We are really enjoying reading the latest blog posts from our Big Blue swim guides. Greg, Aly and Noa have provided a wonderful insight into their lives and of course, their love for swimming!
Up next we have Cate, who began her career as a Science teacher until she decided it was time to find some equilibrium in her life. In this blog, Cate takes us on a journey of how the pandemic took her to Guernsey and how she has found her swimming experience on the channel island.
A SWIMMING JOURNEY WITH CATE
So what does a swim guide do when they are not sharing their love for the water on swim expeditions?
Well, for me, I’m lucky enough to wear many different costumes in my working life (not just the lycra kind) after giving up my full-time position as a Science teacher. Some days I am a cycling instructor, developing confidence in children on the road, whilst other days I am working with HGV drivers who are often much rowdier than kids and generally not sympathetic to the two-wheeled species. I like to challenge their views and take them out on a bike ride to give them a taste of the ‘dark side.’ Add in a bit of personal training work, my swim coaching and occasionally other adult training and I have a great amount of variety in my working week. Whatever I am doing, I am always working with new people and visiting new places. No two days are the same!
This career path fits perfectly with my swim guiding, which would always be compromised by rigid school holidays back when I was a teacher. For me, moving out of teaching meant ‘time’. I had time to build my boat home with my partner Rob, time to choose when or where I wanted to work, time to enjoy my own space and time to just simply breathe. It’s all very idyllic sounding until you throw a pandemic into the mix.
A CHANGE OF PATH…
It was all a bit of a shock to the system when the virus hit. Like many people, I watched my full year’s work diary dissolve and as the months went by it didn’t look promising for a solid return to face-to-face training delivery. Rob, also freelance, was in the same position.
The positives for us was that we had an inexpensive way of life and months of free time to finish the building of our boat. I have to admit, we did enjoy the initial phase of having time together and lots to do, but sadly this wasn’t bringing in any income for us. Fortunately for me, I had the teaching to fall back on, which I wasn’t too keen on but supply work is always in demand and once schools were back I could fill my week as a Science teacher three times over and I could afford to be picky.
Initially, I had a long-term placement in an autistic specialist school, which I loved, but as the UK went back into its third lockdown I had to start looking for something else. Then in January this year, I was offered a position to teach in Guernsey, a place which is surrounded by the sea and at the time completely covid free, meaning no restrictions!
Living as I do in a landlocked part of the UK, as far from the sea as you can get, with few opportunities for a good swim other than pools and open water venues (all of which at this point had been closed for months) this opportunity was like offering me diamonds.
A NEW SWIM
Two months on and I am in love. This is truly the most perfect place to be as a swimmer and the people here are so welcoming and friendly.
Sadly, following my two weeks of quarantine (frantically cycling on my turbo trainer to keep hold of my sanity) I emerged on the day that they discovered some virus cases from unknown sources and the state implemented an emergency lockdown. On a positive note, two hours of outside exercise permitted every day meant I had/have plenty of time for a decent swim!
Big Blue is a wide family, and on one of our trips, I met a lovely couple from Guernsey, Sylvia and Noel. Once they knew I was here they were on the case and I was buddied up with some lovely people to show me the water. As any sea swimmers will know, it’s always a bit scary getting into new water, especially when you don’t know the currents, tides and wind factors etc. From my point of view, I had been lucky to have the benefit of the wealth of experience here on the island.
My first swim was with a seasoned channel swimmer, Mace, who pointed at some distant buoys, described a course and jumped into the sea. It was a bit of a shock to me, even as a strong and experienced swimmer, and I have to admit I felt relatively uneasy at heading out into the unknown. One thing I have learnt is that these guys know the sea here, and you can trust them to get it right.
The water has been down to about 6.5°C and every bay or beach I visit has a variety of people enjoying the water. The wonderful thing about swimming here is that everyone is doing it!
Similarly to the UK, Guernsey has seen an explosion of people taking to the open water over the past year. Winter swimming is the new thing and the beauty of this new hobby is that it is so inclusive.
There are 60 different bays here, so whatever the weather, wind direction and tide, there is always somewhere safe to swim. The tides here in Guernsey are amongst the biggest in the world (10 metres on springs) and that matters when planning swims. You can visit a bay and it is a glorious sandy beach with a long walk into a decent swim depth, and the next time you visit the waves may be lashing against the sea wall, crashing over and onto the pavement.
The variety is amazing, from Petit Port that involves a steep climb down 300 steps, to a sandy bay nestled between cliffs, the sheltered crescent of Port Soif which empties on a low spring tide, to the endless sandy beaches of Cobo and Pembroke.
Everyone also has an excellent knowledge of the water environment, with the use of terminology for sea state, wind direction and scale, as well as tide times and type (neap and spring) commonplace in everyday conversation.
The swim community has truly welcomed me with open arms and at times I’ve felt like a minor celebrity, as everyone seems to know who I am - often being introduced as Cate from Big Blue. I feel like I have made some good friends for life here, and judging by the number of people who have spoken fondly about Big Blue, I am sure that lots of them will be popping up in the Mediterranean once things are back to normal.
Coming to Guernsey has been a truly magical experience and now I know it is here you can guarantee I will be making regular return trips. Lucky for me, I’ve been invited back for another stint of teaching after Easter, so I’ll be able to extend my enjoyment of this beautiful place into the Spring. It certainly is a good substitute for Crete, Lefkada and Ithaca whilst we wait for things to return to normality.
Wow! What a big change for Cate, but certainly an amazing one. The pandemic has caused upheaval for a lot of people across the globe, and it’s always wonderful to see such positive outcomes from such an uncertain, and if we’re honest, scary year.
We are raring to go this summer, as are our Big Blue guides and we would love for you to pack a bag, hop on a plane and join us on the wonderful islands of Greece.
There are still spaces left across our locations for this summer, so why not pick a location and join us in the waters?
You can find all the information you need on our website.
18 March 2021