Double dipping

Every twelve hours
If we could

Sunrise and sunset
Dawn and dusk
Togs and towel

Midday and midnight
If you wish
High noon and high moon

Every twelve hours
If we could
High tide and low tide
(Or would they be the same?)

If not every twelve
At least twice a day

A dip in the morning
A dip in the evening
Or the arvo
If that works for you

A swim in the ocean
In a river, a creek
A dip in a pool
A pond, a lake, a dam
A bath if it comes to that
The nurse helping you in and out

Summer? Easy
Autumn. Likely
Winter?
Spring. Tempting

Sand and sea
Beach and buoy
Salt and spray

River banks and rips
If you’re game

Even on a still day
The sea is moving
Changing
Never as smooth as what we say
‘Like glass.’

When the wind comes
Catch a bus, a train, a tram
Catch a wave
Into shore

Every twelve hours
If we could

Ride a bike
Drive a car
Walk, jog, run

Into the water
the water
the water

Warrina Inn swimming pool

Churning up the water, perfecting my non-technique.

1000 Sunday Swims

Triumph for Fr Greg Trythall. Photo by Carl Tracey.

Blue skies and clear water greeted Father Greg Trythall on Sunday morning 28 December when he notched up 1000 consecutive Sunday swims in Australian waters with a 200 metre swim at Williamstown.

Nine-hundred and nintey-nine down, one to go.

Nine-hundred and nintey-nine down, one to go.

Father Greg entered the water just before 7am and swam freestyle out to the western buoy and back.

Millenium approaching.

Millenium of Sunday swims approaching, with Rick Powell accompanying.

The odyssey began in November 1994. “I tried to form a habit by swimming 10 Sundays in a row. Then after trying for 20 somehow along the way I tried for 50, then 100. And the rest is history.”

More than 700 of the swims were at Torquay, where Greg was the parish priest for many years. (“I swam at the front beach, not the surf beach.”)

Over 50 of the swims have been in the warm waters of Byron Bay, where Greg spends his annual holidays.

And just over 200 of the swims have been at Williamstown, where Greg has been St Mary’s parish priest since April 2010.

Williamstown.

“There were also two Sunday swims in Perth, in 1998 and 2008, during the National Council of Priests bi-annual Conference. And one Sunday I swam at the beautiful Yamba beach in Northern New South Wales.

“ In May 2003 I left Australia for six months sabbatical leave and had already notched up 443 swims not out since November 1994.  When I was about to return to Australia, I realized that I had not missed any Sunday swims in Australia since 1994. Rightfully I could continue where I left off as I had not missed one while in Australia.”

Greg’s pattern of swimming is almost every Wednesday and Friday during year, but never miss a 7am Sunday swim before church services.

“While overseas on sabbatical in 2003 and again in 2010 and following the footsteps of Jesus, the footsteps of St Paul and the footsteps of the Australian soldier (as a former National Service man 1968-1970) I swam at: Gallipoli (37 degree day), Sharm El Sheik(45 degree day) El Alamein (perfect blue waters), and Alexandra (with about 2,000,000 Egyptians).”

Greg has also swum at Xlendi in Gozo, Malta, the Dead Sea, the Black Sea, the Red Sea. France, Honolulu, and Maui.

A worldly swimmer.

A worldly swimmer.

“At one stage I had worked out I had swum from A- Z, with Z being Zeally Bay, on the Geelong side of the Torquay front beach.”

Amongst Father Greg’s well wishers (his acquatic apostles?) on Sunday was his Torquay mate Carl Tracey, who left his home at 5am to witness the achievement. Carl, a keen surfer, brought not only his good wishes and friendship, but congratulatory signs.

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

Photo by Carl Tracey

“I first realized the value of the sea as a teenager from Footscray,” recalled Father Greg, “when my parents and I would come down to Williamstown beach.”

When the family move to Parkdale, in Melbourne’s southern beach suburbs, Greg found swimming good for counteracting hayfever and eczema.

“Although I love the effects of the beach and the great feeling of wellbeing on the days that you swim, my main love affair has been with sport. I’ve been a former runner, boxer, footballer, cricketer and squash player. At 67, my sporting passion is now golf.

