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.

 
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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).

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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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Posted by: wildswimmers | December 30, 2015

Hot tub whisky race by guest blogger Jane

Here’s a lovely guest post by Jane Smith, one of our wonderful swimming artists, describing her first experience of the now infamous annual hot tub winter swim-party extravaganza!  Thanks Jane! 

“What a fantastic day for a swim” beamed Dougie as we arrived at Carsaig. I would have suspected any other person of sarcasm, but not Dougie. For him, the wilder the weather the better. We had been invited to the Mid Argyll Wild Swimmers’ hot tub solstice party, and were delivering a pile of firewood to heat the tub. I pressed my freezing hands to the tub’s chimney as a cold wind whipped in from the Sound of Jura. The water takes four hours to heat, and as we stoked the fire, Iona came to my rescue with hot tea.

Several years ago I would have said that wild swimming was not for me. I have no natural insulation, and spend most of the winter (and some of this summer too) in hat and thermals. However, impressed by the enthusiasm and hardiness of the swimmers, and intrigued by the shouts of glee coming from the water, I have started to dip in a metaphorical toe, and am discovering what fun it is.

Dougie had tied a bottle of whisky to the bow of his fishing boat which was plunging up and down in the waves off-shore. When the other hardy swimmers arrived, many of them in swimming costumes despite the temperature, he proposed a race, the winner having to retrieve the bottle and swim with it back to shore without being mugged. The prize being neither gin nor prosecco, Iona and I agreed to row the safety boat, and as it turned out, we were glad we had no interest in the bottle’s contents. Although the whisky was retrieved from the boat, some shoddy throwing meant that it sank to the bottom of the sea.

The swimmers managed to shrug off this disaster, heading back to the shore and the warm embrace of the now-steaming tub. Iona and I set off for our swim, she in an elegant swimsuit, me in top to toe neoprene. The buoyancy of my wetsuit meant that in order to appreciate the scenery (stormy sky, brisk waves and foaming breakers on the reef) I had to do a seahorse impersonation and swim along vertically. I resolved to become more hardy and my New Year’s resolution is to immerse myself more fully in wild swimming.

The occupants of the hot tub made room for us, and we were plied with food from the sea. Dougie had dived for scallops, and cooked them on the coals. Lottie added some fried dulse that she had collected from the shore, and as the moon rose we luxuriated in the warm water and pleasant company. Food was constantly proffered at my elbow – Maltesers and home made stollen for dessert – what more could anyone want?

Thank you so much everyone, not only for such a magical evening, but for your encouragement through the year. I would never have dreamt that I could swim in the sea in December waves, but now I’m looking forward to a new year of swimming adventures.

Posted by: wildswimmers | December 6, 2015

Rainbow storm swim

Days of torrential rain gave way to a bright stormy day which seemed perfect for a bouncy swim out to Frothy Rock.

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Atmospheric seascape

The top layer of fresh water was shockingly cold and despite wearing our “bouncy suits” (shortie wetsuits) we did feel a bit vulnerable.  Pretending to be brave we struck out for Frothy Rock, breasting the dark waves, tasting the fresh water each time we got a face-full of water.

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Swimming under the rainbow

A menacing squall appeared over Jura and we braced ourselves for the stinging rain.  It passed to the north and a wonderful rainbow appeared, spanning Mermaid Bay and gifting a special glow to the russet bracken-clad hills.

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Lottie touched by a rainbow

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Carrying on despite cold hands and feet, waves increasing in size and bouncyness, we reached the rock and managed to clamber on.  Our triumph lasted only a few seconds before we were washed off by big frothy waves, scratched and bleeding!

Surfing back we felt we were being pulled backwards by every wave, but there was nothing for it but to keep going, heading for the red dingy by the jetty.

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“The Unsinkable”

After this “icy but thrilling” swim (as Lottie described it) we sprinted home to a roaring log fire and warm dogs to cuddle.  A challenging swim for my 100th post!

Posted by: wildswimmers | October 31, 2015

Beautiful Bunty

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!!

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