Posted by: wildswimmers | June 3, 2018

Watch out for rent-a-crowd!

The doggies and I had a beautiful walk the other day, wandering through the wonderful May profusion of new growth.  I hadn’t planned to swim, but the morning was so perfect and we were at the far side of the bay.  So I disrobed down to my underwear and slid into the cool green waters of the Sound of Jura.

The swim was sublime and the doggies watched patiently while I floated serenely and in due course emerged, refreshed and calm.  I thought I’d take off the wet underwear and dry off using my T-shirt when all of a sudden a fleet of kayakers hove into view, coming closer and closer.  Shortly thereafter a large family of people and dogs appeared from nowhere, all shouting and barking noisily, and waving fishing nets and buckets and spades.  Within moments I was surrounded by dozens of people and, in a great panic, had no choice but to shove on my clothes on top of the wet underwear.  Most discomfiting, but it could have been worse – I often swim even more informally!

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Posted by: wildswimmers | April 25, 2018

Ticking off ten years!

Ten years ago today I took my first few scary and tentative strokes as a cold water “swimsuit only” swimmer, inspired by my friend Lottie, as I was keen to shake off some city stress.  Well it certainly did the trick and (like so many people) I loved it immediately and have kept on swimming year-round for ten years!  I now feel part of an accepting and inclusive group of friendly and brave people and have made lasting connections and friendships.  I’ve swum the Corryvreckan, competed in the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships (twice) and found new joys in storm swimming, swim safaris, hot tub swims, mindful swims and swims with wonderful wild animals – seals, otters and beavers!  The only swims I’m not so keen on are hailstorm swims – stingy and painful! I swim mostly alone and also with the Sound of Jura Swimmers – a dedicated group of hardy individuals.

I thought I’d post a few of my favourite pics (of myself!!) to mark the occasion of my 60th year of life and 10th year of swimming – and to say thank you to Lottie for getting me swimming – everyone should try it!

An Irish adventure being photographed by Caroline Darcy

 

Underwater antics

 

The Faerie Isles

 

Pic by Mary-Lou Aitchison

 

Self portrait

 

Starfish Bay

 

Oronsay – my favourite location

 

Colonsay – Kiloran Bay

 

Storm swim with Lottie

Winning a prize for slowest swimmer in endurance competition

Posted by: wildswimmers | January 18, 2018

An extremely cruel swim

January has brought some cruel swimming conditions – icy wind chill, frost, wind and, worst of all, hail.  Yesterday was the most daunting of all, when we were caught in a brutal hailstorm just as we walked down to the jetty, clad only in swimming costumes.  Assaulted by stinging and very painful whipping hailstones, we dispensed with any “faffing” and in fact couldn’t get into the water quick enough to escape being thrashed all over.  This was in complete contrast to our normal modus operandi, which involves various delaying tactics which put off the awful moment of immersion.  It was a relief to get in, although I was crazy enough to forget my hats (all three of them) and went in bare headed and without goggles.  I think the photos sum up what was, in Lottie’s words, “an extremely cruel swim”.  Of course we didn’t regret it as it only justified more greedy cake gobbling afterwards.

Posted by: wildswimmers | November 5, 2017

Autumn antics

On this stunningly beautiful autumn day four of the Sound of Jura swimmers (plus one dog) set out for a “frothy rock” swim – three wet-suited and one in a rather fetching striped 1920s style costume.

Dannach thinks about joining in

The tide today was one of the biggest of the year but our bay is very safe in terms of currents.  It was deliciously cool at first, and as we swam out into deeper water at the edge of the bay it got warmer and warmer!

Duggie surveys the Sound

Reaching frothy rock Duggie instructed us in seaweed identification and some swimmers even tasted several varieties – most educational.

Duggie and Martin observing seaweed

Martin (The Danna Dooker) swimming amidst the kelp

 

The majestic Paps of Jura

Captain Duggie powering home

Time to swim back and the warmth of the sun on our faces as we turned for home was really wonderfully welcome.  A roaring fire up at Duggie’s log cabin home awaited the team – thanks Duggie!

Posted by: wildswimmers | October 27, 2017

Finally a sunshine swim!

A joyous day today, cold but sunny after a clear starlit night.  Five keen swimmers immersed themselves at Goose Point, a lovely spot at the head of Loch Scotnish, wonderful woods on all sides.  After weeks of rain and very little sun the water was shockingly cold.  Lifting our faces to the sun, we took in masses of vitamin D, and felt very happy swimming along, after the first few excruciating minutes getting used to the cold.

