As the seasons change and the days shrink, the weather seems to flip from one extreme to the other. A few nights ago it was howling from the east at over 60mph and began to sound a little scary in our exposed cottage. We’ve had 60 a few weeks ago but from the prevailing southwest. I have a theory that a less usual easterly gale is noisier because it blows against the wind-bent vegetation. I got up at 5am to check things out and found the bike blown over, even though it was hard against a wall. The kayak – that was gone, but being red I knew it would be easy enough to find in the daylight. Turns out it was nestling in a ditch not far away.
I’ve pondered on similar sound theories about high water on a spring tide. Assuming it’s not all drowned by the wind and waves, there’s a certain rushing and gurgling sound I’m not sure I’ve heard at other times. Again, I could only explain it by weathering: the higher and so less smoothed down parts of the rocky sea shore are responding noisily to their fortnightly lapping. Sadly, a recent communiqué from Stockholm informs me that neither theory will be shortlisted for a Nobel Prize.
There’s also been talk of a blood moon lately. Not a theory but an astronomically accredited rosy-orange glow brought on by the fuzzy edge of the earth’s shadow. Though the recent one wasn’t visible in the UK as it was earlier this year, with the current calm conditions I figured a moonlight paddle would make a novel experience.
On the beach about 8pm, the moon was just rising over Suilven to the northeast. An hour before high water, geometrically, the idea of the moon ‘pulling’ the water in towards it made perfect sense. And blow me down if it didn’t have an orangey hue (not caught by my camera), though I realise that’s just because it was rising.
Out on the water in the dark I thought it might be unnerving – part of this idea was a bit of a dare. But if anything it was all rather magical. For once the boat remained perfect still as I tried to take some pictures and just as the thought – ‘I wonder if there’s any phosphorescence [sic]’ – passed through my head, the bow and paddle blades revealed a light twinkling in their wake that definitely wasn’t reflected moonlight. Taking a picture was impossible, though later I did notice it didn’t require agitating the water to see luminescent entities darting about. In fact the correct word is bioluminescence. Is it an ordinary phenomenon up here? Do tides, moon, season and temperatures have any influence? Who knows.
The low moon reflecting on Badentarbet Bay reminded me of a bogus tourist event they have in Broome, northwestern Australia. A low tides the moon rising over the mudflats of Roebuck Bay creates a very similar stepped effect, all the excuse they need to add it to their packed events calendar and run a New Age-y beach market. It’s bogus because it not unique to Broome or anywhere, and in my guidebook writing days out there, my bullshit antennae had to remain tuned to a high pitch. Broome is a lovely spot and has many genuinely unique attractions, but you’ll see the same lunar effect 600km down the road in Port Hedland. And anyone who knows the difference between PH and Broome will understand why PH don’t crow about their staircase too much.
As the tide topped out I was really rather cozy, wrapped up in my Anfibio drysuit and Gul fleece onesie – floating but not drifting between the moon and the stars and whatever was glittering below. This might be one of my last paddles in the Grabner. It’s on ebay (£450, fyi) and a new boat is on its way. I hope get a chance to take it for a spin before we migrate back south.