Living beside the sea means you have a long-term relationship with a wild, wonderful and mysterious entity.
You can never be sure what she will do next. It’s important to remember that you can never trust her. You must expect surprises, the occasional wet foot and salt-misted glasses.
I grew up fearing the open water more than loving it. Despite the obvious stereotype being Cornish doesn’t mean that you are born with gills and a surfboard under your arm.
I do love her though and I treat her with a respect I feel she deserves.
The Power of the Sea
There is something restorative about being near the water. The Victorians agreed. They thought that the sea air and salt water was the cure for just about every ill. In the 19th century Penzance became the destination of choice of the discerning invalid. Consequently the town has a very large graveyard.
There is some truth in this idea though. I often find myself drawn to the seashore whether it is to walk, sit in the car on a rough day and watch the waves pound in. Or just to sit in the sand and read. Always expect the unexpected and watch out for the rogue wave. Those ones that leap up and soak you on an apparently calm day.
A Graveyard for Ships
The coast of Cornwall is a shipping graveyard, literally thousands of vessels have come to grief on these shores. Their remains lie on the seabed out of sight for everyone apart from the seals and the odd diver. And believe me, I am not getting in a wetsuit, let alone going under water!
For us land lubbers, however there has magically appeared a handy land based alternative. Recent rough seas have revealed the remains of the Jeune Hortense, a French ship that got into trouble in Mount’s Bay in May 1888.
She ran aground while trying to return to Cornwall the body of a Fowey man who had died on France. The four crew were rescued as were the cargo of 400 rather anxious damp cattle but the ship could not be saved. She slowly broke up and disappeared beneath the sands. That is until a recent reappearance.
The remains have been revealed to the south of the horseshoe-shaped bay and lie in the sand like the skeletal remains of some ancient mythical beast.
It is a magical and rather disquieting quality that the sea possesses that allows it to make whole beaches come and go at will, often overnight ( just ask Porthleven) so really it was nothing to make a wooden wreck appear to rise from the sandy seabed in January.
It does however fascinate me. The wood is smooth as silk and now feels like iron. The scene is sad and yet majestic somehow. The wreck lies along way from the usual tourist trail across the bay to the famous mount. You feel, and usually are, alone.
After 130 years this ship can still turn heads and excite the imagination.
Our mistress the sea gives us so many gifts, not just the pleasures of using her waters and the larder of creatures that have been Cornwall’s saviour and mainstay throughout history but actual presents. Treasures from the deep so to speak.
But more of that another time and please bear in mind one woman’s treasure is most certainly another’s junk!