I was swimming at Short Sands back in early February and noted then that in the summer it was a pleasant swim out as far as Cod Rock. Well, the summer has been and gone and now there is a wintry chill to the breeze on these autumnal days and the sunshine is only warm at best.
The sea has calmed since the weekend and if it stays that way there is yet a chance that it will clear as it has done in past years. Clear is a relative term meaning 10m visibility, exceptional for the sea around here where more often you are lucky if you can see your own toes. Brilliant conditions for the plankton, less inspiring for swimming.
Once out beyond the beach the water is much clearer and I can see my toes (just about) and the further out I go the darker green the water beneath me becomes.
There is a very sharp moment when I leave the shelter of the rocks and enter the open water where the tidal current is sweeping away south into the sunshine in one long, intense glitter path. South and sunshine both sound appealing as this water is a touch cooler than it was even just 2 days ago around the headland in the bay at Mansands. Sweeping is about right, up to this point I have been keeping a steady course from the beach to the rock, but now I can see I am heading off quite dramatically. The closer I get the more I have to alter course. I still miss the rock by at least 15m and have to swim the last little bit head on into the current until I reach the shelter of the rock itself.
At high tide it is completely covered and yet there is no marker for it in this busy fishing ground. It is little more than 1m wide at any point and no more than 10m of length shows even at low tide and it rises absolutely vertically on both sides though approaching it from this side the exposed top is slightly inclined away from me making it possible to climb onto it with relative ease. The far side is vertical. Just beneath the surface a few kelp fronds sway but otherwise it is just deep blue-green water.
I clamber down the far side, only a few feet but none too easy over the barnacles with only toe holds for grip. The water this side is in a frenzy. The current sweeps towards the rock, the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. The water dances and jitters and is thrown up into gyrating peaks where the current is torn apart to pass the rock. A large wave floods over the rock shooting a 1/2m high curtain off the crest which foams white as it crashes into the sea adding another dimension of mayhem to the mix. Interestingly though I am in a patch of water where there is absolutely no flow, the still water pinned against the rock by the diverging current.
Out of the still patch things are rather different and without noticing how I find I have been washed shorewards and swept out clear of the end of the rock. Regaining the still water takes a while and then I am shot like a cork from a bottle around the outer tip and again the distance between myself and the rock begins to open at an alarming pace but I’m heading in now anyway.
That again turns out to be more fun and games than anticipated and even with a whole beach to aim at I soon find that unless I aim more upstream I will find myself being swept towards the rocks and around the point into the next bay.
The change in the beach is dramatic, I cannot have been out there more than 25 minutes, maybe 30 at the very most but the rocks I had to pick my way over earlier are now high and dry, the tide must have dropped a 1/2m and now the foreshore is draped with a mulch of torn up kelp and there is a pungent aroma on the breeze.
Talking of breeze the wind has stiffened and the sky turned hazy and it is sufficiently chill that I am quite looking forward to my walk back up the track to the car.