Tag Archives: Guillamenes & Newtown

The Worst Three Minutes

Over a year ago I wrote a popular post called The First Three Minutes, which investigated just the first few minutes of a cold water swim. (A real cold water swim, not your balmy 10 degree Celsius getting a tan (50F) water for softies).

We know, us cold water swimmers, that passers-by focus on the water and the time of year. They ask themselves and us, how could anyone possibly get into bitterly cold water in the depth of an Irish winter, without a wet-suit. It’s behaviour that borders on the insane to everyone else. It certainly is at best aberrant, definitely risky, beyond any conceivable reward.  The tourists, passersby and pass-remarkers extrapolate from their own personal experience of cold on land or an occasional cold shower and from that they believe they can understand our world. Or at least believe that what we are doing is a sign that we are lacking in something.

They cannot and will never comprehend why we do what we do and though I have explained why we swim in cold water, that explanation will only resonate with fellow cold water swimmers or similar adventurers.

I had long thought that those first three minutes though were not the worst three minutes. Nor indeed was the worst time during swimming , afterdrop or when enduring the usual mild or moderate hypothermia that many of us endure on a regular basis.

The worst three minutes occur at T-minus. That is, the worst part of cold water swimming happens before you swim, or at least, before I swim.

It’s a cold mid-January Saturday. It’s lunchtime, past mid-day, late for a weekend swim. I didn’t sleep much of the previous night, I’ve been oscillating into and out of insomnia for months now and the previous night I got almost no sleep, finally drifting off only shortly before dawn, and stumbling awake after a couple of hours. The morning was the cold wet grey that is Ireland’s other natural colour. On such a dispiriting morning the lack of rest sapped my desire to get down to the coast but I eventually bestirred myself and arrived at the Newtown and Guillamene car park about 1 p.m., with the car thermometer reading 2.5 degrees Celsius. The bay at least was calm but that only meant that the light breeze was cross-offshore which meant cold. Combine that with the air and the ambient temperature felt about zero degrees. Wind chill is a stupid phrase. Winter swimming is stupid.

Zero degrees. Grey skies, grey water, breeze, rain. Out in the bay the big Dunmore East RNLI Trent-class lifeboat was steaming toward Powerstown Head, quartering the bay. Dunmore East is about 10 miles away, the local big fishing port. The reason the Elizabeth-and-Ronald (as an entirely charitable organisation which receives no government funds, RNLI boats are named after significant philanthropists) was in the bay was to search for the body of a poor lost soul, likely jumped from Powerstown Head across the bay, two days previously.

RNLI lifeboat in rain P1020036.resized.rotated
(Thanks to David Dammerman for the camera! A friendly and generous gesture more appreciated than he maybe realises).

Down on the concrete, the morning polar bear dippers had all left. Just myself, the breeze, the rain, the cold. Given the rain I put the box in the single occupant alcove which I only use in these circumstances. I took my thermometer out of the box and stood there and looked out. Rain dropped off the rocks into which the alcove is hewn, the yellow-green algae and lichen everywhere seeming almost to glow in the wet conditions.

The alcove, the box, the rock, the rain, the algae.
The alcove, the box, the rock, the rain, the algae.

Clad in my heavy winter coat I gingerly went down the steps to the water’s edge, the algae on the steps having reached a dangerously lethal slippiness since last week. The tide was almost out, so all the steps were exposed down to the final ladder. Spring tide, over five metres range between high tide and low tide.

Zero degrees. Grey skies, grey water, breeze, rain, low tide. 

Such was the surface underfoot that I had to use the stainless steel railings on either side. The steel was colder than ice-cubes and utterly necessary. By the time I’d measured the water (7.4 degrees Celsius, ~ 45 F., up three-quarters of a degree since the previous weekend but the combined air and water temperature was colder) and made it back to the alcove, my hands were painfully cold.

Zero degrees. Grey skies, grey water, breeze, rain, low tide, cold water, tired.

No-one around for a quick chat or  hello. A lifeboat in the bay looking for the body of another likely victim of the recession in Ireland. Grim.

I started to get undressed, pulled my freezing cold and wet togs over my bare luminous white arse, there being no-one around to require the towel-dance. Togs on, coat still on, I stopped. I just … stopped.

I stood there. In the alcove, my feet getting cold, my hands sore even before I was ready. So tired that I knew the cold would hurt more than usual.

It wasn’t the first time. There have been other days, other winters like this. Every winter has days like this. If it happens, this is the worst three minutes.

All you have to do either swim or go home. Nothing will happen if you go home. The world won’t end. Except, you tell yourself, or I tell myself, maybe this will be the first crack. Fail to get in the water once for no good reason, and maybe the next time it’ll be easier to not get in. Worse, next time, maybe it’ll be easier to stay at home. Maybe not getting in the water means it’ll be all over for me. Maybe I’ll lose the thing keeping me going.

I stood there, and there was no epiphany. It remained desolate, cold, wet and grey. No lesson about anything here. I imagined I looked grey because I felt grey. Pathetic fallacy writ large. Nothing new for an open water swimmer. Nothing to see here.

And then I finished getting ready and I got in the water and I swam. And afterwards I went home.

They think cold water is tough? They don’t really know what’s the hard part. The worst part. And this week there was no Reverie. There was just paying the price of entrance, paying now for some warmer swim later or some other cold swim, swimming in the bay watching the lifeboats searching for another soul lost at sea, similar to me. And like all entry fees, there’s a single person supplement. A lone swimmer supplement.

A temporary sandbar appears at lowest tide beyond the rocks at Benvoy
A temporary sandbar appears at lowest Spring tide beyond the rocks at Benvoy. Maybe I am the only person who ever walked on it. I walked around the edge so not to leave even footprints.

Winter. It’s almost here. I hate it, I like it, I hate it, I like it.

A domestic wall thermometervia Wikipedia

The temperature at the Guillamene took its first real drop of early winter last week, down to 11.3° Celsius (52.3° F.). After a sub-seventy minute swim, it was like meeting an old acquaintance. Little finger dexterity gone, reduced co-ordination when getting dressed, and wearing a wooly hat afterwards. No big deal, it’s not below 10° yet, but there’s six months of this in our future.

Next day, the temperature was about the same, it was cloudy and there was Force 5 onshore southerly wind. After only 57 minutes, and much less distance covered, my nose was raw, and I’d been battered by the one to three metre chop and waves. I’d dropped below my one hour minimum target for this temperature. One metre waves off the Guillamene, but up to three metres where the waves were jacking up over the Comolene reef, as always happens. Go in or out the bay, there’s no escape. It seemed strange that it was less than a week since the pleasant swim on the previous Sunday. It’s the ambient temperature, the winds, the lack of direct sunlight, that’s driving the temperature down but mostly the feeling that it’s cold. In early summer I’ll swim longer in this temperature, the expansiveness of sunlight leading me on.

