Life on an Ocean Wave

Posted on: 04 Sep 2019

Sunday 1st September – Life on an Ocean Wave

Friday was a bad day as I scolded my right hand with an exploding pressure cooker and it had been giving me grief, pain, and blisters, but you have to try and carry on. The farm won’t wait and with only three weeks to the swimming event, these times are crucial for pushing me further. Galia now won’t allow me to use that pressure cooker again as this is the second time this has happened. I think she’s also concerned about the possibility of not having an apartment as well as my health.

It was the arrival to the Black Sea late Saturday afternoon to a place called Ravda. The accommodation was a pit, but we paid ridiculously low fees for two nights. Worked out around £14 a night, so can’t grumble.

As we changed into our beach outfits and walked the 150 metres to the beach it sunny, warm but very windy. My plan while Galia was lounging on the beach was to go for a short swim just to get the feel for a planned long swim tomorrow morning. Looking at the waves they were almost surfing waves and no one had umbrellas up as they wouldn’t last long with the gusts that picked up sand and threw it in your face. A bit dodgy for a swim, especially without the tow float which was going to be used in the long swim.

So, it was just looking at buoys in the sea and planning the session for tomorrow. I must say it was quite a nervous person thinking that if the conditions where the same the following day it would be quite dangerous in my eyes. My thoughts were far distanced from trying to tackle the issue of jellyfish at this point.

As the apartment we were staying at was a disgrace, we decided to have an evening out and a few drinks to help us get through the night. This still didn’t aid a good night of sleep and the following morning compounded by a little hangover. Nevertheless, after a Bulgarian pastry, (banistsa) and a yogurt drink (ayran), it was off to the beach at around 09:30, but we didn’t find a free sand space to camp out until 10:00 due to earlier early birds.

The wind was up, but not as severe as yesterday, my hat was still on at this point. With earplugs in, and tow float attached I said goodbye to a relaxed, but curious Galia who was probably glad of an opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

There were many rocks barring entry into the sea where we were camped so it was a little walk to find a more safe access point to get out to sea. There were regular buoys around 150 metres out and looked about 200 metres apart spanning the whole bay. My plan was to get to the nearest buoy and visit each one going north and re-visiting them all going back south along the coast.

Breaststroke to start and into freestyle going north, all looking and feeling good. It is definitely so much easier in the sea than the swimming pool. Even though there was quite a swell in the sea, it didn’t affect my stroke bar a few more bits of splashing. With the swell sighting was a problem as the rise obscured the next buoy. I had to revert to breaststroke giving me more time with eyes above the water. It does disrupt the freestyle continuation, but no big deal.

There is another issue with sighting which reminded me of another reason I don't like swimming. Being short-sighted things are seen blurred without my prescription glasses. In days gone past on rare occasions, I did go in the sea with family or friends and as I recall was a very lonely experience. Not being able to recognise people without glasses. I remember actually getting lost trying to find where we were located on the beach on more than one occasion. The memories came flooding back trying to sight those buoys to aim for. The fluorescent orange colour helps sightings but there is a degree of camouflage sometimes with other similar floatations along the coast and jetties. If I had the money a pair of prescription goggles would solve this issue. All said and done I cope pretty well without such aids and in my view, the cost would not be commensurate to the issue.  

As the bottom of the sea disappeared from sight another sight came into view. Jellyfish again. I get quite frightened seeing them getting so close to me. My ploy was now to shut my eyes when my head is underwater so I don’t see them. On occasions, I feel something on my arm or leg which I assume is a jellyfish but I don’t see it with this ploy. If I get stung I get stung, better than more stress of seeing the potential of getting stung. Despite the anticipation, throughout the swim somehow I didn’t get stung, touchwood!

I had reached the most northern point buoy without going around a rock reef and turned around starting back. I must have covered around 400 metres at this point. It is so good to know that both Galia if she isn’t asleep, and lifeguards are all aware of this bright orange tow float skirting its way along the coast. There are other swimmers out, but not as far as I had ventured. I felt quite proud, in fact quite English doing such a thing with literally thousands of holidaymakers watching as well.

On this first leg of runs, as I can’t see where I am going I was reminded of a story of a car that crashed into a tree in the desert. It was the only tree for hundreds of miles around but it was hit. There are distinct similarities with what happened to me on the first buoy run. I don’t know how, but whilst deep in concentration with the blind freestyle, I hit something hard with my right hand. As I stopped, I found that I had just walloped and an elderly woman. (She looked like a Russian). As I apologised profusely in Bulgarian. As I looked around, she was the only swimmer I could see for miles. A slight exaggeration, but that how it looked. She answered me back but I had earplugs in and didn’t hear, just as well I might have learned a few swear words in Russian. What I can’t understand is that she must have seen me coming why the hell she didn’t just move to avoid the approaching human torpedo?

It was a turn to head southwards and all was fine, a bit of seawater in the sinuses, but I put up with that. No tiredness or fatigue or for that matter stress. It is very calm just being on your own in deep seawater away from the maddening crowds. Was I enjoying myself? Just a bit, but more to do with showing off to a beach full of onlookers that boosts your resolve and ego. It feels very much like playing to an audience, something I miss dearly from my past when I played the viola in orchestras. Having worked many years as a teacher and later as a Bus Driver Trainer and Theory Classroom Teacher with London Buses, all these respective vocations also require a degree of showmanship to be effective. Once a showman always a showman I guess. I digress.

The southward swim was with the wind behind me. The tow float didn’t bother me in the least going north, but after the second buoy was passed on the return leg, I got a strong trail wind as it was now out of the harbour shelter. The tow float was on my head trying to knock me out! It is only a balloon so not painful, but there was no way I could do freestyle with the float in that position. No matter how much I tried the float just wouldn’t disobey the wind and I was stuck with no other choice other than to revert to breaststroke. It felt a little defeatist having to do this, but circumstances prevail. I wonder what other open water swimmers do when this happens. The result is getting tangled up in the chord attaching the tow to the torso.

This was the pattern as I worked on both stroke styles up and down this planned course. I wasn’t tired or fatigued throughout the swim but there was a couple of moment of cramp started to affect my right leg, then my left, but I adapted my leg kicks in a different position to alleviate that issue. I didn’t feel the need to stop and massage at any point, although that was certainly an option up my sleeve. The reason for cramp was quite clear. Dehydration after a night out on the town, alcohol included, well we were on holiday for two days!

I lost count of how many times I went up and down that course, 3 or 4 times, but finished feeling fit and quite able to carry on if I had to. Proud I had done it and could enjoy the rest of the weekend knowing that this planned session was under my belt.

It was strange putting my feet on the ground when I hit the beach and a few tumbles as I gathered the ability to walk rather than swim. With my bright tow float to hand, still inflated, I walked proudly back past all the beach folk to where Galia was sunbathing. She hadn’t slept but had kept an eye on me going up and down the coast with one of my non-alcoholic beers to hand. She was quite surprised that had been out for so long, well over one hour, probably nearer 1 hour 20 minutes. All that time swimming without a break apart from stopping to apologise hitting a Russian woman.

The other bonus today was the fact that my scolded hand had been soothed somewhat by nearly an hour and a half in saltwater whilst swimming.

Tuesday in the pool again, without stuffing myself with farm produce earlier in the day.

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