09/08/2016 by Carl Reynolds
Earlier in the year, perhaps when I was being inducted into the arcane arts of butterfly, the OSS Muse that is Kari Furre mentioned her desire to swim from Dart(mouth) to Start Point. And as is the way of such things I wanted in and it quickly became known as Dart to Start.
Now being adventurous, but rarely reckless, souls, we decided to have kayak support. Mark, who’d already agreed to provide kayak support for me on the Torbay Crossing, reluctantly agreed, but over the next few weeks let it be know that he’d really rather swim it. The 2oth July was agreed as our day one. And as the date grew closer we did nothing whatsoever about it, until on the 18th I rang Kari, we both agreed the weather was shit, I had man-flu and so it was postponed to the 5/6 August.
Meanwhile, we needed cake. Cake in it’s loosest sense, meaning grub for the swimmers to inhale post swim…which would include cake, but not be only cake. Mrs Ape, who is after all the Queen ut Bunz,
said that not only would she provide a gourmet picnic, but that she would also ferry us from finish to start and meet us mid-way with cake (see previous interpretation of cake).
Day one – Mark couldn’t make day one – needed to work – and being a sunny day and all, Mrs Ape and I arrived at Dartmouth Castle early for a coffee and cake starter. During our pre-swim training we were interrupted by Kari. She was sorry about it, but she was going to be late. She’d got halfway from home to castle, when she remembered that she had left some bark boiling on her stove! We sat back, sighed at the inconvenience of being made to wait in such an idyllic location, and waited for the Bark Boiler to show up.
And then we were off. The first bit, from Castle Cove to Blackstone Point (via Sugary, Deadman’s and Ladies Coves) was over barely glimpsed sea weed attached to rocky nodules appearing as the tide receded. After Blackstone Point we passed from murky Dart water to a clearer, but still turbid, sea in a matter of yards. And we seemed to zip along past Compass, Willow and Shinglehill Coves and through the smallest of gaps on the long rocky outcrops of Combe Point.
After that the sea got bigger and the pace got slower. We, unbeknownst to Seal-o-phobe Kari, were joined by said mammal for a while, but it soon buggered off. And then, opposite Mill Meadow Cove, I told Kari that we’d have to swim hard for a while and it’d take us about another 30 minutes – as we seemed to be still. It didn’t. It took 50. Landing on Blackpool Sands was the culmination of a 1hr 50m swim for 5k. Assisted to start, obstructed two-thirds of the way through. Later that evening the tide stream atlas, reminded me that windy conditions may reverse the tidal stream. Or cause localised eddies that are impossible to map.
After a revitalising lunch of Vietnamese Spring Rolls and cake with lemon curd and creme fraiche accompaniment, we were fit to go. Just 3k to Strete Cark Park on Slapton Sands. We could see it. There it was. On a neutral sea, no more than 60 minutes away. With a tidal stream less than 50. Yippee. It took us 1hr and 30m. Even the naturists at the end of Slapton Sands weren’t a powerful enough diversion from the seemingly endless slog. As we neared our landing, I was heartened to see Mrs Ape wave from our landing spot. And then she walked further away up the sodding beach. Apparently she was reluctant to take our finishing line pictures because she may have had inadvertently captured some naked parts by doing so. Frankly, I couldn’t give a damn if there was a cock behind me. And so ended day one. Chafed, knackered, but blessed by scenery that would otherwise be unviewable.
Day two – Mark joined us as Strete Car Park. Given our uncertainty about the tidal streams we split our intended 9.5km swim into two – 5.5k to Beesands, lunch and then 4k to Start Point. We rushed along to Torcross, uneventful except for the clusters of people around the car parks, the colonies of gulls between them and woven between both, unoccupied beach. A lot of it. About three kilometres of it. Then a glassy swell just beyond Limpet Rocks and, once again, the familiar feeling of going nowhere. The three of us cut into the shore and swim along Beesands up to the car park; where Mrs Ape fed us home made Sausage and Black Pudding Rolls, Home Grown Tomatoes and baked-that-morning Swiss Roll…in huge slices. 5.5k in 1hr 36m. I think we had a lot of assistance to Torcross and then it tailed off.
By now I am chafed and bleeding (despite the lack of wetsuit) and not looking forward to 4k against a current; it’s clouding over; the wind’s picking up…and so we all agree to come back and do the rest later in the month. Phew.
Some logistics and stuff – we walked much of the route to check get out points. We towed a tow float (butt bouy for the US reader); informed the local lifeguard station and Coastguard (you’d be surprised how many people call the Coastguard because they see a swimmer at sea and assume they are in trouble); had agreed meet points and time windows for swims; reviewed the weather and used local information about the peculiarities of water movement in Start Bay (to little avail!). In short, don’t be a numpty, do your homework 1st. And make sure you’re fit enough. Not for beginners.