Most sensible people would probably not begin their new year with a sea swim off the English Coast. The hours of daylight are few, the weather tends to be unfavourably dull and cold, and the sea water temperature is drifting down towards its annual minimum. I fear that ‘sensible’ has left the building.
Armchair Rock shelters Mermaid’s Cove the full magic of which is only apparent at high tide. The little cove fills with water which creeps higher, wave by gentle wave washing in over the golden sand made mostly of crushed shells. Slowly, slowly the cove becomes a lagoon.
In the autumn the water can be surprisingly clear for these parts, but already winter storms have churned the water and visibility is back to the usual ‘can’t see your feet’ conditions. It is as well then that I have swum here often.
Wading into the water I am certain of my personal conviction that cold water acclimatization is 99% in the mind, you simply have to not care that this is beyond common sense. I swim across the cove towards the entrance and pull myself up onto the rocks. The tide is almost full, the rocks almost covered and below is 10 feet of water down to the unseen sand. I take a dive, but the chill quickly pushes me back to the surface my head popping with that ‘ice-cream’ sensation. I do however go around a second and a third time.
The light is fading, the small patch of blue sky has been blown towards the seaward horizon, Armchair Rock is now a black silhouette, the promise of more rain is in the air, it is time to swim back and get warm, there will be opportunities for longer swims in summer.