably won’t be long now!
My harvest supermoon skinny dip took place on a sublimely peaceful and magical evening. It was bright as day as I walked down to the sea, watched by sheep gazing out of the misty field. The glittering moonbeams across the bay were mesmerising to watch, the sea was warm and I felt quite safe in the shallow clear water. Later on we warmed up by doing some hula hooping, coached by my sister Ailsa, who wanted to try out her new LED hula hoop. ‘Twas an evening of interesting light effects!
This year all the Ordnance Survey maps are being re-branded with new cover photos and one of these (Jura & Scarba 355) features our very own Lottie Goodlet swimming the Sound of Jura against a backdrop of the famous Paps of Jura. This really puts wild swimming “on the map” in a big way. I can modestly tell you that I took the photo, but that was very easy compared to what Lottie did, swimming several miles across a strongly tidal stretch of water, dangerously close to the greatly-to-be-feared Gulf of Corryvreckan!
The new OS Explorer 1: 25 000 maps with mobile download included are available now.
The new Landranger 1: 50 000 maps will be available early next year.
We’ve had a terribly wet “summer” so far and I set off for my little swimming holiday fearing the worst. Most unexpectedly it was sunny every day for a week! I swam and swam in pristine blue waters, cycled madly around the island and ate tons of cake (my flat in Colonsay House was close to a cottage where cakes were sold 24/7 out of the porch!!!). It’s possible to walk from Colonsay to Oronsay at certain low tides. Craftily, I swam across at high tide, leaving the landlubbers behind, and thus had the whole island to myself, which was indeed idyllic. I had a lot of fun taking photos with my new Olympus Tough TG-850 waterproof camera, from which you can see the beautiful scenery, which words really cannot describe.
The Swift Swimmer has now mostly recovered from her recent illness and celebrated (naturally) by swimming! Towards the end of our rainy Scottish summer we have had several perfect days of sunshine and calm weather – perfect conditions for an 86-year-old to take to the seas – which she did THREE DAYS IN A ROW! We are all very proud of her.
We had a week on the Island of Coll recently – it’s unique in having 23 beaches, very rich and varied bird life and is also a Dark Sky Community.
Of course I was keen to try out a new swimming location and we chose a small jewel of a beach on the north west of the island. As we walked down to the beach we gazed out at the horizon – and could make out some of the Outer Hebrides faintly blue in the far distance. Daisy meanwhile had spotted a field of alpacas and couldn’t quite believe her eyes!
There were some quite big green noisy breakers coming in. A bit scary; and since I wasn’t sure about currents or tides I decided on a quick dip and frolic in the waves, keeping close to the shore to avoid being swept out to America. Walls of green water rose up, curled over, smashed me down, then fizzed and frothed along the white sand. Intervals of smaller waves while the sea rested, then a series of big shiny translucent monsters rolled in – and I ran for the shore!
Beautiful pink smooth rocks rose high at each side of the beach and having reluctantly finished my swim I climbed along these, sometimes lying down on a smooth hot rock to warm up. Between the colossal boulders lining the shore were crystal clear rock pools, which filled and frothed and foamed with each huge breaker – giant Atlantic Jacuzzis – which were so enticing that I plunged in and enjoyed the cool bubbly sensation, the pool being refreshed with every wave.
My sister Ailsa meanwhile practised her hooping skills against the fabulous backdrop, while the Swift Swimmer, recuperating from illness, watched from the sidelines.
For a quieter swim I chose Loch Breachacha, close to the two castles, which slopes very gradually and feels very safe and sheltered. There I had a long swim in the rain, and floated on my back, watching the Arctic Terns, which were feeding there; graceful birds like sharp little arrows. One decided it wanted me to leave and dive-bombed me repeatedly until I did!
We visited at midsummer, at which time the sky never darkens, and it is broad daylight until well past 11.00pm! Thus I’m planning a return visit in wintertime for a magical starlit swim.
Stuart recently took part in a training session at the National Swim Academy. Here’s his report:
Open Water Swim Training
National Swim Academy, Stirling University, 31 May 2015
The Intermediate Open-Water Swim Training held on the 31st May 2015 by Scottish Swimming was a good bite-size session which gave instruction and practice of a few good techniques for both understanding the difference between pool-swimming and open-water-swimming – such important differences which regular pool swimmers may not naturally think to consider, yet make a massive difference.
A technique such as sighting – literally, looking where you are going – is so common that it normally comes naturally to us all. In a swimming pool straight-line swimming is aided by the pool lanes, tiles, pool-edge, lighting, ceiling beams etc. but open-water doesn’t have any of these helpful markings. Being able to repeatedly look where you are going takes not only the knowledge that you have to check, but a simple (when practiced) new swim technique in order to be able to do so without breaking your stroke, and therefore keeping up momentum and rhythm.
Other techniques such as drafting other swimmers (literally swimming close behind them) to benefit from lessened water resistance and thus improved stroke efficiency (less effort), also help make swimming (in pool or loch) physically easier.
In the end, anything which helps swimmers improve their open water swimming ability is only going to make the prospect of entering freezing cold water far less daunting, and possibly more enjoyable.
Stuart Campbell, Mid Argyll Wild Swimmers
Scottish Swimming has a programme of other adult coached sessions coming up for people who would like to get involved in swimming.
The swim series includes three open water events over the summer:
- Saturday 6th June at the Helix Lagoon, Falkirk,
- Saturday 11th July at Knockburn Sports Loch near Banchory
- Sunday 23rd August at Loch Lomond
Local, weekly coached sessions are available and listed on the website: www.scottishswimming.com
- 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