Swimming back from Doneraile past the Pier, there were two anglers on the pier end, and I glimpsed them between the troughs and being hurled upwards, crashing down, utterly without grace, wondering did they even see me. You feel sometimes invisible when very close to people in the water, sometimes you feel unusually visible, both are probably wrong. One of the things about swimming inwards, and why I prefer to swim outwards in solitude, is that a road and path runs along the cliff top, and swimming I am conscious of people walking and looking out at me, or imagining them doing so.

Sometimes before, but mostly afterwards, when changing, and especially during swims, my thoughts stray to catchphrases about cold and what articles I can write about it this winter, after writing so many last year. And today I wondered if there really is yet an end to writing about cold for me, at least for now. It is I think, at least about myself, one of the ways that I define swimming. Swimming is cold. I swim, I’m cold, I write.

I’m not good at it, the cold, but I’m pretty good at it. I mean it’s not a natural talent, I’ve had to work at it. Which is part of why I like writing about it. Every time you swim in cold, it’s even more of an adventure than a simple one hour open water swim in 14° C. The open water is an adventure and the cold is an adventure.

Cold. I hate it. I like it. I hate it. I like it. I hate it. I like it. I hate it. I …

Is the water too cold to swim?

This article is, once again, a variation of the most popular question here: “What temperature of water is too cold to swim in”?, which I’ve written about before.

Image by Ben+Sam via Flickr

The temperature at the Guillamene last Sunday week (October 16th, 2011) was about 13° Celsius (55° F). That’s far warmer than what most people will imagine, not far off the highest normal summer water temperature (about 15° to 16°, excluding unusual warmer pockets or days) for Ireland’s South Coast. And by the end of last week it was down to about 11.5° Celsius.

The weather is changing though, autumn and early winter storms have shown up and the water is rough most days. There’s been fog that has lasted for days,and the days of grey skies and continuous rain. Days and nights are cooler (though given the crap summer, again, in Ireland, that’s not much of a real change, only about 4° to 6° Celsius change for now.) Surely, many people will say, the water is cold!

Annual mean sea surface temperature from the W...
Image via Wikipedia

Occasional swimmers have changed to wetsuits weeks back. But experienced swimmers are still, should they desire, putting in two or three hours without wetsuits, (if they haven’t gone back to pool training or like me, have slackened off for the end of season).

So this is a critical time for those considering a big swim for next year, or wanting to improve their open water ability. Time when you should be asking yourself:

How much more do I really want to able to do?

You can stop now, leave the sea, and just do pool training. or you can retain your sea swimming. You can use a wetsuit, and get used to the sea in winter. Or you can stay in skin, and discover that for maybe another three or four weeks, it’s not that cold.

You can approach this as a multi-year project, this winter just keeping swimming regularly in rubber, maybe dumping the neoprene for a few minutes of skin only here and there, and then next year going a bit further before donning it. The only mistake is to expect to be able to handle cold without doing any work.

An important thing to remember now is Rate of Change, rather than deciding what temperature is your cutoff (because without experience you won;t know anyway). The water temperature will drop soon, (I’ll let you know when The Big Drop happens, it could be as soon as three weeks or could be as long as six or seven). The Big Drop is when the water temperature goes below ten degrees Celsius 9 50° Fahrenheit). Yes, yes … don’t tell you can even get that low, I can hear you from here.

Last year the coldest day was late November, after the coldest spell Ireland had in something like 60 years. And it recovered afterwards. By Christmas the temperature was back to normal for that time of year, at about nine degrees (48° F.).

So now is the time and chance to do address two big issues:

1: Your perception of the world around you, especially the sea.

2: Your perception of yourself, and your limits and capabilities.

I know what some of you are thinking: but this guys is already experienced at cold, and I couldn’t do it. Nonsense. Anyone can, as I keep repeating, you just have to decide whether you want to or not.

There’s already lots of writing about cold on this site, see the top menu bar up there? ^^^

Go beyond your limits. Go on. Do it. I’ll meet you at the Guillamene.

P.S. As I was wondering what images to add to this, I really wished I had one of a swimmer with a meat thermometer stuck in them. But, apart from the pictures of Gábor, this is a Safe For Work site.

Colours & reflections 1

I’m so pleased with this photo from the Guillamene, it’s getting its own post

Click for full 3600px resolution. I’ve said before I’m not a great photographer, but the number one rule apparently is to carry the camera around with you, and you might see something like this, which reminded of the way Monet or Renoir painted light, but in real life. It’s not that photo is great but I love that for once I managed to get a reminder of something. It was hazy with the cliff under Brownstown Head visible, but the day turned to heavier fog during my swim.

I usually differentiate between my own photos and those from other sources by putting a black border around my own ones, (though I didn’t do this early on so there’ll be mixups from last year and early this year).

It was the only calm day I’ve seen in weeks, with that almost oily look we call glassy, a fog was dropping in, coming out from the beach and the water was a vivid turquoise green in the shadows, and there were jellies and a pronounced smell, all indicating a green tide, probably the last late summer (in the water) plankton bloom.

Colours & reflections 1

Like fish in a barrel

An Indian summer was predicted for Ireland and the UK for the last week, and the UK certainly reaped it, along with much of Ireland. The south coast though, as I mentioned last week, had either blanket fog for days or continuous rain. In fact I decided to take a break from swimming. But this morning dawned clear and warm, though gusty. So with the air temperature at an extraordinary (for Ireland, this year) 21.5° C.,  off to the Guillamene with me. However only a couple of miles down the road the fog came down again, though not as heavy as last week, with still good visibility, but the temperature also dropped, by 6° C. by the time I reached the Guillamene.

Beyond the fog

Walking toward the steps a commotion in the sea became very obvious. Hundreds of seabirds, all different breeds, flying, swooping, swimming, diving, in a flustered frantic floating furore. Obviously there must be a large school of sprats in close. Even larger than the usual schools I often see, usually below me, darting around. Southwards, the edge of the fog bank could be seen by the light on the horizon. As I dis-robed, the tight knot of birds drifted away out from the coast and deeper into the bay on the current.

The water is still a warm 13° C. but the wind had driven the same rough conditions typical of this time of year. Turning down at the pier however, in just a few moments, the sky transformed, like dirty dishwater sliding off all sides of an inverted bowl. Overhead turned light blue with occasional clouds, while all around, lower down toward the earth the grey cotton wool remained.

Toward the end of the swim, outside Newtown Cove, I swam through the edges of the flock. While drying myself, I saw that the birds were still present, this time more in towards Newtown Cove. Over the hill, there were many birds (which scattered as I walked down toward the cove) right inside the cove and stretching outwards.

After shooting some video, I carefully walked down the heavy weeded  and treacherous slipway.

The sprats had been so numerous that waves breaking onto the slipway had deposited bodies right there, and so plentiful that they were still there without having been devoured by the birds.

Looking into the water below was astonishing. The cove (now empty of birds who were still engaged in a frenzy outside) was dense with fish, looking green and grey and turquoise and metallic under the surface. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands probably since the school obviously reached out for hundreds of metres.

