Solitary swim

Sunday 14th June

Kate and I had planned another long swim together this Sunday, but an overnight stay on the mainland had been extended for her due to weather conditions. I'd spent most of the day watching things improve and then seeing the tide rise made me decide to go it alone today. I knew that having the safety kit in place would mean it was fine to be out in the boating channel alone, but it was the first time I'd ventured out over a long distance without company. The boys on the slipway gave me a few words of encouragement as I tested out my new goggles and then without further ado I was off.

The chill of the water is always a bit of a shock initially and really challenges my breathing. I can think of nothing else apart from gulping a mouthful of air every time I surface. Relax and breathe, relax and breathe, relax and breathe becomes my mantra. Gradually it doesn't feel quite as cold, the breath not so urgent. The new goggles are a bit steamed up as I didn't prep them, but am keen not to stop to adjust them. A couple of times I catch sight of a boat in the distance heading towards me. Don't panic, just veer slightly towards the shoreline in case it wants to cut through the neck on the high tide in which case I'll get a close encounter with a lot of wash. Both times, the boat alters it's course and moves back into the main channel away from me. Perhaps the safety kit is working, maybe I'm more visible than I think.

Passing through the neck across the long weed is a marker in my progress as is the buffering about as the current pushes and pulls me. I feel like a cork bobbing about without much control. Gradually this eases and I'm out in the main channel between the islands, alone. I can monitor my progress as the shoreline drifts past me, familiar rocks and bays receding as I swim steadily onwards. My breathing is settled, steady and strong. I no longer have to give it my concentration and my mind wanders. My gran once swam the English Channel - is that a memory or a dream? Whatever it is, it acts as encouragement as I round an outcrop of rocks, the final milestone before I turn into Appletree Bay, the home strait. I had hoped to continue further around to Carn Near but the early summer evening traffic is still steady and the line I would take is too busy for me to feel confident on my own. As I near the beach I'm pleased to arrive and happy to have achieved my first solitary swim. The walk home is a time for reflection and pleasure at my small success.


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