“It is a pity I was never taught technique in swimming. Accordingly, I have always been a relatively poor swimmer. I only swim about 100 to 200 metres each time I have a dip. The last time I swam the Lorne Pier to Pub, in 1990, I took pride in the fact that I came third in my category of over 40s: that is, I was third last!”

Carl and Greg, and congratulatory message from the Willy Dolphins.

Carl and Greg, and congratulatory message from the Willy Dolphins.

“ When you know the health benefits of the swimming and one has got into the habit then even winter cannot stop one if there is sufficient motivation and self discipline. Even saying that, there are those once or twice occasions during the year, and it is one of the coldest, wettest, windiest days and the seawater looks dirty for  some reason, then though you are changing on the foreshore, it would be very easy just to spit the dummy!

“ On those days I might start singing some song just to get my mind off the sheer cold of the conditions, like ‘ Zippety do da zippety day, my o my what a wonderful day!’ Or other old songs like ‘ If you knew Susie like I know Susie, oh what a wonderful girl.’ Usually no one else is around!

“My toughest swims have probably been the nights after the Saturday night wedding receptions when I have had a few drinks, or the night after the annual debutante balls that the Parish of Grovedale/ Torquay use to have year in and year out. Even on those days I always felt better for the swim and I believed I always treated people better because of it.

“Spiritually the only main reason I have kept on swimming every Sunday is that I have always valued the work I am able to do for people as a priest. I value my job so much that I believe being happy and enthusiastic in it is my number one priority. Running and swimming have always been a means to and end and that is being at the top of my game in being healthy and enthusiastic for a job I have felt a calling to do for people.”

“If one is unhappy or lacking enthusiasm then I am not much benefit to people who are grieving and want me to perform a good job for their loved one at a funeral.

“Likewise, we have had 67 weddings at St Mary’s Williamstown in 2014. I am no good to young couples if I am a boring, tired or sick old man!”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“I am not a strong enough swimmer to join more capable swimmers. I sometimes envy their abilities or great technique but I am basically more than happy with my own lot in life. One would like to be a great singer or musician or dancer. I applaud others with those abilities and thank a higher power for my own good gifts, without wishing to be the most liked or the best looking or the most intelligent!

“I am a poor swimmer but consistent!”

Next Sunday Father Greg will be back in the water again. “I’ll see if I can do 10 Sundays in a row. Don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

Kevin’s year of verse

Kevin Moran unveiled his annual Willy Dolphin poem at the Willy Dolphins’ annual breakfast on Monday morning, 22 December, at the Rotunda.

Rotunda Cafe, Williamstown

I will share with you the chatter that went on throughout the year; the topics didn’t matter because none of it was clear. Messages by email, floated through cyber space; egos couldn’t be frail, it was about saving face.

Some jibes were insulting, others a slur; some sounded funny, adding a stir. Feathers were ruffled with “chooks on the block”; suggesting that others might be a coft sock. Names were called and challenges invited; it was clear, they were getting excited.

We discovered new poets and writers of prose; all very clever, as far as that goes. Tom was deep, which surprises, quoting wild wind and beautiful sunrises. The Willy Lit Fest sparked even more verse, the situation was getting worse. Lester penned enlightened prose, of the swimmers, whom he knows. He sent “home remedies” and health tips and updated news of his overseas trips.

The Big Bay swim was on the agenda; Tom would swim well if he was not on a bender. Lester was timid, didn’t think he’d survive; out in the sewer, where the jellyfish thrive.

After the swim on Australia Day; having a barbie is our special way, of celebrating a great occasion; to be reminded by the owners, it was an invasion.

Away from the beach we socialize; exchanging rumours that tantalise. One of note is of a flirt; labeled as “grandpa chasing a skirt”. He played Cupid, which may seem nice, but then he had to pay a price. Of the evils, which is lesser – upset a friend; or, lose your hairdresser.

Beach photo

We all lined up for the photo snap, when someone asked, “Who’s that chap?” – The line up on the shore that day, featured more than one odd stray. Mark came up with a scheme, to have T shirts with a theme. Willy Dolphins was selected; they just cost more than expected

Many events occurred in May; one was that the buoy got away. It hadn’t floated out of reach, recovery found it on the beach. Dan took shots when he came down, Vin declaring, “The buoy is back in town”.

