Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Wind WNW and gusty. Air temp 9°
The rhythms of our lives, of islanders lives, are dictated by the tide. The channel that sits between Tresco and Bryher, and flows into the Roads, the deep channel between these two off islands and St Marys, is crisscrossed by long stretches of golden sandbanks. When the tide is low enough these sandbanks make it impassable for boats, even low enough to be able to walk across the channel. The tides are, in turn, dictated by the moon. At the moment it is a waxing crescent which I believe….although I am by no means an expert…..tobe the first phase, a thin sliver of a moon. What I do know is that the tide is becoming deeper at high tide and lower at low tide, with a greater tidal current.
In practical terms these tides restrict boating. Today is Thursday, shopping day, where off islanders travel down to the main island of St Marys for supplies and to meet with friends. Due to the tides the boat leaves Bryher at 9:30am and returns at 2pm, during which will be low tide. Thus high tide is either early morning or early evening. I opt for the early morning dip.
As the alarm sounds and my mind tries to extricate itself from slumber, there is a moment or two hesitation. Can I leave my warm, cosy bed, to swim into the cold sea? Absoloutly YES!
It’s 6:45am, not a soul to be seen as I walk down to the quay. The cosiness of bed is soon blown away and forgotten as the lung filling, fresh air energizes body and mind. It’s a cool dawn light, colours of grey and silver both in the sky and mirrored in the sea. Little birds are singing but I can’t see them as they hide away in the evergreen pittisporum hedges. The sea is calm and steadily laps the sand with it’s lacy white edges.
Abandoned limpet shells and strewn seaweed lead me to the quickly retreating waters edge. The icy cool hits my forehead and nostrils as I dive down into the steely grey waters. My toes and fingers sting with chill, but that moment of shock soon subsides into glorious calm. I swim quickly past the end of the quay, a large black block of a silhouette on my horizon. I realise that I am enjoying a free ride as the tide pulls me out toward the channel. I stop and bob, looking back towards the dark clouds, back lit by a pale orange light from an elusive sun. I can feel the sweep of water on my body and have to swim, without panic, strongly back to the beach. My companion, one gull, paddles in the shallows. Wrapped in my towel I stride back for breakfast.