Friday, June 10, 2005

Hello Everyone

What am I blogging? I'm hoping to use this blog to present to you, dear public, those of my adventures I think suitable for your entertainment or instruction. Adventures may be of the present, or dredged from the depths of my storied past. Additionally, I reserve the bloggers most sacred privilege: the right to rant or muse on whatever topic may take my fancy (or fill a post or two in a fallow period for adventures). My adventures will usually involve water in some form, and occasionally travel. Musing will most likely involve current affairs or technology.

Tale the First
Not actually an adventure as such...

Having recently moved house and job to live happily ever after with my intended, I find myself living much closer to salt water than I have in quite some time. So, taking advantage of a particularly fine mid-week June evening, I loaded up my car with wetsuit, bodyboard and fiancee, and headed for the beach. This particular beach is a very beautiful place, broad yellow sands with clean water and an interesting rocky headland for contrast. It is also known as quite a reasonable surfing spot, and I had fair hopes of an interesting evening (rumours of 4ft surf, which would be nice).

Alas... the rumours have been much exagerated. There waves are really very small, just 2ft or so, and even those are very irregular. Still, there are worse ways to spend a sunny evening than bobbing in the atlantic, contemplating the horizon - so that is what I did. In fact, it is what most surfers do, most of the time - a very meditative sort of sport. The quiet, the gentle up and down, the slow succession of the swells, and the gentle warmth of sun on neoprene send me into a semi-trance - mind empty, relaxed, deeply at ease.

Allmost too relaxed, after a while. I did get a few gentle rides, with no spills, but most of the waves are not really rideable. Even the experienced surfers aren't doing much, so I eventually trade my body board for a snorkel, and set off to do a little exploring. I haven't been in the water for some time, and I don't usually bother on beaches with so much sand, so I'm quite entertained for a while by watching the turbulence on the seabed when a wave passes over - the sand is ripped up into racings "clouds", like the sandstorms I've seen in the cinema, above which I float, zeppelin-like in my black wetsuit, elongated by my huge fins. Moving into deeper water, I make short dives to 2M or so, practicing my equalisation (forcing air into my eustacian tubes to avoid a painful "pressure squeeze" when the external pressure of the sea exceeds the air pressure in the air spaces within one's head).

Eventually I tire of the sands below me, which harbour only drifting weed - no fish or crabs - and turn to watching the waves, slipping under with my back to the seabed and watching flattened bubbles rise like discs of mercury towards the surface and the setting sun. Moving close to the rocks of the headland, I find that the swell which is inadequate for surfing is just high enough to make snorkeling "interesting" - the sand comes right up to the head, and in shallow water like this, it fills it like a fog, with sharp rocks emerging very suddenly from the murk. Undeterred, I begin to work along the ins and outs, paying special attention to corners and ledges. This is a great place for limpets, and I decide to try an "ambush" - they are known for the tremendous strength of their hold on the rocks, but I have heard that if taken by surprise, they are easily plucked loose. I begin to move as stealthily as possible in the rolling waves, doing my best to avoid bumping against the rocks and signalling my approach. Sure enough, my first grab is a success! My victim is a good size, perhaps an inch and a half wide at the base, with a muscular yellow foot on the underside and a very thin fringe around the edge. In all my years on the seashore, I don't think I've ever seen this side of the creature. Feeling a little guilt, I return my victim to the same spot - where I am relieved to see that it seems to stick back quite easily, non the worse for my meddling.

Moving on, I seek more active "prey" - a deep corner in the rock with poor handholds (I'm fighting the buoyancy of my wetsuit, which is unweighted, and the air in my lungs), I find a very frightened little green crab, its shell not more than half the width of my hand. Trapped, it runs from side to side, over and back - but the rocks offer no shelter. From my left, another runs in to join its fellow - then a larger wave surges in, blinding me with sand and throwing me up and out of the corner. Returning, I see my prisoners have escaped.

Further into the shallows, I see a curious sight - very light coloured sand has been stirred up, but rises only so far in the water column, for all the world like a fog over the rocks and soft bottom beneath. Then visibility worsens... I'm feeling my way in now, with the sand thickening about me, avoiding the rocks more my touch than by sight. Time to go home.

What of the fiancee? She waited for me ashore, with the patience of an angel, and was rewarded with fishcakes in a nearby town.

Until the next day...
be careful out there!

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