I am a little apprehensive as I walk towards the sea this morning. Unusually for this time of year I had an unwanted encounter with some rather unwelcome visitors, jellyfish larvae. Yesterday, whilst swimming in the normally sheltered waters of Green Bay, I felt that stinging pain prickle across my torso, having experienced this before my heart sank at the thought of what was to come. When trapped under a swimming costume, the jellyfish larvae sting defensively, leaving a nettle-like rash which goes on to swell into nasty blister-like areas, painful and then torturously itchy, denying me much sleep and causing a tormented wish to scratch and scratch like a flee-ridden dog. The joys of sea swimming ehh?
Normally I would expect to feel (you can't see them) these tiny creatures in September when the water is at its warmest, not during January, however the islands have been hosting other guests this past week which maybe should have made me more aware. A group of Humpback and Fin whales, Dolphin and Porpoise have all been feeding around the shores of St Marys and Samson for over a week, providing a great spectacle for islanders. A friend in Penzance informs me that the Newlyn fishermen are barely at sea for an hour before they are returning to the harbour, their boats loaded with sardines. So there is obviously a plentiful supply of small fish, and these small fish in turn feed on krill (which includes said jellyfish larvae). It seems I have had a run in with the bottom of the food chain.
So today I head for Great Par in the hope that its westerly position will mean that any little creatures will be blown off shore by the biting easterly that has hung about the last few days.
A fading moon hangs chalky white in a powder blue sky. A strong winter sun lights everything in golden, crisping colours and throwing deep shadows, but any warmth is quickly diminished by that easterly wind.
The single pane windows on cottages appear to be frosted, the condensation hinting at the warmth behind the glazing. I sit on the beach, tucked behind the shelter of Timmy's Hill and can barely feel the wind at all, the sun full on my face is warmth and soft. The company of many gulls is slightly disconcerting. Are they here to feed on tiny creatures? Maybe they are sheltering too. I have bought my thermometer, a Covid panic buy, to see if I can gauge the water temperature. Maybe all these creatures are here because the sea is particularly warm, but when I beep the gadget at the waters surface it tells me it is 6.2 degrees, pretty chilly.
The water is gin clear, with only the slightest ripple to disturb the underwater view of speckled sand, the odd granite pebble and swaying clump of bladder wrack. I sink in. The sea is cooling, soothing to my irritated skin. Sunlight sparkles in golden dapples, until hidden by a cloud. The sun disappears. Instantly I am reminded that it is winter. The world shifts to icy grey and that east wind strengthens, chilling my face, causing tears to gather in my eyes. I turn my back towards the breeze, face west, and watch as the gulls dance for me. One at a time they take it in turns to flip this way and that, flecks of white against the blue. Then two in synchronised flight dip and dive, swoop and spin, an ever changing white-grey motion.
Thankfully there are no further stings. My swim is short, my bobble hat remains on. I am kind to myself, this swim was very much a tonic for the body and I think for the time being I will swim close to shore, pick my spot and leave the jellyfish for the whales.