Look at this at full size to get a better idea of the numbers

So dense that I was able to reach into the water and touch them! feel them slip around and through my fingers. So dense, that despite haze, and reflections and foam and rippling water, and most of all the reflectivity of the surface layer, I was able to take pictures of the school.

We all see nature documentaries. We get used to seeing Snow Leopards hunting, crocodiles pulling down buffalo, polar bears emerging from hibernation, and seeing “never-before-filmed sequences”. This is good. We are reminded of the inestimable value of the natural world. But we are also spoiled. We see nature from a distance, and because we see what is exotic for most of us, we forget how extraordinary “ordinary” wildlife can be.

A flock of wheeling and screaming seabirds, a dense school of fish, fog lifting and the light off the water.

Fulmar in the distance

Home to T-bay

After a week in Dover, with two hourly swims, it is a bit tough to come home. The water temperature in Dover harbour was a glorious 17/18 degrees Celsius. By week end we were worrying about getting soft.

Hurricane Katya, an ongoing back ache and lack of focus in swimming kept me out of the water for two days and other days previously. Last week it was easy to train with Lisa and Kevin, I could piggy-back on their training, use their purposes to substitute for my own lack thereof.

The water had flattened out today, there was a rolling one metre swell but with little chop on top of it. The wind was much lighter and westerly so the Guillamene was nicely sheltered. Aiden and Ollie from the club were power-hosing the algae off the steps and the place was starting to settle toward autumn, when the water is still relatively warm, but the fair-weather swimmers and tourists desert us. We’re encountering the end of summer offset, when, opposite to the spring temperature offset, the water temperature will lag the lang temperature drop, not there is much temperature to drop from this year. In eight months time, when the visitors return, us regular locals will be bemused, wondering where all these people have come from, into our playground.

Regular day in the Guillamene

The water was 14 deg Celsius (57 F. ) and felt cold, a sure sign that a week in Dover had made me soft, since I believe this temperature allows, or at least should allow, eight hours plus in the water. I only swam for 90 minutes, a Guillamene Double (Guillamene to Newtown Head to Pier to Guillamene) and though at least I hadn’t developed The Claw, I did have tingling in my fingertips.

I must remember to take a photograph of The Claw during the winter.

And the sea lice were still present, in fact greater than before I left for Dover and I was constantly bitten and itchy while swimming, no sunshine.

Conclusion: Just like English Channel solo aspirant Lee “Tom” Sawyer from Yorkshire said last week, Dover makes you soft. I told him he seemed Irish.

Donal swimming in front of Brown's Island, Kilfarassey

Project Copper – reflections and debrief

You Are Now Leaving The Copper Coast - Safe Home

Reflections on Project Copper.

I’ve swam about 54,000 metres to cover the 25 kilometre coast, which were swum as a series of out and back swims, so every metre of coast was swam twice.

With the experience I’ve gained of the various currents on this stretch of coast, I now know there are longer swims that could be done unsupported, and still allow a decent safety margin (by my standards anyway). But I had to do it the way I did in order to learn that.

I’ve passed what must be literally hundreds of caves along the whole coast, many small, some big, a few huge, some rarely exposed to the sea, and many, usually the biggest, only visible from swimming out at sea. I’ve swam around every large rock on the coast and found the names of places and rocks I’ve always wondered about. Apparent synchronicity is usually an emergent feature of deeper interest.

I’ve walked miles of occasionally precarious cliffs photographing places I’d swam or planned to swim and I’ve climbed over hedges, walls and hopped many an electric fence and ditch, visited historical sites, and walked across what’s left of a few neolithic promontory forts. I’ve taken hundreds of photos for your edification and enjoyment (and have shown you the best ones) and written thousands of words, which has often taken longer than the actual swimming.

Sea Ivory above Garrarus

I’ve seen emerald samphire and orange crocosmia, blue grass and vivid red poppies and verdant ferns, actinic sea-holly festooned with beautiful metallic six-spot burnet moths, and heathers and daisies and daisy-like flowers, grey sea-ivory and a few faded remaining sea-thrift all along the cliffs and come to appreciate even humble lichen, Verrucarria maura, and particularly Xanthoria parietina, which adds so much colour to this coast.


I’ve seen almost every kind of local bird including Cormorants, Guillemots, Shags, Swifts and Swallows, Herring and Greater Black-Backed gulls. I think I saw some Kittiwakes, a few Gannets, lots of Fulmars, occasional Terns and Sanderlings and other small birds I don’t recognise nor can separate. Herons, two Kestrels, a curlew and two groups of my new favourites, shy cliff-top Choughs and I was dive-bombed by fifty of so gulls off Gull island at the eastern edge of the coast, and I swam right off Google Earth’s current high-resolution map range.

Choughs on the cliff edge

I’ve seen, of course, all the local jellyfish, sprats, crabs large and small, and an occasional larger fish emerge from the green, usually only visible on northerly winds and around reefs, bass and mackerel hunting on the reefs and I’ve seen starfish and anemones and a seal, though less fish that you might expect, since I suppose they think of me as a particularly splashy seal.

I’ve talked with kayakers, lifeguards, fishermen (haven’t met any fisherwomen), divers, surfers, spearfishers, Paula from the Copper Coast Geopark office, (who introduced me to a great new book on the Waterford Coast which helped me identify various plants and fauna and place names), Ryan the 4th year UCC Geology Major who had a headache from all the different rocks in tiny Ballvooney cove, tourists and locals, children and adults and dogs.

I swam in calm and rough, chop, wind and groundswell, sun, rain and cloud, onshore and offshore and no wind and all tides. I’ve been scared and exhilarated and excited and delighted and entertained. I’ve swum through tunnels big and small, and sea-arches, around islands of every size on this coast, and into and across caves, coves, estuaries and bays.

I’ve started to think about geology more, and recognise both the transient and permanent natures of our coasts more than I ever did as a surfer, and seen the damage the Copper Coast is suffering from coastal erosion (up to 2 metres per year, in some places).

I haven’t seen a stretch of coast that doesn’t have some item of rubbish on it. I had the wits frightened out me by a large plastic bag floating (neutrally-buoyant) upside-down in the sea, and I contributed to the pollution by losing my own nalgene bottle on one swim.

Sea Holly

I actually finished Project Copper a week ago, but it takes time to write all this up. I didn’t set out to do a swim every day. One day was lost due to fog, another due to Carol’s Ballycotton swim.

Doing it in this incremental fashion gave me all these experiences and awareness and knowledge that a normal marathon swim wouldn’t have unveiled, and it’s been a pleasure to share as much of them as I could with you all.

I’ve seen all the colours of open water swimming. I’ve confirmed my long-held belief that Waterford‘s Copper Coast is one of the most beautiful and under-rated stretches of coast in Ireland.

Ronan's Bay and Illaunglas from Great Newtown Head - large panorama

What did I learn? You can find adventure anywhere. You don’t have to swim the English Channel or cross the Antarctic or spend a fortune. There are plenty of Firsts out there if you want to seek them out.

Go to the sea. It’s waiting, always, always waiting for you.

