Training day

The day after our last summer show, this was me, out in deep water in training for my big swim. My plan has been to crack the leg from New Grimsby around the North End of the island through Kettle Neck which is the bogeyman as far as I'm concerned. Kettle Rock is exposed, to a greater or lesser degree, according to the tide. Often it's not safe to pass through the neck of water as the tidal surge can lift a boat towards the rocks on either side with dangerous speed. If it can lift a boat, then of course it can easily wash a swimmer against the rocks too. 

This was my second attempt to swim this leg. It was Saturday morning and the tide was coming in, meaning I was swimming with the tide, giving me the best advantage possible. Much as the physical advantage was with me, mentally I was a bit wobbly. I much prefer swimming alongside the beaches as the they not only look pretty but offer an easy exit. Not that I would be exiting onto the rocks on these long swims as Steve accompanies me in our boat which has a set of steps for me to clamber onto if I need to. Still, this shoreline conjures up fear in my belly. Long distance sea swimming is similar to long distance running as it's all about having the right mindset. Some days that's easier than others.

Behind me is Cromwell's Castle, about halfway into my quest. I'd settled into my rhythm by then, breathing steadily and counting my rolling strokes in one yacht, two yachts, three yachts ... The counting helps to focus the mind, stopping that element of panic that takes me over when I consider being out here doing this crazy thing that is wild swimming. Feel the fear and do it anyway, never felt so real.

The end of the island is just coming into sight with Kettle Rock beyond when my trusty boatman made the call to take me out of the water. There was a ground sea on creating a tidal surge over the rocks, making it too risky for us to pass through this morning.

You can probably read the look of relief on my face. I wasn't sorry that Steve had made that call. It had been a lively swim so far and it was only going to get more so as I rounded through the neck. 

We turned tail and headed back home.

That afternoon I decided to walk the coastal path above where I'd swum. Seeing the stretch of water, imagining my strokes cutting through the water, counting my breath, one yacht, two yachts, three yachts ... 

The big black rock on the right, beyond the shore is Kettle Rock, my nemesis.

It was interesting to watch boats choose the outside line, avoiding Kettle Neck completely. These guys know what they're doing, and so does Steve having spent almost all his life here, messing about in boats, learning to read the sea, respecting the times to not even be on the water when it's too wild. If I'm to swim around the whole of Tresco then I need to leave the worrying to him.

The view looked picturesque, but when I was out there this morning, it felt anything but.

Less than 24 hours later and I was back in the water, making another attempt at rounding Kettle Rock. It was 7am as we left New Grimsby, the sun hidden by the clouds, the tide coming in, and the wind had dropped leaving the sea looking more like a calm lake. I felt completely different this time. "You can do this, you can do this, you can do this!" I'd repeated to my reflection as I was zipping up my wetsuit. The fear in my gut had been replaced by excitement and I was ready to give it another go.

With no waves to distract me, the swim became easy, the stroke a repetitive rocking, a meditative motion that calmed me, each action a gentle movement that was part of a rolling dance, each breath an exchange of inhale and exhale that happened mindlessly. This was flow.

As we rounded the end of the island, the swell of the Atlantic stole the calm waters introducing a lively aspect to the swim.

And then, without too much fuss or fanfare, I was suddenly through the Neck and out of the other side. Steve had shepherded me along the way, guiding me as I peered up from time to time, pointing me in the right direction. His face, alert yet calm, telling me it was safe. My success was a joint effort - we had done it! 

Now that I've achieved this leg, I feel much more optimistic about the round island challenge as a whole. Steve and I are looking at the tide chart to find the best day to plan our outing. The weather will play a big part too so we hope to find the perfect combination of wind and tide making this a feasible venture within the next few weeks. Wish me luck!

                                                                                       Anna x

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