We awoke on the morning of our first swim to find the strong wind and rough seas of the previous day had subsided significantly. However, even in a light south westerly wind, the small swell and waves are reflected and refracted off the irregular and rocky coast creating a criss-crossing and confused sea state. Not that worried this group of hardened Doddi’s swimmers.
We were to meet in the Hotel courtyard, initially for breakfast at 8:15am and later, dressed and ready for the swim briefing at 9:30.
At breakfast we all sat on a long table and were served: tea or coffee; warm freshly baked bread with butter, jam and honey; plates of cold meat and cheese; freshly squeezed orange juice; and a single fried egg on a plate. Although it ticked all the nutrition boxes, it was very different from the choices of the buffet breakfast we enjoyed in Lefkada two years before and, therefore, somewhat unexpected. Obviously, they had gone to a lot of trouble so we all dug in and enjoyed a hearty breakfast. Of course this was on top of having over indulged the night before.
At the briefing, Noa informed us that the morning swim would be a land based 500m swim to determine who would be in which one of three groups based on swim speed. This would be followed by an optional video session of each swimmers stroke. Last, that we would start the afternoon swim earlier than usual, at 1:00pm, to try and avoid the worst of the forecast strong winds.
The group then walked to the other side of the hotel, where a series of paved terraces had been constructed on the rocks above the sea, as well as a path with steps that lead to a stainless steel staircase descending into to the water.
Diving into the clear deep blue 19C water was, to say the least, bracing! Apparently, cold water springs from the mountain runoff escape from the sea floor. Their presence identifiable not only by the cold patches but by the diffusion they cause in the otherwise crystal clear waters. The swim entailed two laps out, around and back to rocks located a short distance offshore.
The swim wasn’t for the faint hearted as the confused lumpy sea conditions unsettled swimmers who all had to work hard to establish any sort of rhythm and, more disconcerting, unsettled the contents of their over full stomachs.
Nevertheless, everyone enjoyed the challenge with placings as expected, taking injuries into account. Steve F, Anne-Marie and Narelle were given pink caps. Orange caps were handed out too: Steve C, Wayne, Jenny, Trevor, and Deborah. The yellow caps proved popular with James, Deb, Paul, Ann and Sue. Anyone is allowed to swap groups if they choose, but poor Hazel, under strict instructions from her doctor, was prevented from swimming on this trip and kindly volunteered to act as team deckie and photographer.
Normally, the videos take place at the same location as the swim; however, the lumpy sea conditions made videoing nearly impossible. As alternative, we moved to the harbour area where the water was calmer. However, even in the harbour videoing proved problematic as the sea conditions had made the normally clear water somewhat murky.
Our boat for this trip is called “Odysseus” and her skipper Vagelis. Odysseus is a beautifully restored traditional Greek fishing boat. Normally, when picking up swimmers, she moors at the breakwater in the small harbour directly in front of our Hotel. However, for our afternoon swim sea conditions had deteriorated further and were too rough in the small harbour for safe boarding. Instead, Odysseus moored in the larger inner commercial harbour which is better protected.
We motored out of the harbour into a significant wind chop. The plan was to start our first swim of the Minoan Trail just east of the harbour and swim to Vritomartis beach 2.2km to the east. Fortunately, we were swimming in the same direction as the waves. Nonetheless, this was a challenging swim. Prior to the swim, we were warned not to go onto the beach as it is a nudist beach and we would be asked to remove our bathers. Accordingly we stayed a respectful distance offshore, but not so far as to prevent Anne-Marie taking some photos of which some required portrait mode to properly frame the full length of the subject of interest!
It was a slow and very wet ride home. While extremely seaworthy, Odysseus has a wide beam and shallow draft making her more suited to plying flat closed waters rather than the large waves we now had to battle through as the wind had risen significantly during our swim. We felt sorrow for Cate and Jenny, our two guides, who had been left to motor both tenders back. An experience both described as one of the scariest they had experienced. Interestingly, BigBlue had never run a swim in such challenging conditions. Go Doddi’s swimmers!
Later that evening we all met for drinks and the presentation of the BigBlue Award. Deborah thought Deb’s effort of leaving her camera behind the night before and being late to the morning briefing (looking for the camera) made her a worthy winner. We all agreed.
With everyone primed and lubricated it was off for a feed then to bed.
To be continued....