Just before Christmas, Hugo and I had a rather large scare in the stormy seas off Burgh Island (https://wildwomanswimming.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/a-cautionary-tale-peaks-and-troughs-off-burgh/). A week later I wimped out of attempting another circumnavigation in perfectly swimmable if rather large seas. Since then, when Burgh came up I’ve been otherwise engaged, or it’s been cancelled. Then JJ, a safe, super-fit and adventurous wing man on some of our more exciting swims, died in the sea, close to the shore, while on an otherwise unremarkable swim; a considerable chunk of my derring-do immediately vanished beneath the waves. Consequently the whole Burgh thing has become a bit of a bogeyman for me. Aquatic Ape picked this up after our extended chat yesterday, and suggested we should swim around Burgh this morning on the middle of the ebb tide.
It’s a stunning and breezy day of sunshine and a bit of a Burgh swell from the south west. As we set off the sea warms and we clear the easterly reef safely. I feel strangely distant and misty and almost short of breath as my body expresses the previously subconscious psychological whirlpool in my head. I had only met AA virtually before yesterday, on account of our blogging relationship. But wild swimmers somehow become instantaneous friends and I could not have wished for a better companion. He’s a faster and fitter swimmer than I am, and he stops and waits for me now and again, chats, takes a few photos, and is just there, without being too close. He says if either of us were to get into trouble, there’s not a lot the other could do in any case!
We reach the entrance to what AA calmly calls ‘the channel’ which we locals more dramatically refer to as ‘Death Valley’. It’s quite churny and I begin to feel the old Burgh magic as we forge through, adjusting for the direction of the swell, lost buoyancy and rocks. Then we’re specks below the cliffs, sheltered from the waves and swimming in slow motion above and below the surface, seeing red and pink and green weeds wave in the submarine breeze.
We stop as we leave the channel, where the reef is scattered with pointed rocks. These appear and partly disappear as the waves crash into them. I try to suggest we should swim out away from the rocks, but AA is having none of it, so through the reef we go. I feel short of breath and internally shaky again, but am soon swimming with full concentration and watching ahead and beneath for the skin graters, until we are spat out into the swell. We bob for a bit, then work our way back in. I feel amazing.
Thank you Aquatic Ape.
And thanks too for the photos; my formerly trusty and well-battered underwater camera has sprung a leak.