Week 21 – ray

Week 21 – Saturday 20 October to Friday 26 October 2012

Illustration by Rhiannon Shaw, The Big Issue 294. December 2007

Tom saw a decent-sized stingray this week, out between the groynes, where the serious swimmers go. Late last summer there was a ray in the shallows one day, almost on the sand. It wasn’t looking too lively.  Tom and Roger tugged it out out of harm’s way into deeper water. It still wasn’t looking too lively but the outgoing tide looked after things.

I spied a little ray, maybe the size of a frypan last week and then this week, on Wednesday, I saw a larger ray in the shallows. About a metre wide. I floated above it for a few seconds. It stayed still. The first ray I saw last year was Saturday 5 November. The first ray I saw in 2010 was Saturday 30 October.

There’s another ray we see quite often at the beach: Ray the walker, with the big “G’day!” and the big smile.

In a month or two I hope to find more stingrays around the corner at Jawbone Marine Sanctuary.

Here’s a story I wrote five summers ago called Looking For Big Ray. The Big Issue published it back then.

Any day now, I’ll see it. Early morning maybe, with the place to myself, save for the descending hot-air balloons and the incoming ferry. Or later in the day with people about, unsuspecting visitors.

I will be floating. It will be camouflaged, its diamond shape hidden just below the sand. There might be two circles, like dark coins, to give me a clue. There might be a hint of its tail, a vague line in the sand.

Any day now. The wind will be still, the water will be calm.

My chest, already feeling the pressure of the water, will beat hard. My eyes, protected by goggles, will widen. My breathing, aided by the snorkel, will quicken.

The key is not to panic, to know that you can be safe. And then to try to stop time, to savour the moment… Continue reading

Week 20 – six sticks

Week 20 – Saturday 13 October to Friday 19 October 2012

The beach carpark

Now has landmarks.

Six of them, for starters.

Six match-sticks

Towers with tufts

Necks with nests

Trees with tops

‘There might be more’

Said a passer-by

Walking his labrador.

The beach carpark

Now has landmarks.

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Week 18 – seal

Week 18 Saturday 28  September to Friday 5 October 2012

Williamstown 2006

There was a seal at Williamstown on Wednesday morning 3 October. About 6.30.  (No, not the seal above, which was looking a little lost and forlorn, back in 2006.)

The seal seen last Wednesday swam between the yellow buoys, where two of  the serious swimmers were swimming.

I waded out to waist deep to get a better view and to my pleasant surprise the seal kept coming in. It was swimming and ducking parallel with one of the two ‘buoy’ swimmers, an English chap in a wetsuit, who was oblivious to his companion.

I called out to the swimmer, thinking that he might need to know he’s got company. He couldn’t hear me, of course, but he eventually reached me, by which time the seal had ducked under water out of view.

The swimmer seemed both disappointed and relieved to learn about the seal. ‘I might have panicked if I’d known,’ he said, as we waited for the seal to re-appear. The longer we waited the more I wondered if I’d been a bit foolhardy. What if the seal pops up right here, right beside or underneath us? We kept waiting and looking.

‘There it is!’ said the swimmer, pointing out between the buoys to the seal, about 50 metres away. ‘Look at that!’

Back on shore a line of people looked out and enjoyed the show. The second of the serious ‘buoy’ swimmers, Karen, had noticed not the seal but the people onshore. She sensed something was going on and thought it safest to head straight to shore.

The seal was soon out of view. I popped on my snorkel and swam, as I always do, in the waist-chest deep water. Every now and then I looked up and about for the seal.

Week 17 – bluffing

Week 17 – Saturday 22 September to Friday 28 September 2012

You’re bluffing if you think you can take on the ocean.

You’re kidding yourself if you think you can conquer the sea.

You’re in no-man’s land if you don’t know what you’re doing.

About eight years ago I took my sons, then about 11 and 7, to Urquhart Bluff, between Anglesea and Aireys Inlet. We tried snorkelling in rock pools between two bluffs. We mis-read the tide. We were lucky two fishermen were nearby. The five of us clambered around and over rocks to safety as the tide came in. Safe on the sand of the main beach we relieved the tension by going for a swim. A careful swim, as all swims should be.

It was rather more peaceful this week, when I visited on the Tuesday. (Other swims this week were at Williamstown, Eastern View and Breamlea.)

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