This is an account of my plan to, and preparation for, an attempt to swim from Jura to Scarba, across the famous Corryvreckan Whirlpool. In doing so I intend to raise money for The John Muir Trust,the leading wild land conservation charity in the UK. Inspired by the work, spirit and legacy of John Muir.
Who wants to come and have a jolly time whilst I fight against jellyfish, killer whales and currents? I have a limited number of places on the support boat which I will offer to interested folk on the following basis;
1)ifyou can guarantee £75 sponsorship money ( doesn’t have to be all your own but it does have to be raised legally!). I don't need to have this in advance but if you subsequently fail to raise it .......
2)if as far as possible you can make your way to Loch Feochan and the base for Coastal Connection (google post code PA344SF.) in a green as possible way. Car sharing will be acceptable as you need to be there by 08.00 on August 23rd.
3) you are on time for departure... the boat WILL NOT WAIT.
Please contact me via this blog if you are interested.
Time has started to rush towards the 23 rd and I have to remind myself of how far I have come since my first post in March. I can now swim front crawl reasonably well (if slowly) in the sea: I am no longer worried about getting swamped: the sponsor ship money is getting nearer my target. The jelly fish remain a concern though particularly the lion's mane variety. I have heard that this is a "good" year for jellyfish i.e. a bad year for anything that runs into its stinging tentacles. It is thought that overfishingis one possible cause.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14235582Although lion’s mane jellyfish can grow to 2 metres across the ones found in UK waters are considerably smaller. Their stingis not fatal but not something I will relish receiving on my uncovered face, hands an feet.
This week’s training
Tues 26/07 11.30 Exactly 4 weeks to go to my swim. Meanwhile at Hackley Bay I saw my first positive sighting of a grayling butterfly at Forvie this year. It is difficult to show its lovely wing patterns as it usually closes its wings when resting (as below)This species is on the UK Boidiversity Action Plan. There are concerns that numbers are declining and a certain golf development just south of Forvie may well have a detrimental effect on the numbers locally.
Grayling butterfly ( Hackley Bay)
Swim-wise the wind was onshore and the surf just the wrong side of moderate. Still I managed to swim 8 widths with a fair bit of stopping to avoid the bigger waves. As I bobbed around like a cork I wondered if you can get sea sick swimming....
27/07 Lovely day, warm sunshine, blue skies: is summer finally coming? Saw 6 flavours of butterfly plus 3 of damsel fly on the walk to and from Hackley. The grayling are definitely here with many seen flitting about the cliff. Also found out that one of my favourite flowers, grass-of-parnassus (Parnassia palustris), flowering right down on the edge of the beach.
This is a surprise as I have only ever seen it in ditches before and would not have associated it with the harsh conditions found on a N.E. seashore boundary but looking it up not only does it grow in bogs but it also grows in the arctic and in dune systems. There was still moderate swell but I did more swimming and less waiting for the bigger breakers to pass.
28/07 Dull, overcast day with rain at times. This doesn't matter for a swimmer except making sure that towel and clothes are covered up whilst swimming. The wind had shifted to the west and this meant an offshore wind so the surf had all but gone. Still it was slightly choppy and I looked forward to a continuous swim for the first time in a few weeks. I have developed my own way of overcoming the gasping of the first few strokes by swimming without totally submerging my face for the first 50 metres or so , then gradually getting down to it. I still breath every alternate stroke rather than every 3 , the latter is more efficient . Unfortunately after a good first length I seemed to run out of steam and ended up doing a lot of slow breast stroke. The consequence of this was a really tardy time of 39 minutes. This is a bit depressing to say the least. Still next week the tides are all in my favour so fingers-crossed that the wind stays moderate and I will have some better swims to build my confidence. This will be my final push before I set off.
Its been difficult getting in the water:last week the tides were right but the weather wrong, this week the tides and weather are right but I have my 2 grandchildren to stay, aged 5 and 8. I can't exactly abandon them on Hackley Bay beach and swim for half an hour. I was then told about the Bay swim, part of Peterhead Scottish week and something to give me a taste of swimming under pressure if I could find someone to look after Joe and Ellie. So Claire, their adored auntie stepped into the breach, for once she was not working and agreed to to do the necessary.
The swim was at 6.30 p.m. and details were sparse. Registration was from 6pm at Peterhead Sailing club. A boat was to take us to the start somewhere in the Bay at Peterhead. We were then to swim back into the Marina;no information about distance, rules, entry fee or age limit . I decided that I would go , with wetsuit and decide when I got there but first I had a whole day to spend with Ellie and Joe so it was off to Hackley Bay for a picnic , scramble (on the rocks) surf jumping ( the children), and generally butterfly (6 flavours) , damselfly (2 flavours), plant (loads), birds (loads) spotting. Not to mention the crabs and the dead seal pup ("aawwh granny how did it die?"). We picked up Claire ( auntie) on the way back and headed for Pizzahead (Joe's understanding of where we were headed) Sailing club ( 15 miles north of me).