Swimming in front of Brown's Island, Kilfarassey

The Project Copper Idea. Criteria and range.

The ten swim expeditions

  • Guillamene to Sheep Island: Exposed. No exit from Guillamene to Garrarus. Westerly current. Higher marine traffic. About 9.5 kilometres.
  • Kilmurrin to Boatstrand. Various strong and often contrary currents. Water can be very rough when not rough elsewhere on coast. Interim exit possible only on west side of Dunabrattin head. About 4 kilometres.
  • Kilmurrin to Tankardstown. Strong westerly currents. Water can be rough when not rough elsewhere on coast. Exposed, no exit, scary. About 4 kilometres.
  • Bunmahon to Tankardstown. Can be rips on Bunmahon beach. About 4 kilometres. Interim exit possible at Stage Cove.
  • Annestown to Kilfarassey. Along long beach, easy exit from water almost entire length but a long walk along beach which is cut off on high tide. Watch for hidden reefs along surf line. About 5+ kilometres.
  • Annestown to Boatstrand. Can pick up and amplify swell when nowhere else does at Boatstrand end. Safe exits. Lots of pots and lines and some fishing boats and possible seals near Boatstrand fishing harbour. About 6+ kilometres.
  • Kilfarassey. Above mid tide only. Lots of hidden reefs. Easterly current between Sheep Island and Brown’s Island. Surging waves on beach above mid tide. About 6+ kilometres. Possible exits on about 70% of length.
  • Bunmahon to Ballydowane Cove. Exposed and hidden from rest of coast. Westerly currents. Hidden reefs. About 5+ kilometres. Possible exits but no way to walk back, except first kilometer on low tide.
  • Ballydowane to Ballyvooney. Westerly currents at Ballyvooney end, easterly current at Ballydowane end, reaching St. John’s Island . No exits. About 6 kilometres.
  • Ballyvooney to Stradbally. Very strong westerly current between Gull island and Stradbally. No exits. About 4.7 kilometres.
All swims marked on the same (large) map below.

The Project Copper Map - completed

Newtown & Guillame swimming website

Some of you may have noticed a new link in the sidebar.

I put together another site for Tramore’s Newtown & Guillamene swimming club some time back. We’re just starting to add content to it. There are plenty of photographs going back up to 80 years to come (probably slowly), along with stories and anecdotes.

Now I talk enough about the location here that many of you who’ve never visited it will be quite familiar with it from my pictures.

Newtown Cove. Click for very large image for detail.

This is the photo I took for the title image on the site, giving you a better view of the location itself. If you enlarge it you’ll be able to have a reasonable look around.

Like Sandycove, it’s one of the great Irish swimming locations. It regularly features in broadcast and print media due to its great tradition.

Visitors and tourists are always welcomed and are often surprised by the vibrancy brought by all generations having proper waterside fun together.

Rock and pier diving and jumping, triathletes, family picnics, scuba diving, kayaking, recreational swimming. I saw a stand up paddle boarder recently, and surfer vainly searching for waves there. There’s a seal that occasionally pops up during the winter, though I haven’t seen it in a year. There’s even a Channel swimmer or two around fairly regularly. :-)

I won’t be writing regularly for it, but will admin the site and work with the club hopefully to keep it updated.

Please visit it either IRL or virtually.



Project Copper – a new Lone Swim – Guillamene to Sheep Island

I had a plan for a swim last week, but I was let down again by my kayaking friend.

What to do, what to do?

Friday’s forecast was pretty good. Very light onshores. I wanted something new. So I decided it was the apposite day. I had a pretty decent breakfast and was ready to go.

When I arrived at the Guillamene the tide was an hour past high and the place was buzzing with people. There was even some sun in the sky but the wind was bit friskier than forecasted, enough to catch the irregular beams of sunlight and cast them about like spotlit rhinestones in a Christmas window, putting on a showy invitational display.

The Scarf current was plainly visible, this time stretching away toward the dunes.

I put on some suntan lotion and attached a D-clip to my togs. Jimmy from the Newtown & Guillamene club told that the local fishermen said the currents where I was going were too strong, according to the local fishermen. I told him I believed the fishermen were wrong.

Onto the D-clip I attached a metre-long string with a bottle with a sachet of Go-Sport carb added (I’m out of Maxim).

The Metalman

I looped away on my normal outward course toward the Metalman and Great Newtown Head. The water was choppy to the front. I was already about three minutes behind normal by the time I read the Head. I swam in below the head between the rocks and Seal Rock, a three metre gap that should only really be swam in Force 2 or less.

From there I swam across toward Illaunglas, passing the rock before it. I’d allocated about 20 minutes between each waypoint so I could track my progress.

I think of Illaunglas as Cormorant Rock. It’s actually a small black reef and the rock of the coast, which is white from the guano of the cormorants and herring gulls that are always there. As I passed they took to the air over me for almost 10 minutes.

Each of the three promontories between Newtown head and Garrarus are sites of neolithic forts.

On the coast all along here but particularly on either side of Cormorant rock are very large sea caves, facing almost directly south-east and south respectively, and therefore in the high August sunlight looking like black dark ocean gates to the Land of the Aes Sídhe, the underworld land of the Unseely Court and the Good Folk.

New territory between Illaunglas (furthest) and Garrarus

At about 45 minutes I was passed another unseen border and I was into water I’d never swum before. From the Guillamene it is all cliffs. There are some small beaches but they are inaccessible at the foot of the unstable cliffs. The last possible exist point is the foot of Newtown head under the Metalman, where it would be possible to climb the cliff and walk along the edge for twenty minutes back to the car park. Not exactly ideal if you are in togs. This swim was a commitment, a Lone Swim.

It continued to be choppy with the chop coming toward me from front and left.

From Illaunglas however I was passing one of my water borders from the outside, from the unknown water section into an area with which I was again familiar and which I think of as Wonderland.

The next twenty minutes took me toward Burke’s Rock on the outside of Garrarus, familiar water again.

Burke's Rock and Garrarus rocks, aka Wonderland, on a calm day from the cliffs, lots of currents and boat trails visible

With the tide dropping one of my plans to swim through what I call the Wonderland Hole wasn’t possible. I swam between the outside of the Garrarus rocks and inside Burke’s Rock with two fulmars keeping station above me.

From there I was heading across Garrarus bay. As I swam toward The Teeth, I could see three cars parked above the beach, I was back to a location where I could again exit the water, but with my car miles away, it wasn’t have been much use.

The Teeth with Sheep Island beyond on a low tide and choppy day

From Burke’s Rock, I swam between the reefs that I call The Teeth, because there are two lines of them and on a dropping tide you can’t take a direct line through but have to weave between.

From there I swam across on a slightly curving inward course toward Sheep Island. Sheep Island marks the end of Kilfarassey beach and was my intended destination.

I wasn’t the whole way across. It was one hour and thirty minutes, which I’d set as my turning-back time. I stopped and thought about it. Then I decided and I continued on.

Sheep Island on the outside from Garrarus

1 hour 40 minutes. Just inside the smaller island I call The Watchtower. Yes, I’ve been giving swim names to a lot of the features along this coast.