Winter came with a blow and it saw absences grow. Kimba was the first we missed, and then Tom went on the list. By July the morning chill, was a test of the will. Pam persevered, so we are told and wore rubber gloves, to beat the cold. Then Search and Rescue one foggy day, stopped Chop heading down the bay. Pam saw a duck, or so she thought; wearing a snorkel, Vin was caught.

The lure of the islands took its toll; as Dolphins were struck from the roll. Dolphins travelled far and near; with regularity they’d disappear. Moonlit lagoons and places exotic saw Lester dress up in something erotic. Dancing around, “what an old tart” romance of the Solomons stole his heart.

His absence was long, and duly noted; his risqué emails often quoted. He added Hawaii to his travel plan, to see daughter Rosie win an ironman. Bali attracted Paul and Pam, while Kevin coffeed in Viet-nam. Chop played in Phuket a while; all returned with a smile. But John’s warm wishes from hot places left us with sad, long faces.

Rice fields in Sapa

Rice fields in Sapa, Vietnam

A pair of comedians in dressing gowns pranced around like a pair of clowns. They weren’t in for long as they felt the pain, you can be sure we won’t see them again.

Pat tipped an ice bucket on his head, accepting the challenge is what he said. He put it to Kev, who did the same, out of fun to play the game. Vin posted a blog to spread about town, saying “one warming up and one cooling down”.

PaddyIceBucket2

The early dawns are always topical, now palm trees make it look tropical.

With the year now at an end, we wish happiness to you my friend.

Quoting Tom of what he might say, “The sunrise paints the start of another day.”

 

Williamstown beach

 

– Kevin Moran, 22 December 2014

The buoy is back in town

Headline by Andy

Photos by Dan

Buoy resurrection by Holdfast Marine

Buoy resurrection

After about a week stranded near the end of the groyne and then about another week up on the sand, the Williamstown buoy is back in town. Holdfast Marine set to work at low tide on Saturday 23 August. Danny Buoy Wade caught some of the action with his trusty camera.

Buoy oh buoy.

Buoy oh buoy.

Close to the sea

Man at beach

Photo by Karen van Wyngaarden

He wakes up at dawn. Puts on his togs. Pulls on his Willy Dolphins windcheater. Slips on his thongs. Drapes a towel around his neck. Collects swimming cap and goggles.

Walks out the door. Down the laneway, across the Esplanade. Less than a minute.

He pulls off his windcheater. Slips off his thongs. Takes off his towel. Places them by the steps where Roundy used to leave his shorts and t-shirt and runners.

Into the water. Not out to the buoys. Not in the shallows. In-between. Dee enough. Strong swimmer. Knows this water. Knows this beach. The sand, the rocks, the fish. The past. The present. The temperature.

A man close to the sea.

Going Swimmingly by Tony Kelly

Tony Kelly is a member of the Williamstown Mussels, the mid-Saturday morning group of ocean swimmers.

This story was first published in The Big Issue (edition 448; 26 December 2013).

Going Swimmingly

Mike reckons the water is around 13°. Two degrees more than the mid-winter low but still bloody cold if you ask me. The slowly gathering Saturday morning swimmers are putting on their wetsuits. I already have on my kayaking vest for that extra bit of thermal protection. Next there is the lanolin to prevent chafing around the neck. Then on go the booties, the swim cap and hood. Tim reckons he will swim without gloves today. Not seduced by the rise in water temperature and the feeble early spring sun I slip on my gloves. Eventually we are all assembled and kitted out. Ready.

Three years ago I wrote My Fathers Business which described my early morning laps on the anniversary of my father’s death. The swimming had become a means to stay fit and healthy and manage the high cholesterol that runs in the family and that contributed to my father’s death – two days after his 52nd birthday.

The first 100 metres or so is out to the buoy to which Tim attaches the big blow up ball that becomes one of the three markers that set out the usual course. Icy-cold water seeps in through the seam and around the neck of my wetsuit, but this is nothing compared with the pain I feel in my face when I first put my head under. The men complain about this more than the women. I am not convinced that I can persevere. The accepted wisdom is to swim slowly and calmly, and breathe through it.