At the sailing club there were loads of youngish people of all shapes and sizes milling around with towels. Generally these turned out to be the parents of the swimmers. I was by far the oldest and the only one as far as I could see contemplating using a wetsuit.....but wait there was a man in a wetsuit (and shades...was he here for the surfing???!!!) who was a tad older and slightly nearer my age. So I collared him and found out that a) there was no entry fee, b) we were swimming from the green buoy just outside the marina wall (not far at all) c) Anything goes for costume but he would really, really like it if some other woose wore a wet suit. That was it, when George arrived to take our registration details I was in.
On the walk down to the Marina and the lifeboat (yes, nothing like coming prepared) that was taking us to the start (an orange buoy is now mentioned beyond the green one) the shady guy (46 years) with the wet suit reveals he is an ex Royal Marine but gives me the best advice of the day, i.e. board last ( swim first). Even with this as the rest of the swimmers are obviously current competitive swimmers average age 16, I doubted if I would finish anything else but last. As we boarded I noted a couple of other wetsuits, one that looked like it was a few sizes too big for its wearer.
20 minutes later after a 10 minute wait out in the bay as they cleared the course of jet skiers, speed boats etc we were told to come to the stern. I turned out to be 2nd up and found that I had to dive in (what other way was there?). No time to dither and I was in the diesel coated waters of Peterhead bay. I struck out in front crawl and was amazed at how quickly ...... ..................everyone else went passed, the ex RM included swimming breaststroke. I seemed to be inhaling pure diesel every time I took a breath so I gave up and went over onto my back, horrified to discover that the lifeboat wasn't any further away. Still there were some swimmers behind me. I continued on my back, admiring the clear blue sky until shouts from a support vessel warned me that I was heading for the breakwater rocks. I dropped back a few places to get back on course, tried a few more mouthfuls of diesel, then again onto back stroke heading for the crowds that had gathered on the beach. The lifeboat was still just behind be and I finally realised that this was because it was following us in.
I finished 17th ( I think) out of ....20 with at least 2 wetsuits behind me including the extra large one. (RM way in front). I have no idea of the distance (200-300 m maybe) or the time I took. The grandchildren had been to the funfair, had a great time and somewhere ( although I didn't wait around the extra hour for it) there is a medal for me.
Main lessons, the adrenalin wasn't too debilitating, I haven't lost the ability to dive off a boat ( last time circa 1970), the Corryvreckan won't be full of diesel fumes.
I am either getting used to the cold or the sea temperature is definitely warmer. So much so I am planning (but not yet executing) to complete each practice swim with a length across the bay without my wet suit. A sunny day would be ideal for this but I may have a long wait and only 6 weeks to go.
At the end of June I was over at Corrour for a week on a JMT work party. Most days I went for a short swim in Loch Ossian.I found I really prefer to swim in the sea. The conditions were benign on the Loch but I never felt that I got into my stroke. Avoiding fallen trees and sinking into the sediment on the bottom were enough to put me off. Other than that the beautiful setting and not having to watch for tides or currents were somewhat liberating. Given another week I may have become happier with it.
Loch Ossian, looking North
Back at Hackley Bay the Kittiwake, fulmar and shag chicks are growing and conditions in the bay are never the same from one visit to the next. I am easily distracted by taking photos of damselflies and butterflies on the way to and from the bay.
Delayed by photography one day I arrived too late for a swim but was able to walk across the route I normally swim, measuring the length by GPS. I made it 152 +/- 5m so am upping my crossings to 8 to make sure I am used to swimming the distance required.
Yesterday my sister, Mary, came too. The weather was dull and there was a fair swell into the bay.
Swimming in the swell
I didn't manage much of a swim but more practice at this sort of swimming should stand me in great stead for the conditions at the Corryvreckan. Mary took a few photos.
Heading for the Rocks
Mary has also put me in touch with Joan and Mike Richardson who are old friends of my parents. They live at Kinuachdrachd which is where I will be camping on my last night before my Corryvreckan swim
You will note some improvements to my Blog over the past week. This is thanks to Dave, fellow JMT volunteer on the Corrour work party at the end of June. Now you will be able to see the weather on Jur (live), a countdown to my swim and brief headlines of previous posting. I hope to be able to upload a slide show of all the locations I have swum at. Thank-you Dave.
Finally I have confirmed my itinerary for the cycle route across to Jura. The home run needs some confirmations.