Lottie, Martin and Melanie swam round Eilean na Circe (Hen Island), a tiny island with the ruins of a long forgotten dwelling.  There is a tradition in the neighbourhood that the “Laird of Ob” a few centuries ago with some of his retainers made use of this island as a place of refuge from some of the rival clans. The remains of a building which resembles that of a fort are distinctly visible.  The outer wall is strongly built; the inner part shows marked evidence of having been inhabited.  Nowadays there is a diverse population of beautiful lichen, a testament to the clarity and purity of the air here on the west coast of Scotland.

 

 

Posted by: wildswimmers | August 23, 2017

Danna Dooker conquers the Corryvreckan – guest post

We had a great swim last week from Jura to Scarba, across the fabled Gulf of Corryvreckan. There were five swimmers: Melanie, Rebecca, John, Martin W and me, (the Danna Dooker). Ali and Tony skippered Quack and Moon Raker respectively, and Rebecca’s son Joe was third in command.

Wednesday/Thursday of last week was the second window for the swim that Ali had earmarked for this “summer”. Earlier in August was not a goer, and last Wednesday the weather was also pretty awful with a depression bringing rain and high winds. The forecast for Thursday was touch and go, but Ali was prepared to give it a try, with the proviso that we might turn back. You have to get the tides spot on to swim across the Gulf at slack water, preferably during neap tides to maximise the 30 to 40 minute window of opportunity and to avoid getting drawn sideways before reaching the opposite shore.

Loch Craignish was pretty rough as we went out from Ardfern against the wind, and the Dorus Mor was also exciting. We almost turned back then because Moon Raker, the smaller of the two fast boats, was struggling.  Tony said that she was doing a lot of flying on the way down Loch Craignish because she doesn’t like short steep seas.

But, mid sea (and carefully!), we transferred one bod from Moon Raker to Quack and then went for it. Once at the Corryvreckan, the swell was pretty big, but steady, and with the tide slackening off Ali gave the nod to indicate that we were on. All very exciting, especially because we had auspicious porpoise sightings as we reached the Gulf.

The water was relatively warm as we leaped off the side of Quack and swam to the Jura shore for the start. To touch this side of the Gulf it was best to wait for the swell to take you up above the rocks and to then majestically land (standing hopefully) and wait for the next swell to lift you back off again to swim northwards towards the Scarba side… not so majestic for me as I scratched my ankle against the barnacle-covered rock.

There were no jellies to start and then singletons quite deep down, but a few more were seen nearer the surface on the Scarba side, including a pride (what is the collective noun for lion’s mane jellyfish?) of half a dozen or so at one point. The water got quite jabbly for the last third of the swim, making progress slow. And then I had to do a sudden 90 degree turn to avoid swimming into a jelly, but got to the other side in the end.

And just then the heavens opened. So it was a “dry” swim, but then we got drenched once back on the boats racing across to a sheltered bay on Jura for a well earned snack and chat. I was the only Corryvreckan newby, and am very pleased not to have been dragged down by the Hag Goddess of Winter (maybe a little too early in the year for her). Instead, the sightings of porpoise before and after the swim meant that we were in good company.

Thanks Martin for this great post and congratulations on your crossing!

Posted by: wildswimmers | July 26, 2017

My very own spa

What could be more perfect than a long cool tranquil sunset swim followed by a delicious soak in my hot tub, scented with wild rose petals and mint?

Posted by: wildswimmers | July 19, 2017

Summer sea spa by The Danna Dooker

This week’s club swim took place on a glorious evening of hot sunshine. Four of us walked down to the beaches on Danna, which is a small idyllic island linked by a tidal bridge to the main arm of the Taynish Peninsula in Argyll, flanked by Loch Sween on one side and the Sound of Jura on the other.  From here there are glorious views of the Paps of Jura.
Four of us swam across one of the bays and through a narrow gap, (a mini Taynish narrows), swooshing back through on the incoming tide. A very low tide meant we were very close to the swirling, dancing seaweed.
Because of two days of bright sunshine (almost unheard of in Argyll), the top of the water was very warm but quite cold below and it felt like being in a specially designed spa; as you took a stroke, the colder water moved up round your body, to be replaced again by the warm water again as you moved across the bay.
Posted by: wildswimmers | July 13, 2017

High Jinks on Easdale

Lovely guest blog-post by Ewan (one of the Danna Dippers).