The Watchtower

I took my carb drink, gulping about half of the 750ml. Then I started back. This time I decided to go outside of Burke’s Rock. The chop was now slightly behind me. It drove me a bit too far inward approaching Illaunglas and I had to swim outward to pass Cormorant Rock, many birds once again taking wing and skimming down close to investigate as I passed. One hundred metres or so I took half the remaining carb and headed for Newtown Head once again being driven inside the head. At two hours twenty-five I took the remaining carb drink, swam inside Seal Rock again with the chop behind me, but knowing that approaching it from this side if I took the left side of the short passage it would be deeper and safer. I passed within fingertip distance of the rocks and then looped deliberately outward for the final leg with the chop now finally behind me. The last twenty five minutes were tiring.

I reached the Guillamene three hours and ten minutes since I’d started. Nine kilometers total. I’d picked up ten minutes only on the return, indicating I’d hit something that slowed me. After I used Google Earth to figure it out , I realised that the whole expedition took longer than I’d expected, since the distance was only about 9k. Obviously I’d lost more time on the outward after passing Newtown Head, and I picked up less on the return than expected.

Guillamene to Sheep island and back

A good, and new, unsupported swim, with a sufficient amount of scary for me. Just to note, though I was swimming part of the coast I hadn’t swam before, I’d actually, as I’d obviously taken the above photos from the cliff tops and also knew the area of the turning point from swimming it.

I’ve often swum for longer than 3 hours by myself, but I’ve been working from a location that I return to during the swim such as Sandycove, Clonea or the Guillamene. I’ve swum further unsupported in less time (Tramore bay over and back). But this was the longest time unsupported without returning to a base. And in new water.

It’s similar to a Speckled Door over and back swim in Sandycove. The same lack of exits along the coast, and a swim which you wouldn’t normally do by yourself.

My swimming range in Tramore Bay

After years of swimming T-Bay, I’ve gotten to know it reasonably well. A few years back I drew up a map of the pertinent features, from a swimming point of view. That map is a bit out of date, I’ve made a few discoveries since then, but I just keep it in my head now. Anyway, having swum into and out of, new parts of the bay this year, I did a quick map of my swimming “range” in Google Earth.

It’s pretty extensive. The area within the red lines are the areas I’ve swum in. It doesn’t include areas down the coast that I’ve swum to from the Guillamene. I’ve tried to roughly gauge the area from many swims, though the vast majority are similar swims, between the Metalman and the pier.

The two big additions this year are the spiky area pointing down and the spiky area out to the upper right.

The area across the bay to Brownstown is from a few over and back solo swims and plenty to about half way, and a couple of one ways back from Brownstown.

The spike out the upper right was an attempt to do Mo Snámh Mór Fada (over to Brownstown Head and back, unaccompanied)  a few weeks back that didn’t go well. There was an onshore Force Two again. I’d never done an over and back in those conditions but wanted to try it, since I’ve done a couple of half way and back swims this year.

After about 50 minutes of swimming to Brownstown Head, but feeling I was not going as well as usual, I checked my triangulation off Brownstown, Newtown, the Metalman and the pier and I discovered I’d been pushed further into the bay, maybe one to one and a half kilometres off course, something that wasn’t obvious when I was only sighting forward. I’d been driven to the far inside of the bay and the beach. To make it to Brownstown would therefore have been too long. The return to the Guillamene was tough as I was then heading more back into the wind and waves. It took almost two hours in total, not hugely far off my best over and back time, but I estimate it could have taken at least anther hour, though I think in fact it would have taken another hour and a half. I very rarely abort a swim. it was interesting, I learned more from it.

The spike to the bottom right was 4 to 6 weeks ago when I felt the need to get away from land altogether. It was a southerly onshore Force 2 wind on the way out, and was interesting. I’ve been out there once again since then.

Otherwise the only things of interest are that I regularly swim quite far out from the side of the bay when swimming in and out of the pier to Metalman.

A great photo Dee took yesterday. At full size, you can see four current trails from each leg and arm. It was rougher when I was returning.

Donal swimming past Newtown leaving current trails

An Snámh Fada 2011

A last-minute decision was made. What the hell, I might as well do it. It’s the closest swim and the swim run by (one) of my own clubs and at my most regular swimming location. I’d met a few of the club regulars the day before when I made a failed attempt at my own Mo Snámh  Fada Mór (My Big Long Swim), swimming across the bay and back unaccompanied .

Newtown and Guillamene swimming club has been in existence since the 1930’s. I’ve just started putting together a website for it (though there’s nothing much there yet).

Every year in late July or early August, depending on tides, the Club runs An Snámh Fada (The Long Swim, a swim from the Guillamene to Tramore Pier, a little over 1 kilometre. Essentially too short for me, I’m not a sprinter. And you know, swimming down to the pier and back is still a short swim, for early spring colder water only.

Still, I thought I might as well swim it once for fun. Dee & I and the dogs got there early. It was even more boring for Dee than normal as I was constantly meeting and chatting with all the club members and some other like local artist Vanessa Daws and her friend James.

Spot the tanned Loneswimmer

An Snámh Fada has the ugliest swim caps ever. That makes sure no one will want to keep them. They’re cloth so even if you did, they’re useless.

Club Member Joe gave a quick briefing about 11.20, then we were coralled like sheep into a steel dipping-pen for the start at the steps. Room for only about 4 abreast, with 60 swimmers signed up, I made my way to the front waiting group, climbing through the railings to get forward.

Joe had said, this is not a race. What this really means for many of us is, it is a race, but there are no prizes!

Flat for the swim

The bay was flat. Only slightest Force One airs. A pity. I prefer racing in rough conditions.They allow me to use my experience more. Flat short course is too much like a big swimming pool.

Denis gave us the go and we were off. For this course I had three options, narrow, wide or down the middle. The sea being so flat, wide was not the right move. But most of the remainder of the others to go out fast were already pulling ahead, as usual.

Youth, doesn’t it make you want to grit your teeth sometimes? They were heading down the middle. I went narrow, in toward the Colomene rocks. I felt I’d be only one doing it, and I was correct, (in so far as I could tell). I seem to have a thing for rocks, as has been seen here previously.

By the time we’d passed the Colomenes, about 400 metres out the lead group had well dropped me and there was fair gap back to the main group. I’m not that fast, I don’t like these sprints. I’m too old!

Even on a short race, the field quickly spread outs. Click to embiggen.

At 500 metres I saw I was closing on two wet-suited swimmers. I followed my line, and was getting closer and closer. Quickly we were beside each other. One adult male, one teenager. Sorry. The teenager got squeezed out. I was google to google with the man. He cracked. They were gone. Two more down.

Straight to the pier. The line was important. There was another non-wetsuit male swimmer outside me. 300 metres to go. I know exactly how the pier lines up. I kept narrow. I was closing. 100 metres to go. I was level and on the inside. 25 metres to go, still level but I had less to swim. He didn’t seem to know I was there. Unless he had a big final sprint, I was in.

