I did my second for March and therefore final qualifying swim of the polar bear challenge back in the first week of the month and there have probably been 10 or more since. However, it has been a poor swim month due to the weather, notwithstanding swimming at Sharrah Pool in the snow, another qualifier. However I claimed the first official swim of the 2017/18 challenge just after dawn on 1st Nov and figured I’d try to claim the last with a sunset and blue moon swim. Again the weather had other ideas.
It had been blowing and raining pretty much since Thursday and all the while I’ve had a nasty cold too. Some people say you shouldn’t swim with a cold, but both running and swimming I qualify that by saying just so long as it’s only a head cold you’ll be fine. You may feel awful, but you’ll be fine. I feel awful, but the clouds are clearing a little and awful is not going to stop me.
The beach beneath Hope’s Nose is of course deserted though the fresh boot marks in the mud of the path tell a tale of someone coming and going. The shore is sheltered from the breeze and the water slides softly on and off the pebbles and rocks. I’ve walked to the far end of the beach and have begun a pick up of plastic bottles and other trash when I spot the boat fender. And it’s a nice one, nearly new, in a dark blue jacket with new rope too, someone is wishing they could tie proper knots; this should be worth an exchange for a bottle of wine.
I soon have a bag full of rubbish. The clouds are obviously not going to clear but the skyline over Torquay is a brightly glowing yellow band which leaves Thatcher Rock as a striking silhouette. And thankfully the seal that was lazing just off the rocks appears to have gone.
Across the bay and back, that’s the plan, considerably more than the 200m required of the challenge (about 5x more), but if you are going to get wet you may as well get decently wet. At first the water is dark beneath but once the sea bed falls away the water infuses with a clear green tint and though the wind is in my face I’m soon nearing the far headland. Two seagulls are perched on a rock and I have decided that when they fly off that’s me done. The first takes to the air whilst the second shuffles its feet nervously. I’m looking at the people silhouetted on the next headland I guess with my bright pink Swim Secure tow float they can see me too and then the gull raises its wings, lifts off without a wingbeat and glides past me with an angry squawk.
Instead of just turning around I swim out a little towards Thatcher Rock to see the fading sunset and I spot a bird I don’t immediately recognize. It lets me swim quite close before diving under the water. It’s a shag, with a very pronounced crest of feathers, that’s what threw me. I am mid-way between shore and Thatcher Rock and seriously contemplate swimming out but the light is already fading from the sky.
With the breeze behind me it is a more pleasant swim back and I go a little faster which is just as well because my left hand has got very chilled. I swim in to the rocks and wade up the inclined slope of one large flat boulder to my clothes. That was a great way to finish the challenge, roll on November, but not too quickly.
It turns out the fender costs about £45 new and the jacket £25 so even with a little hole in the jacket, the unblemished fender must be worth more than a bottle of wine. Ebay it is then.