orange hat ladies, sea swimming, swimming women, gurnard, isle of wight, wild swimming

Clockwork Oranges

If you’re reading this on Saturday 27th March then you have time to remember that the clocks go forward tonight. At 1am, Sunday 28th March we will at last officially leap forwards into British Summer Time (BST) and we can all start to look forward to brighter evenings and hopefully warmer days. For those reading after Saturday I can but hope that you have managed to change your clocks and that you’re not currently living in a slightly alternative reality.

One of the challenges of the clock changing, even though it obviously happens twice a year, is knowing what has and hasn’t updated itself automatically. Sunday morning will undoubtedly consist of myself and my husband firstly asking each other “Have you changed the clock on X yet?”, followed by “Oh, I’ve already changed that one”, and “Is that one automatically move on or have you already done it?”…over and over around the house. Of course it always starts with the electronic alarm clock by the bed that I can never quite be sure about before I’m even out of bed – do I need to update or not? Thank goodness it’s only every six months.

And then there are the tide timetables.

As sea swimmers we always look at what the tide is doing before we meet up, and quite often it becomes second nature to calculate where it is from the provious days. It might be that with a big spring tide we will almost certainly consider avoiding a full flood or low water, but it obviously matters less on neaps. Either way we all need to know what time it is, and you need to know if the tide table you’re looking at has or has not allowed for BST. Many tide tables have a shaded / coloured area indicating that the tides lie within BST and therefore need to be adjusted by an hour or not which can be a bit confusing for some. Many online timetables such as on the BBC Weather / Tides site clearly state that the time is already in BST (so you don’t need to do anything!). It might only be an hour but it can be the difference between having to swim vigorously ‘uphill’ in one or other direction, or very shallow swimming waters. The tides can make a huge difference to the swimming experience and to keeping safe.

March seems to have simultaneously been going on forever but also appears in some respects to have flown by. I’m convinced that COVID has played with the space time continuum and no one really knows how long a week / month / year is anymore. Reading thoughts from other swimmers and talking with those getting in the water, March is a difficult month. The glimpses of spring have arrived in gardens and surroundings, and there is a definite warmth from the sun when it bothers to show up (see the glorious day we had earlier this week above). But the sea is still decidedly chilly and will continue to be so for a while yet. It is often discussed how the sea is at it’s coldest during March even though as swimmers our thoughts have started to turn towards the idea of balmy evenings and sunshine as the daylight hours gradually increase and the clocks move forward into BST. I should point out here that the words ‘British Summer’ often symbolise huge expectation followed by significant let down. Every year there are tabloid reports of the ‘hottest summer ever’, a real ‘scorcher’, ‘wide spread drought’ only to be followed by a few overly sunny days and warm drizzle. But let’s face it we’re only just past the spring equinox and we can keep the hope of a wonderful sunny summer going for a while yet.

orange hat ladies, sea swimming, wild swimming, outdoor swimming, march swimming, cold water swimming
Dull March swimming for The Orange Hats

Karen and I have definitely found March to have been the hardest month to date, in part because there have been way too many dull overcast days that can give a less than enthusiastic welcome to outdoor swimmers. But, having said that, when the sun does shine and the water gives an early morning high tide we start to get a bit giggly – over excitement about summer swimming coming our way. Evidently the cold water and dull days have got to us and we’ve lost the plot slightly – hence the random time lapse below that we spontaneously performed. Neither of us suggested what to do…or why. Obviously showing our true identities here!

So maybe we should all celebrate the changing of the clocks, random acts of stupidity and the announcement of the start of spring…. we just need to remember to actually change them so that we meet our swim buddy at the right time!

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