A freak storm in 1881 created huge waves that inundated the quarries of Easdale, one of the Slate Islands in the Firth of Lorne. The floods filled the slate quarries with sea water and irretrievably submerged most of the quarriers’ tools and equipment. It was the death knell of an already declining industry, which dwindled until the last slates were cut on a commercial scale in 1911.  The ponds created by the storm are now a swimmer’s haven, still and calm like infinity pools against the billowing swells of the Atlantic waves that break on the rocks a few metres away.

In a disappointing summer after the early promise of a sunny May, a rare day of warm sun was a blessing for our trip to Easdale. The fresh wind of the morning had swung round by our afternoon start, bringing welcome warmer air to complement the sunshine as we crossed the Bridge Over the Atlantic to the Island of Seil.

The party of three slowly grew to seven, and then ten, before we were joined by the eleventh and last arrival as we walked down the ramp at the harbour wall to board the small ferry for the three-minute journey across to Easdale.

On Easdale, the broken slate underfoot chinked like wind-chimes as we walked to the pools. The water was a chalky deep blue in the sunlight: too tempting even for me, the most reluctant of swimmers. So used are we to freshwater pools that the salt water came as a surprise despite the knowledge that the pool had been created by the sea. Another surprise was the water temperature: pleasantly bearable. The younger members of the group had great fun jumping from the high rocks, the impact as they hit the water echoing like a thunderclap against the sheer sides of the old quarry.

 

 

Their antics were a contrast to the serenity of the progress of the other swimmers as they rounded the quarry, with its dramatic views of sea and other islands: Seil behind giving way to Luing dotted with white houses; the bulk of Scarba and Jura to the south; the Garvellachs silhouetted against the low slate-grey smudge of Colonsay on the western horizon; and the blue mountains of Mull to the northwest.

After we enjoyed a picnic in the sun, the lure of the water was so strong that a few swimmers took the plunge again before we caught the ferry homewards.  A wonderful day for a unique swimming spot.

Posted by: wildswimmers | June 21, 2017

Magical Midsummer Night Walk

Last night I did a magical midsummer nightwalk in the lush temperate rainforest here in Argyll.  It’s something I’ve dreamed of doing since reading “Nightwalk” by Chris Yates while waiting for the Colonsay ferry some years ago.  I didn’t really expect anything specially exciting to happen.  But it did.  The evening was warm and very calm.  Windless.  Perfect for this type of expedition.

I took nothing with me, wishing to walk simply and unencumbered by rucksacks, torches, flasks and the like.  Just myself, walking in the dark.  I left the house about midnight and made my way quietly through the village and soon experienced my first mysterious noise from nature – high up in the majestic trees by the village hall – a strange creaking bird call, like a rusty door hinge, repeated many times by at least two birds.  I stood very still, puzzling as to what type of bird would make this call, which I had never heard before.  I’ve since been told it would be a tawny owl and its mate, calling to each other.

Leaving the road I plunged into the darkness of the woods, following the path which gleamed dimly white, often nearly overbalancing as I tried to get used to not utilising sight to assist with balance.  (Next day every muscle in my legs ached, from suddenly being pressed into service).  Dim shapes moved – deer?  Rustlings from the thick bracken made me start.  But I saw nothing.  Until I broke through the tree cover high up on the ridge and looked north.

I was stunned by the breathtaking beauty of the dark islands, the brightly shimmering Sound of Jura and the dark stain of pink to the far north, where the sun was lying low beyond the horizon.  Even amidst this wilderness there were signs of civilisation, regular and comforting blinks of light from the lighthouses at Skervuile and Rudha Sgeir, tiny but vital.  I sat awhile in the stillness.  A strange whispering of the trees precluded an isolated, fresh and powerful gust of wind.  Then, again, stillness.  Moving onto the very top of the hill, I walked further to a viewpoint.  Southwards the visibility was poor and I was about to turn back when a ghostly white apparition soared past!  A barn owl.  Utterly silent, it moved through the dark air, disappearing into the trees.  Spellbound I waited.  It returned suddenly out of nowhere and came unexpectedly and rather alarmingly close, circling several times about six feet above my head.  I’ve heard about owls gouging out people’s eyes and raised my hands to protect my face, just in case.  Having inspected me carefully, the owl faded away into the night.  It was an unsettling but rather wonderful encounter.   I turned for home.

 

On passing the village hall the tawny owls were still in full voice.  I stopped to drink sweet fresh water from the village well and stepped into the unwelcome glare of the street lights.  The spell was broken.

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