By: Blonde Two

Over the years, one thing I have discovered about outdoor environments is they rarely give the same experience more than once. I sea swim from the same Torbay beach most days but I never get bored. There are always different tides, different weather patterns and different water inhabitants to enjoy (or perhaps not enjoy). I was rather surprised however on a recent morning to be swimming along and realise that suddenly my view underwater was far clearer than my one above it. The sea mist had come down in a rather disconcerting manner.

My initial reaction was of the ‘oh dear’ type but I told myself off quite quickly and reminded myself that I am a competent navigator, and more than capable of finding my way across Dartmoor in the dark. Of course I had neither my map or compass available but there were a few clues to help me keep going in the right direction to get back to base.

  • I found handrails in the shape of sand patterns running parallel with the shore
  • I had swam into the insipid sun on the outward leg so knew I needed to keep it behind me on the inward one
  • In between mist clumps I could still vaguely make out the shore
  • The sound of children laughing was carrying from the beach

On our navigation courses, we teach our trainees to make sure they can always give three pieces of information that confirm their position. This is a great system because it rules out over-confident mistakes at the same time as calming nerves in tricky situations. I was perfectly happy in my lonesome water/mist world but the risk that the shore, sand lines and even the sun could all be swallowed in a moment’s misty swirl was high so I headed towards my most sensible handrail (the beach) and swam along the shoreline.

I hadn’t been wrong about the swirling and from time to time the beach did disappear but the sand lines remained and by then I was in water so shallow my fingers caught in the sand a few times.

Our strange southwest mists have caused the RNLI to put out the red ‘no swimming’ flags a few times over the last week or so. I am not at all surprised. I was in the sea at the same time as a fair few other swimmers and couldn’t see any of them. It wouldn’t take much for someone to go missing or swim into the boat lanes.

Would I recommend sea swimming in the mist? Probably not. Unless you take a map and compass with you that is!


If you want to join us on a navigation course (Dartmoor not Tor Bay) the next one is coming up soon on Monday August 24th. We would love to meet you and, once you’ve rehearsed your skills, who knows what kind of navigation you might find yourself doing!

Dartmoor Navigation Courses