And so it proved. I took about 20 seconds out of him at the end. Up the pier steps, a quick check with Denis, I was sixth overall but first non-wetsuit. Ironically a slow time of about 17 minutes due the flat conditions. It’s always the same, whenever I pick up a first, there’s never any shinies. But I enjoy myself regardless, indeed regardless of place.

Then a dive off the pier end, and swim back on the outside to the Guillamene. There’s no way I was swimming such a short distance and walking back.

After we took a trip to Dunmore East. On arrival we discovered there was cruise ship in the Estuary.

We went down around the rocks below the village.

And we took the dogs out onto the cliffs and rocks below the road and park. Each section of the cliffs and every tiny cove in Dunmore has a different name and access point, all quite old.

What's that? Over there. And there. And there.



There was a big Farmer’s and Artisan’s market on in the harbour which was very busy with thousands of visitors around the piers, the adventure centre and sailing club and around the village.



Waterbuses were taking trips out to the cruise ship and there were yachts, power boats, cruisers and ribs.

Scout was interested in everything. But the other dogs, not so much, they’ve seen it all.



There were plenty of good stalls, including a great Lebanese stall, which had the dogs interested and hopeful. In fact it was one of those occasions where dogs owners could happily mingle.

Dunmore East is a big fishing harbour and fish market and distribution centre.

There are newer large trawlers and a sizeable fleet of traditional fishing vessels, which were all moored together and looked very picturesque, in the way of fishing harbours the world over.


There were apperently disinterested anglers fishing on the rocks beyond the pier end,.

As we were heading toward the car, we passed Dunmore’s thatched cottages.

The sun just started to appear as we left the village up the hill, and the estuary and cliffs beyond Councellors Cove looked great through the pines.

The dogs were tired and thirsty.

And we weren’t even done for the day.

This. Is Summer?

Once again I was trying to write while drinking a desperately needed mug of hot chocolate.

Air temperature 11 °Celcius. Water temperature … 11 ° Celcius. Summer?

I remember a Sunday morning at the Guillamene in early November of 2009 with the wind howling, the rain coming in, changing in the alcove and Dee asking me if I was insane. Thursday was like that.  Except it’s summer, as the dictionary defines it anyway. Irish summer, the sky full of liquid sunshine.

Philip was just exiting the water when I arrived. By the time I left the water myself after an hour, I was battered and cold. There was a Force 4 onshore. Down to the pier wasn’t too bad, with the chop coming from behind. Coming back was a battle, probably the roughest since Gábor and I swam together here one evening last July. Passing the Colomene the choppy waves are always worse. And then passing Newtown Cove it was a complete washing machine. Choppy south-east onshore swell and waves coming over an underwater reef. Ugh.

Colomene rocks on a bad summer's day (yesterday)

As I exited the water, I realised that visibility due to the torrential rain was only about half a mile. But the time I got changed and went and got my camera, it had of course started to improve. That picture above is when it was starting to clear up a bit! Seriously.

Anyway, separate story. As I arrived at the car park, thinking to myself, this is easily the worst day of the so-called summer so far (and that’s saying a lot in Ireland), one of those giant white limousines which are usually full of drunk teenagers was (barely) pulling the car park ahead of me. I pulled up and due to the wind and rain I pulled on a coat straight-away. A wedding party were exiting the limo and following cars. What a day for wedding pictures, I thought.

Guillamene Shelter. Room for 2, barely.

Just before leaving home, I had mentioned to No. 1 Son, a very good photographer, that I always took the camera with me now, just in case, as I may find something to write about. And so, after leaving my swim box in the alcove, I decided to run back up and take a picture of the couple.

The wind was pulling the bride’s veil across her face and they has an umbrella to keep the rain off. I was cold and I’m used to cold, and I was wearing a coat and I hadn’t even swum yet.

Anyway, I just got one photo and wished them the best and told them I’d make them famous.

So here’s Rama and Pria. Rama is Indian and Pria is from the Czech Republic (thanks to the Irish photographer, whose name I didn’t get, who gave me the details).

Don’t ask me to explain.

Always wear a belt

It was one hour and ten minutes after I got out of the water that I started writing this, and I was still not fully warmed up.

Cold June day at the Guillamene

The temperature had dropped to 9.3 °C from Wednesday’s 11.0 °C, due to the northerlies for the past 36 hours, I guess. The day before I swam about 4600 metres, with full claw of the left hand by the finish. Yesterday I decided I really needed to get that 5k non-wetsuit OW swim on Ned’s annual qualification list out of the way, since I hadn’t bothered to do it when the weather (and water) was a bit better a few weeks ago.

As is my way, and my way especially with the sea, I don’t really make firm decisions beforehand. I always like to take it as it comes. I met Billy (Club President) and Joe up the car park who said that the water was cold. Before I measured the temperature, I’d hoped to do the 5k but once I measured the 9.3 °C I didn’t mentally commit to it. However once I’m doing something, I’ll generally keep going. As it turned out.

When I reached the Metalman to begin the long straight 2.2k to the pier, I moved out About half way between the Metalman and the Guillamene I saw something in the water I didn’t recognise amongst all the jellies we’ve had for the last while. It was like a cuttlefish shape. I stopped and tried to dive down to see it, but it’s already cold enough at the surface to stop the desire to get much colder by going deep, and it was dark also since the day was overcast, so I dove down a little bit, but the shape seemed to drop away into the darkness.

I arrived at the pier five minutes ahead of the previous day, so when I came back to the Guillamene, I kept going past for the extra four hundred metres I estimated I needed for the five kilometer total.

Two half Claws, not too bad.

The belt? That because if you get the Claw and can’t close your trousers button (as happened me today), at least the pants will stay up. Unlike Rob after one swim last year, where his pants fell down when he stopped in Kinsale for a coffee.

Oh, it turns out 2 days ago was World Oceans Day. Luckily, I went for a swim, even though I didn’t know.

Spring at the Guillamenes

Problem: Out of ideas of what to write about next.

Solution: Go for a swim.

From the Guillamenes down to the pier and out the headland, ( the “Guillamenes Double” as I call it, though I only went halfway out to the headland yesterday, due to Half-Claw). Water was 9.c C under the ladder, maybe quarter to half a degree warmer than outside, though with a warm spot out past Newtown Cove.

Result: Come back with a list of ten possible things to talk about.

Renewed by the sea once more.

Here’s a picture popular with the tourists that I should have posted a long time ago, but kept forgetting because I’m so used to seeing it, in fact I never actually took one myself until yesterday. The well-known sign from the Guillamenes.

Guillamenes sign-resized

The context for that sign , with Tramore Bay and Tramore beach and town behind.


Here are my two travelling companions, who haven’t appeared enough here also, elderly siblings (14 years old) and along with Dee my best friends Toby and Jo-Jo.

Though siblings, the Tubster (aka The Small Emergency Backup Dog, no longer small) likes water, (but not waves) while Joey (the boss) prefers hills.

