Fabulous fun in Storm Gertrude yesterday! Terrific pics by Captain Duggie and Lottie capture the action…
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).
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.
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)
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.
Days of torrential rain gave way to a bright stormy day which seemed perfect for a bouncy swim out to Frothy Rock.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
- 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