Sunday 13th August
Still tired from yesterday and really didn’t feel like going out again. But the forecast was good, no rain. The conditions were set to get worse over the next week and we weren’t sure when we’d be able to get back in the water. Also, it being a Sunday, the Manorbier artillery range would definitely not be firing.
With the sea higher I could now see why it’s called Church Doors – there’s a great door-way in the rocks.
Not many on the beach today. Not yet. Some were waiting for the tide to go out.
After yesterday’s choppiness, I was wondering what it would be like going round Old Castle Head, stuck out there on a limb. Bit concerned, but the sun was out which always helps, and I had Russ in my mind saying ‘you’ll smash it’.
Swam out of the bay and across Skrinkle Haven where two jet skiers were pausing. Dan kept close to me for that bit and then he was off unraveling his fishing lines.
Around the headland, it was choppy again, the water undecided about what it was doing but I was determined to enjoy it. So I watched the seabirds, skimming over the water; a cormorant lifting up and flying to a rock to dry itself; seagulls low over my head. Birds sitting on long ledges looking out to sea as though they were watching a show at the theatre.
One of the problems I find with the choppiness, is losing my sense of direction. It’s very disorientating. The waves can spin you around and you find you’re actually going backwards. Swimming close to the shore helps; concentrating on something nearby to gauge progress and swimming towards something visible.
So, there I am, focused on a grimy looking buoy, heading closer and closer, till I realise it’s not a buoy and it’s looking directly at me.
I came face to face with a seal, its head out of the water just like mine, only mine was a bright yellow beacon saying ‘come and eat me’. Yes… I freaked out. I felt so vulnerable.
Just after Dan took this picture, I called him to come closer; not sure exactly how he was meant to protect me, but I just thought I could leap into the boat if the seal started getting aggressive. But instead of coming closer, he laughed and told me there was another seal on the other side. Thanks Dan. [This was brought up later in the ‘debriefing’ 😉 ]
The seals were fine. Just curious. And actually it was incredible to be in the water so close to them. There was something mysterious, nostalgic, primitive about being out in the sea with these huge animals and with ‘apparently’ no support boat J)
After that, around the head of Old Castle Head, it all got very choppy. The wind picked up and it was really tough going.
I’ve been trying to record the swims with a GPS tracker but without much luck. It keeps packing up half way through – maybe it loses signal? One thing it does is it pauses when you stop swimming. Around the head, although I was swimming and swimming, it kept pausing because I was being pushed back by the water. It was demoralizing. I inched along around the head, till I could see the yellow sands of Presipe. Still a long way off, but it showed some progress at least.
I was relieved to see people on the beach. I’d been worried there was no path up to the top, and couldn’t face the thought of swimming on to Manorbier (another 2km). With the beach and people in sight, it all felt better.
The psychology of it absorbs me – so much is in the mind. The motivation, the demoralization. I am fascinated by how much power the mind has over the body, our energy levels, our moods, our ability to go on.
I must have been gradually moving closer to the shore, as suddenly, I spotted sand ripples at the bottom and could see my progress moving fast over them. And then the waves pushing me into the shore, onto an amazing sandy beach – virtually secluded – and a steep windy track up to the top.
We were both woozy. 2km in 1.5 hours.
At first I didn’t feel cold, but then it kicked in, I got Anna’s hand knitted bobble hat on and we walked up the steps and back to the café at Manorbier YHA for a stomach settling pepsi.
My body was still swaying two days later.