I am the youngest of eight and not long after my brother David (the next youngest) turned 52, I discovered that he and my other siblings privately considered living longer than dad a milestone. I too have set myself that macabre target, though with no real sense of what it will mean.

Will I develop a greater sense of him – reaching the age he is forever etched in my mind? Will I compare myself to him and all that he achieved at the same age? Will I develop a sense of being on borrowed time and that every moment more is a bonus? Or will I, perhaps, become more fully aware of how premature his death was and all that he missed out on?

I met the bay swimmers six months ago. It is an informal arrangement, non-competitive. Safety and collegiality are key. It is a break from my regular lap swimming. The normal routine is to swim a circuit around Mick’s ball and two yellow channel markers. Usually I peel off after a couple of laps. The fitter more hardened swimmers will then head off east towards the footy ground or west to the little marina. But today the conditions are perfect with good visibility, no wind and no swell. I understand now what ‘glassy’ means. With our spirits up we all head off towards the footy ground. I am anxious I have to admit. I am probably the least-experienced cold-water swimmer in the group (one has even swum off the coast of Scotland) and being tall and thin I get cold very quickly.

My sense of loss at the time of my dad’s death was not great. He was one of many in a large loving family. The loss is something I feel more as I get older. What was he like? What sort of relationship would I have had with him? Would we have shared the same humour? There have been times I would have liked his advice, his guiding hand. Going into law – his profession – at a late age heightened this sense.

Every couple of hundred metres we pull up to allow the stragglers (meaning me) to catch up and check on how everyone is going. At each break I am aware that my body temperature is steadily dropping. Eventually after well over one kilometre we reach the footy ground. I feel relieved. Time to turn around and begin the long swim back. However, Tim suggests we push on to the rocks, from which we will get a view across the bay back towards the CBD. Only 100m he says. I can see it is more. Everyone else is in agreement. I assent silently. The rocks take forever to reach. When we get there the expanse of Melbourne opens out before us. Buoyed by the conditions and having got us this far Tim encourages us to go a bit further – from beyond the rocks, he promises, the sweep of the view will include Docklands and its Ferris wheel.

I am starting to feel anxious. How far is it really? Every stroke further includes another stroke back and my body another degree colder. No one else appears reluctant.

My first ocean swim was at Portsea three years ago. It was summer but I was only wearing one of those short-sleeved wetsuits. I was in the water for 48 minutes and my GP friend was convinced I had mild hypothermia when I got out.

Sense overcomes pride and I admit I am getting cold and need to start heading back. I feel guilty. I suspect the others are keen to push on; after all we have come this far. To my great relief one other swimmer is in agreement and, to the credit of the others, they agree to head back without hesitation.

When lap swimming the challenge is to keep count, not let the tedium discourage you or trick you into adding a few extra laps. In the ocean the challenge is keeping the line. I breathe only on the left and consequently have a strong tendency to steer left. As a result I probably burn up more energy than everyone else. Motivated by the story I read of the swimmer who swam around Manhattan Island breathing only on the left and thus only got to see the lowlands of New Jersey and Long Island, I have been teaching myself to breathe on both sides.

The yellow marker is too far away for me to see so I line up the straggly palms near the surf club and stroke by stroke creep back towards the beach. I find myself taking two extra strokes before each breath. Perhaps it is a sign that I have found my rhythm. I suspect it is a sign that my body is slowly shutting down with the cold. I pull ahead of the group and don’t stop to wait. I worry if I do I may not get going again.

When I pull up back up on the beach I discover I have been in the water for one hour and 25 minutes and have swum close to three kilometres. I have no idea it has been that long. I am cold. My jaw aches and I can only grin. Talking is out of the question. My fingers hardly work and getting the wetsuit off is an ordeal. But I feel good, even better after some hi-carb morning tea and hot coffee. My body hums for the rest of the day.

In a couple of weeks it will be my 52nd birthday. I plan to mark the occasion with another swim at Williamstown. By then the water temperature will have crept up a degree or two. If we decide to head east I will make it past the footy ground and, this time, push beyond the rocks. I will see the Ferris wheel. I will continue going about my father’s business.

Photo by Fiona Coates

Photo by Fiona Coates

 

Meet more Mussels