This week we welcomed Mark, a lone swimmer from our village, and here’s his epic account of his initiation into the exploits of the Sound of Jura Swimming Club:
I’d been sea swimming for 3 months – ploughing my lonely way back and forth across the sea loch in front of my house, charting the same course every day across flat, sheltered water between the village septic tank outfall to the east and the few remaining raw sewage pipes entering the bay to the west. It was still exhilarating; compulsive even; but not exactly fun. I’d heard of the crazy wild swimmers from the west side with their multi-person expeditions and brightly coloured hats, but was sure that my way was the best, in my elite club of one, over on the east side.
Then one day after I’d returned from another swim (or jobbie dodging as my family like to call it) I watched “Assault on Frothy Rock”, the video of the wild swimmers’ latest adventure in rough seas and white water out west. The water bore no resemblance to my sea on the east side; it was a wild, turquoise-blue maelstrom. It looked more like surviving than swimming. But the thing that struck me most was that, even over the banging music track, I could hear the constant sound of laughter; manic, joyous laughter. “Well” I thought, “this looks like…….fun!”
One phone call later and Lottie had generously invited me over to join her, Iona & Duggie for another assault on Frothy Rock.
And so a couple of hours later here we all are on Carsaig pier, Duggie and I in our wetsuits, Iona and Lottie elegant in their swimsuits and colourful hats. The wind is a brisk south westerly, with short choppy whitecaps lit by the low winter sun out in the bay, a world away from poo soup over on the east side. Adrenalin is present. And then we’re off, heading straight out west into the waves toward the reef at the entrance to the bay. My brain is in overdrive; breathe in, splutter on a mouthful of sea spray, stroke, breathe out, splutter, stroke, choke. Then after a while I begin to time the breathing with the waves and things calm down a bit. I look around to see Lottie, Iona and Duggie whooping with the exhilaration of it all, lost in a moving landscape of froth and sunshine. A little further out, starting to get the hang of it, Iona shouts and points upwards to the sky. A sea eagle is silhouetted black against the blue, its broad wings holding it above us in the stiff breeze. Perhaps we look like a disaster waiting to happen and it sees a potential meal! But a few seconds later and it’s away north up the coast in search of easier food.
Iona and Lottie began to feel the cold a bit sooner than the wetsuit brigade and after 20 minutes or so turn back to the pier. I follow a way behind Duggie as he continues to Frothy Rock. Once there, we stand on a kelp covered rocky ledge surrounded by calm white water as the waves pound the west side of the rock but leave us untouched. And then the journey back, the waves now urging us on, me wondering how many gallons of sea water it’s possible to swallow and still float.
It all goes in a bit of a blur but back at Duggie & Lottie’s house, over a cup of delicious hot chocolate held in shaking hands, we recount the journey and fix it in our memories. Thanks to you crazy people from the west side, poo soup may be missing a floater from now on.
Photos by Duggie and Lottie; text by Mark Smith (thanks Mark, for a great post!).