From the comfort of the sun baked beach the lighthouse standing at the end of the breakwater does not appear to be so far away, but distance over water with no real frame of reference can be deceptive as it is in this case. The answer is 850m or just over 1/2 a mile in post ‘Brexit’ currency and consequently it is the perfect place to swim a time trial there and back.
The stiff breeze snaps the flags above the café roof but in the shelter of the breakwater all is still and warm as I wriggle into my wetsuit. The wetsuit is not really necessary as the temperature of sea is still hanging at 18 or 19C, it is instead more of a safety blanket. In a wetsuit I float, without if I stop paddling I sink, it is that simple.
A few yards off the beach I run into a jungle of bootlace sea weed. Threadlike it looms up from the depths in precise parallel lines only to spread at the surface into a tangled morass. I have to switch to breaststroke to shove my way through but even so it rides up over my arms and shoulders, slimy tendrils threatening to wrap me up and pull me down. No sooner am I clear of the weed than I almost collide with a compass jellyfish. It seems very late in the season for one of those but I bet it would sting just the same: wetsuit, comfort blanket.
For the next 30 minutes out and back all I have to occupy myself with is finding that gliding stroke I learnt 2 years ago but somehow seem to have neglected. Dive the hand in, reach, glide, hold, pull. When I concentrate and hit it I can feel myself going faster, I am not going to say ‘and cutting through the water’ but it is not bulldozing either, not until I stop concentrating anyway, then my arms move faster, there is a lot more splashing and I go a lot slower.
The reason for swimming here today is also that in the shelter of the breakwater the sea is relatively calm, an almost imperceptible swell at the beach turns into small waves beyond the half way point and out at the lighthouse the passing ferry produces a bow wave that bobs me for a few seconds. The swim back in is faster than the swim out, what little current there is now clearly in my favour.
A tangle of brown laces, then clear water and bright white pebbles and my hand touches: 33 minutes, that’s fair enough, but I have a rubbery tongue. I need a cup of tea.
A few years ago it was gorillas.