0700hrs, Saturday 22nd June, 2013
Sunrise struggles against the banks of grey cloud and never makes an appearance.
Over the hill at Congwong Beach, the bodies of expired bluebottles line the high tide mark
and Vlad consults the team for a change of venue.
The air temp is around 8 degrees.
Surfmuppet has remembered to pack his incredible mind reading machine and surreptitiously takes it out, lasering everyone huddled around to secretly record their innermost thoughts, e.g.
“Man, I wish I was at home in bed now.”
“This is insane”
“Wonder if I sneak away will anybody notice?”
The water looks morbid in the dark blue and oily grey colours of early winter.
The eastern horizon is fighting with the forces of darkness to clear the way for a watery sun to creep over the horizon.
It seems it too wants to stay in bed and forget about this solstice-ish day.
Vlad convinces his wee band that Frenchmans Bay and Yarra Bay over the road by the La Perouse shops is the best place for it.
The sparse bedraggled band of vagabond swimmers troops up the small lane, soggy sand underfoot, up and across the road and down to The Boatshed, perched on the edge of the water.
Not a word from the gang but Surfmuppet’s incredible mind reading machine picks up the general thought pattern of the mob that Frenchmans looks much like Congwong.
Then Blackdog breaks the silence with the quip, “no blueys but plenty of sharks”.
Surfmuppet went to see the zombie movie “World War Z” the night before, in 3D, and the nerves are subsequently a bit on the jangly side.
Didn’t need the S word.
Sonny checks the water temperature and cheerfully reports 13 degrees of sub-tropical sultryness. A collective shiver goes through the cadre but there’s nothing for it but strip off and get ready for the session. Forlorn hope that a bit of vasoline under the arms and around the shoulders might offer some comfort. Or that extra swim cap for added insulation to the brain.
Couple of the gang have wetsuits but the remainder are in the birthday suits (plus costumes).
Vlad uses his paddles to mark out the course on the sand.
Down the length of Frenchmans Bay to where a bit white sign with an “8” and a picture of a boat sits on the headland.
Past this into Yarra Bay and the breakwater in front of the Yarra Bay Sailing Club.
Stop just off the centre of the Bay, then turn back again direction Frenchmans Bay.
Team photo catches Anna D, Blackdog, Marti the Tattoed Man, Sonny, Simon, Katrina, Wyatt, Dr Greg, surfmuppet and a few other dudes.
See link below for photos and report of the day.
Comes now that time when the shillyshallying is over .
There’s no escape and everyone knows it.
When all the small talk peppers out and a foreboding half-silence settles over the supplicants to the goddess Oceania.
Put up or shut up.
Vlad herds his minions to the waters edge with the paddle while his erstwhile sidekick Martin whips and lashes them with the filament end of a shark shield borrowed from Sonny’s kayak.
“Into the water, ye scurvy dogs! Har!”(or the equivalent in an Eastern European patois).
The condemned wade in – not too bad, not too bad – splash the chest, head and back, let the water massage her tepid fingers over pallid skin – then plunge and down into the gloomy depths.
Don’t think, just move the arms and kick the feet until the feeling of doing a Jesus act and running back to shore on the surface diminishes and finally disappears after a few minutes.
Used to a good six months of being spoiled in 20-22 degree waters, the winter drop to sub 15 brings back the reality of northern European ancestral homelands. For the heavy guns doing the channel it’s par for the course and these boys have no trouble doing 5, 8, 10 hours plus in this and lower. For the rest it’s welcome back from the fantasy world of summertime wussdom.
The squad strikes out into the bay and soon settles into the familiar configuration of the fasties and the lasties.
Up front the Channelers and other speedy types.
Down the back in lastie territory, surfmuppet struggling to keep up with Deano.
Water is dark and murky but not so murky that shapes of rocks and reefs, sand shallows cannot be made out along the course.
There are even welcome patches of warmer water but this is illusionary as the plunge back into colder currents almost takes the breath away.
Anna D falls back to join the pair of lasties midway through the second lap due to cramp.
And so the happy three plough on, stopping for a photo shoot as Vlad appears out of the gloom on the kayak.
Raining heavily now which has the effect of warming up the surface water a touch.
End of the fourth lap, team meeting at the feed station.
Feet gone numb and it’s traveling slowly up to the knees.
Exit the three lasties, hopping over the damp sand and up the concrete of the slipway.
Feet like blocks of ice by now and it’s now a race as to how fast to get on the layers of clothes.
Anna disappears in her car leaving Deano and the muppet looking wet and forlorn in an annex off the kitchen around the back of The Boatshed.
Shivering their way up the street, the duo enter an eatery for some coffee and a hot breakfast.
The three ladies behind the counter know a pair of frozen kippers when they see them and invite the boys behind the counter to warm themselves in front of the chicken grill which is blasting out heat rays to beat the midday sun over the Simpson Desert in the middle of summer.
A second or two of thought for the Channel Boys still out in the bay and then again back to the chicken grill.
The ladies have an iPad out filming the thawing pair and are cracking up laughing.
Bacon and eggs with mugs of hotness, then Vlad and Wyatt enter the happy Chipper and join the table for refreshments and tales all round of derring-do in the oceans and seas of happy fantasia.
Soon it’s over and away into the Sydney traffic.
Save for the Channel Boys who just keep going on and on and on…