Club Chairman Eddie Kelly was around but I forgot to take his picture or the Cabin ( a converted shipping container, much used for summer lunches by the Club, with sausage sandwiches of the traditional Waterford Blaas being popular). A blaa is a soft bread bap and is pronounced like the sound a sheep makes by the way.

Much work has been done at the Guillamenes since the end of last summer. There are new wider steps down to the water, new railing on the steps, all the steps have been re- concreted, a new stone and wood picnic table, all the metalwork repainted and in some cases replaced, new signs, new fencing along the top cliff and a new retaining wall added on the outside of the platform to increase the area for changing, mostly funder under a European Partnership Funding initiative, with plans for further work if the Club can raise more funds.

You coming?

Most of the maintenance of this area is carried out by the Club members, some of them swimming in this area for well over 50 years. In an era long before the modern concept of environmentalism, these people looked on the sea as a shared heritage for all, and sought to protect it and improve the local amenities. This is true local environmental action.

The steps down to the platform, not as long nor as steep as they seem in this picture, only about 30 steps.

And then there are the sea and the rocks. It was low tide when I took this, on a nice semi-sunny day, mixed clouds and sun. It was afternoonish so the sun had moved west from it’s usual southerly position when I’m there allowed a few better pictures.

Looking from the top of the steps toward Donerail Head and the Pier. It’s about an 18 minute swim down to the pier (average) and 25 minutes to below Doneraile Head. Down and back to the Pier is 40 to 45 minutes. Currents often form off the pier end. At low tide there are heavy kelp stands that need to be negotiated.

Here’s the platform from above. You can see the Compass Rose which indicates why this is a good spot in a westerly or southwesterly. In fact yesterday there was a brisk southwestly but the swim route was nicely sheltered. The blue pillar marks one side of the tiny covered alcove that gets more used in windy winter days.  The far end of the platform was the location of the diving board until it was broken the year before last. Hopefully we’ll have a replacement this year. There are also two locations where it’s possible to high jump from rocks, one of them is more visible as the light coloured area about half way up the nearest tall rocks, above the high tide line, the height obviously tide dependent, up to about 40 feet and another far more dangerous higher spot on the far side, which had a fatality a few years back.

Those No Fishing signs are important. The rocks are popular with local anglers. These ones between the Guillamenes and Newtown Coves have the favourite spot, and I’m the only regular who swims that way, just where the rocks stick. I’ve yet to be caught in a line.

And below are some Sea-spray flowers with Brownstown head across the bay in the background.

Below, looking out toward the headland, over Newtown Cove, with the three Navigation Pillars on the headland visible.

Rocks are more interesting than sand don’t you think? A landlubber can walk along a beach, yes, in itself a pleasant activity. But show a sea swimmer some cliffs or rocks and what do you have but something that divides us from our landlived lives. You must enter into or upon the sea to navigate and appreciate the obstacle and the view.

And where would this be without a picture of the famous Metalman, now redundant as so many navigation aids, yet which retains the affection of seafolk and locals.

Now I see him point not at danger, but at enticement, at my other home.

Hope to see you all down here for a visit sometime. He’s pointing the way

Waterford Coast high-resolution

Given that Google Earth doesn’t cover Tramore Bay in higher resolution, here are some pics from the OSI.

First is the whole bay, some of the currents can be seen. Next is the stretch of coast on thw west side where I swim, from the Guillamenes in the centre down to the headland with the old Metalman navigation pillars, and inward toward the pier. That stretch of coast is facing South East.

Next is Clonea Beach and Ballinacourty Lighthouse, Clonea is also facing the same direction but not as protected as there are no cliffs above the water. You can see the small rock of Carricknamoan that I often swim out to when conditions are good and the tide is high.

Another stupid thing I’ve done. No. 5124 in an ongoing series, (i.e. my life)

Coming home from Cork yesterday, the conditions driving across by the Comeraghs were terrible, in fact from Dungarvan to Carrick there was often heavy snow for miles on end. By last night everything had frozen to lethality.   So when I looked out this morning and saw this: I of course immediately thought, “I must go for a sea swim”.

Doggits and myself into the car.   And then a long drive to Tramore. Normally a 30 minute drive, I was unable to cross the bridge at Piltown due to the conditions. Through Waterford, I actually took the toll bridge, the only other time I’ve done this was the Christmas swim in similar conditions last year. I hoped as I approached the coast that the snow and ice would disappear as happened last year. Instead, conditions that I’ve never experienced myself at the coast prevailed and the temperature dropped further as I entered Tramore Town. Unwilling to risk the steep hill through the town, I went up onto the bypass and approached the coast and the Guillamenes from the west side through the trees. I saw this view when I arrived outside the car park, having taken twice as long as long as normal to get there. The grant for redoing the platform at the Guillamenes came through a few weeks ago and so the car park is closed and access down the cliff steps is blocked. So, quick walk for the doggits.

Looking toward the town I could see snow right on the beach.

The steps down were ice sheeted and the platform and rocks were covered in snow and ice. The air temperature was -3.5C! The coldest air temperature I’ve previously ever swum in was about +2 or 3C.

There was also a light Force 2 Northeasterly breeze blowing, just to add to the fun. The water was calm.

I’ve many times swam here on a Saturday or Sunday morning when there are none of the regulars around, but in those circumstances the water conditions were always such they wouldn’t risk it. Today however the water looked lovely and calm. But the risk just getting to the Guillamenes & Newtown Cove was obviously too much.

The cold air temperature meant steam was rising off the sea.

The freezing air and wind meant by the time I got togged out with cap on, my hands were completely numb before I got in the water. I had to wear my coat right to the edge and hang it on the top railing, something else I’ve never done, but it was bitterly cold.

The second pour on the new steps was completed this week, and while the rails remain to be added the new steps are now wide enough to allow a few people to exit and enter the water simultaneously, though it does look like the railings are going to be put to the side instead of the center, which would make more sense and allow entry and exit at the same time, but I long ago ceased to expect foresight from Local Government, retaining now only a perpetual sense of disappointment. But maybe this time I’ll be wrong.

The water itself was of course fine. I loaned my infrared thermometer but I’d say the water was probably 9.5C.

I only swam about 20 minutes. The steam rising off the water mean a reduction in horizontal visibility while the sky was perfectly clear overhead.

My shoulders and back were cold due to air and wind exposure. (Otherwise just normal November water temperature). Because of the cold air, I cut the swim short at about 20 minutes.

It was one of the utterly memorable swims. Blue overhead & white and pink streaks towards the south, with that peculiar washed-out almost urine-like colour of the southern sky toward the horizon mixed with cold grey rain/snow clouds.

While out there I had the usual sense of being the only person alive in the world. But today, unusually, I actually also thought about Liz, Craig, Rob, Gábor and Lisa who were also swimming this morning in Sandycove.  I’m not far from passing my Sandycove C target, but it looks like I won’t reach it until the new year.

Because of the wind and air, getting dressed was the same as if I’d been swimming in 5 or 6 C water and dropped my temperature more significantly.

