Sunday, February 10, 2008


After a day's work inside on administration for Roger, and another hot one outside, I want to remember the holidays and so will type in this little piece I wrote while at our shack in January!

We've been here nearly 3 weeks and every day has been unique. Today, this moment, is perfect. The breeze is ever so slightly more on the western side of south than previously and this brings subtle changes to all parts of the sea and landscape and thus to my enjoyment of the day. The cool breeze wafts gently in through the window where I sit and it brushes my cheek and hair as well as legs and feet if you sit, as I do, with them up on the window frame. Any further to the south and the air movement is only felt through the kitchen windows.

The sea glistens differently too when the ripples face this way, enhancing the colours of the sea, making the water look clearer and turning the horizon a crisp, royal blue against the almost white of the midday, summer sky near the horizon. The tide is slowly going out, so the sounds are of tinkling bells and rustling reeds, each carried clearly up the beach to me by that fluttering south-west breeze. Wind direction changes these sounds so that, with practice, you can wake in the morning and guess what the sea and wind are doing, by what you can hear, before you open your eyes. Sometimes you can be quite wrong and these occasions take me by surprise but make me smile to think that nature has set up a little game and tricked me.
The south westerly tickles the grey foliage of the sand dune that I see between myself and the beach, alerting me to changes in its direction and strength as it approaches.When the wind is more easterly it hurtles down the side of the shack, across the beach and out to sea, making distinctive patterns on the water, but leaving me hot and the leaves still as I and they sit in its lea.

On a mild day like this people stroll happily along the beach, children play on the sand, not just in the water, and families linger longer, preferring to eat a sandwich under an umbrella rather than heading back to their abodes as they often do to escape the intense afternoon heat that is sometimes the problem here.

If the south-westerly builds to a stiff sea breeze of 15 - 20 knots during the afternoon, as is often the case, Roger dons the wetsuit and harness and goes windsurfing. At this speed, the sand begins to blow along the beach, cutting your legs and blowing away umbrellas and boogy boards left unattended. Most people head back to their shacks until it dies down in the evening. For those lucky enough to have a sea view, Roger provides free entertainment, flying across the sea, "getting air" jumping off the waves and trying to perfect those gybe turns. I bite my fingernails when he crashes, way out, until I see, through the binoculars, the red hat bob up, then the sail lifts from the water and he's flying along again. People speak of him as 'that mad sailor'!

When the wind is more easterly it blows offshore and he doesn't usually go out because, if something breaks(and it often does) he will get blown to Whyalla or Pt Lincoln! If the wind is too westerly, the waves build and it gets very choppy and becomes a much, much rougher ride. I like to windsurf at about 12 knots, just when the white-caps are beginning but I don't do it often.

Over 20 knots the shack responds with whistling windows, the ceiling fan vibrates and very strong west to south west winds make the whole shack shake. Once, last year, several small, white patches developed far out at sea and moved quickly across the water towards the shack. On reaching the beach, quick as a flash one patch picked up seawater and seaweed and blasted our shack windows until they were wet from sea-spray and dripping with weed! I thought the glass would break and I moved away but it was gone as fast as it came. I have never seen this before in 49 years of watching the sea. Since then son Hugh has told us that this white-out effect occurs from about 60 knots, that's over 100km / hour and when it is sustained the whole sea is flattened by the wind and the air is filled with something like horizontal sea-sleet, reducing visibility to zero very quickly.

So this breeze today means a lot more than just a nice day. It is a tiny niche in a very wide range and must be savoured like a glass of icy cold limoncello on a hot summer's night.

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