I haven't managed to swim around Burgh Island for a couple of years. I usually swim around it in September as a birthday celebration, but last year we were defeated by a large swell. This year's attempt was successful - if somewhat terrifying (but in a good way). We set off on a beautiful afternoon at about 5:30, the sun blinding us as we headed to the west of the island. It was high water, so we waded across before starting to swim. Massive waves slapped our faces while lifting us up and chucking us down, and foaming endlessly around the rocks. We felt we weren't getting anywhere. Ordinarily we would probably have given up at this point but we had our trusty kayakers Lucian and Rob with us so we pushed on and eventually got to the back of the island where suddenly it was easier. We were still going up and down like yoyos, but the wind was behind us and suddenly we were funnelling through the gulley at the back (universally known as Death Valley),
Around the back
Approaching Death Valley
and into a whirlpool on the other side, watched by a chorus line of cormorants silhouetted against the setting sun. We made quite good progress around and past the Mermaid's Pool and then it was a final slog across the causeway. We staggered out (me and Catherine were last) to whoops and cheers from everyone, all on a complete high at completing the swim round the island. We just couldn't stop grinning, and I felt such love for this group who I've been swimming with for around a decade now. I was also thinking a lot about my son Felix who died last year, who had been present so often at this September tradition over the years. Of course his absence is an enormous gap, but at the same time these traditions are important for continuity and in a way help me to remember him through the pain of him not being there.