“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.