This week has seen some unseasonably strong, winter-like weather, with gusting winds and rough seas normally felt on Bryher well into November or December.
The autumn air still holds a warm edge, the nose biting chill of winter thankfully hasn’t arrived. High spring tides of up to six plus meters, combined with the odd heavy deluge of rain and driving westerly winds, have caused the quays to become submerged by a rolling swell that washes across the concrete.
The beaches on the western side of both Bryher and Tresco are strewn with seaweed and debris, ripped up by its roots and flung onto land, stranded as the tide receads.
Bryher appears to shrink at high tide, no beaches run along it’s edges as the water laps the roads and banks. Then six hours later, another magic of spring tides is revealed when the sea bed between Bryher and Tresco is left bare and exposed to the elements.
I love to swim in these high tides, the sea is boisterous and fun. On Tuesday I went across to Tresco and swam from Farm Beach, with the green topped granite of Plumb island to my left, New Grimsby to my right, where Firethorn (the daytripper boat) patiently waits to load her passengers.
With the tide now ebbing, the soft golden sand is left wet and washed clean. The water, although choppy, is a beautifully illuminated seaglass green and the sun beams down to hit the sandy seabed. It feels lighter and warmer under the water in contrast to the world above where the sky is full of billowing, grey clouds and the wind brings a threat of squally showers.
On Tresco looking back toward Bryher
On Wednesday it was calm and still, the promise of a perfect autumn day. The tide is high at the same time as the school boat so Martha and I walk down together and she watches as I step off the end of the end of the quay into the deep blue.
Walking right off Bryher quay
Pale golden light filters down through the clouds in arrow-like beams. These high tides are luxuriously deep and cool, the surface a liquid silver blue.
As I swim out of the bay I can feel the suck of the current flowing down channel and in the spring tides the current is strong. I head back and follow the arc of the shoreline back to the quay, just as the school boat arrives.
Today the wind is back, strong and gusty and fresh. The cordeline leaves rattle and clatter and the sea crashes up towards the shoreline along Green Bay.
The quay is busy, bustling with islanders collecting goods from the freight ship Lyonesse Lady. To the left of the quay, sheltered from the wind, the sea holds barely a ripple, it’s surface smooth and still. To the right another sea entirly. It moves in wild fury. Steel grey with spumming foam topped waves. They smash themselves against the granite and concrete.
Leap into the swell
Into the swell I Leap, a stride into a mass of silver, swirling bubbles and jostling water. A chaotic mix of rolling, sinking, a face full of salty water, a breath caught here and there when able.
And then silence as I reach down toward the seabed, kicking down through the glassy green, ears popping, lungs bursting. Trees of bladderwrack swing and swirl in the current, for even here, deep down, there is little escape from the turbulence above.
I feel exhilarated and a little bit wilder when I return to the land of normality.
Just for a few moments I was whipped along with the waves in a fantastically free world of fun and fury.