Updated: Mar 1, 2020
There is definitely a sense of safety in numbers when it comes to sea swimming adventures. Being alone in that vast wild space can make you feel very small and vulnerable. The solitude can be exhilerating and cathartic but also daunting and obstructive. That feeling of aloneness and insecurity often stops me swimming into wilder, unknown waters. My sense of self preservation has always been high, I’m not one for rollercoasters and bungee jumping.
However, today my wonderfully wild and fearless friend Anna is visiting Bryher and she soon has me swimming out of Great Par, past the rocks of Point of Bar, and through the Merrick Island Neck.
The day is overcast, the sea a steely, deep blue. No dancing sunbeams to distract the mind. As the sea grass, long, green and flowing, reaches up from out of the deep gloom to grab at my limbs, my imagination sparks and a rising feel of panic takes hold. I am caught in a tidal pull of my own making, to swim on and explore or return to the known safety of the shore.
We stop, breathe, take in the world around us. Anna encourages me to continue, so with some inner words of gentle persuation we swim on.
A group of rocks, part of Merrick Island, loom out of the sea, breaking the surface around which the sea swirls and rolls. Up we clamber, clinging to the harsh, sharp granite studded with limpet and barnacles.
A sense of elation and relief floods through me. Once more into the swell, floating like corks, we swim across to a larger stack of rock. I am now enjoying this, the rise and fall of the swell over the rocks, the waving weeds and the freedom of swimming from one tiny landmass to another.
We rest upon the rocks, like the gulls and shags around us, wings overstretched in the warm air. The swirling waters froth and slap around our feet, there’s not another soul insight. Anna describes it perfectly, “out at sea, upon these rocks, we are not mum or writer, wife or worker. It is just you, the sea, the rock.” Four hundred metres from shore and we feel like we are in another world.
A steady swim back to the bay and we leave behind a special place. I’m already yearning to explore some more, just maybe not on my own.