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.