I had left my rubber changing mat on the concrete and it had already frozen and was as cold to stand on as the concrete! I was unable to towel dry, just pulled the clothes straight on. (One reason why I wear Merino wool when going swimming, it retains body heat while damp.)

As I left I could see snow out in the bay, and the steam still rising.

The trip home was worse. Getting off the Guillamenes road was difficult It took half an hour just to get out of Tramore. For a short local swim, I spent half the day.

Apparently the coldest November since 1973.

But it was fun, as always.

An Snámh Mór Fada

“Let them think what they liked, but I didn’t mean to drown myself. I meant to swim till I sank — but that’s not the same thing.”
— Joseph Conrad (The Secret Sharer and other stories)

The Newtown & Guillamenes Swimming Club runs the Snámh Fada (long swim) every August. In reality it just runs from the Guillamenes to the pier, less than 20 minutes. No point in doing what is for me a small part of a single training swim.

Occasionally, the Club, or others, will run the Snámh Mór, which has always been a swim back across the bay from a boat drop at Brownstown Head, ending at the Guillamenes. This is about 4500 metres, usually a dropping a few hundred metres off the Head. Racing this, I’m slightly over an hour.

So I figure a Tramore Bay swim, over and back, (10K if you go rock to rock), should be called the Snámh Mór Fada, the Big Long Swim.

Today’s conditions were perfect for a Snámh Mór Fada. No wind, almost glassy conditions, no swell, overcast with an odd brief glimpse of the sun, water probably around 13.5 C.

No boat cover, solo, a long way from land, knowing there are fishing boats out and towing a feed bottle behind me, luminous orange swim cap.

Dumber than Witless Jack MacDumb, Chief Idiot of the Stupid Clan.

I can’t condone or recommend this in any way to anyone. In fact I advise against it in the strongest terms.

But we’re adults. We make our own decisions about our lives, where we can, in a world that circumscribes us. My life is my own. I own it entirely. I subscribe to an existentialist view of life. I did not consider it too risky, having weighed the pros and cons and using my experience and open water judgement. That’s part of what this whole adventure and web page is about, a journey into experiences.

I turned a few hundred metres from the Head. About five minutes later the Coast Guard helicopter went over! This is one of my worries, that someone on the cliffs seeing me head out and not come back will panic and call the Coast Guard or RNLI Inshore Rescue, both of whom are based only a few minutes flight away.

The helicopter seemed a bit high though, and I was obviously swimming, not sinking. Within a minute or so it had turned though, coming back in a bit lower. “Oh, oh”, I though, local radio and notoriety here I come. Luckily though it went back to base. I got back in 2 hours 30 minutes on the dot, very surprisingly (to me) taking the same time each way. I had expected a slightly longer return time due to tidal currents.

There were some interesting resonances of the Channel. A very large amount of plankton in the water further out and the whole way across, catching the light, was very similar to the Channel, more than I have seen anywhere else I’ve swam in Ireland.
And the sensation, particularly when heading towards Brownstown head, of not making any progress. After thirty minutes outward swimming, it seemed the Guillamenes was still seemingly close and Brownstown Head was no closer, a mini replica of the Cap which seems to get no closer at all for two or three hours.

Good day.

Cold spots

I measured the Guillamenes at 12.5C yesterday, a full 3.5C warmer than a week previously, sun in the sky, and no wind.
However swimming outward past Newtown Cove the temp dropped, and halfway to the Metalman I’d say it was only about 9.5C.

There was no particular sensation of gradually warmer water as I swam from outside the Metalman, just outside the bay, back inward until after a few hundred meters after I passed the Comolene. There were distinct warm patches from there to the pier.
Overall, maybe because of tiredness, I got cold quickly yesterday and had enough at just under 90 minutes.

It’s almost impossible to gauge what the difference between water temperatures once one is in it. Going on experience I usually guess about a 2 degree differential. Yesterday was a bit more I think.

After I returned to the car park I was surprised that I could see multiple cold streams. Out past Newtown cove I could 4 different stream, and in past the Guillamenes, I could see three. Two are easily visible in the picture, with the third slightly visible over and to the right of the other two. I haven’t seen this before.

I’d guess I can remember the main cold and warm spots in most places I’ve swam.

Some other examples:
Clonea is cold once you swim east past the black rocks below the big house even on warm days.
Baile na Gaul has a cold patch at the point before Helvick.
The temperature drops as you swim over the Gainers, the reefs 2/3 of the way across Dungarvan Bay.
Sandycove is cold as you pass the second corner and mostly warm around the third corner.
Clew Bay is intermittently warm as you swim into the Newtown estuary.
Inishcarragh can have cold spots at the far side of the lake.

I remember them because they hurt.

Lovely Guillamenes video

Shot last weekend by Kilkenny Arts Centre current Artist-in-residence Vanessa Daws when she came down for her first Guillamenes swim with me. The day was as close to perfect as it could be, glassy conditions, sunny sky, warm air (for the time of year). Click on Vanessa’s name above for her own website.

Guillamenes and Newtown images.

Took a slightly better picture this morning. Nice view of the Guillamenes concrete apron area taken from the road above.
As you can see from the reflection path, we’re facing directly south here.
Two series of steps for entry or project yourself from the lip.

If you look to the below the top of the horizon line on the second picture, there is a lighter blue line running across from the left. This is the “Scarf” current I’ve mentioned previously and which moves about.

The third image is Newtown cove, just around the corner, about 200 (swimming) metres away.

Click for full size.

Newtown Cove, “next door to the Guillamenes”.

My eldest son is a great photographer. (His travelling Flickr account)
I’m not.
The picture is Newtown Cove, the other swimming spot (unless likE me the see the whole bay as a single spot), around the corner from the Guillamenes. (Shot into a morning rising sun, which is why the lens-flare).
I swim past this all the time but rarely swim out from it, except on South-easterlies.
Outside this (on the left) is the section I call The Washing Machine.
Nothing wrong with it though. Beach or pier entry.

Two of the three Metalman pillars on the headland can be seen in the distance, (I turn below them on shorter swims). Maybe one time out of forty there may be someone on the cliff top or a fishing boat out there. Mostly I’m by myself, one of the reasons I swim open water.

One time out of about 200 there maybe someone having sex on the rocks below the cliff. That is, I’ve swam out there a lot. Once there was a couple having some al-fresco fun, thinking they were perfectly private and could see anything coming for miles, when I swam around a rock about 15 metres away. Imagine how they felt!

The Guillamenes, my sea swimming “home”

Facing inland toward Tramore town.

Click for bigness.

Because of the rock outcrop you can’t see all the concrete/changing area.

Those buildings in the distance are one end of the Tramore Prom, about 30 minutes swimming away. I rarely take the  direct route to there but west (left on the map) around the outcrop, across to the pier, (not visible), and around Doneraile Head (the visible headland in the distance), then follow the beach.

Right out at the end of the concrete is where the diving board goes in summer. In the tiny Guillamenes cove though are also two spots for cliff jumping/high diving also.