Our Changeable Friendship with the Sea

Monday, January 12, 2015
Last night, my son and I stood on the deck high above our beach, and talked as we watched the rippling of the wind across the surface of the sea. It's easy for the light to play tricks on your eyes when you are gazing out to sea. A shadow on the curve of a wave can look like a fish. The splash of a gull, the ripple of a breeze.

But then, we really did see something. It broke the surface for a split second, and we both just happened to be looking at the right spot. The sun was just dipping down below the horizon, so there was a soft, glistening light, almost making the water luminescent for a few minutes. And we saw something small and black, whether it was stingray or a baby shark, or something else, dart very quickly, with a speed I've never seen before, down into the shallows, and then flick away back out to the depths of the ocean.

There have been a few sharks spotted around Auckland this summer, but we have never seen anything like that in our bay. Not even a sting ray. I don't know what that was that we saw last night, but it got me thinking about safety in and around the ocean.

I have always tried to teach my children a healthy respect of the ocean. Not to fear it, but to respect it. The sea can be a fun and frolicsome companion, but it can very quickly turn to a fearsome, all-conquering foe, which is why respect is more important than friendship when it comes to partnering with the ocean.

We saw a classic example of this earlier in our holiday, when a family walked around to our beach. There is no road to our beach, but you can walk around the rocks. Often people pass by our small beach to walk over to a much larger, beautiful beach over the hill, but this day, this family must have decided to set up their umbrella and picnic hamper on our beach. (Just to clarify, when I say 'our' beach, I only mean the beach we use in front of the family property. We don't own the beach. In New Zealand we have this truly wonderful Queens Chain law which means that the coast belongs to the Crown, or NZ government, and is therefore, 'owned' by all New Zealanders - just another reason why NZ is awesome).

We could hear their laughter all day, as we sat down the other end of the beach. They were clearly enjoying themselves, and they had lots of very little children having lots of fun playing in the safe, shallow waters of the little bay. So much so, that they forgot to keep an eye on the tide.
At about 3pm in the afternoon I watched them moving their little camp further to the back of the beach, and I remember thinking that they wouldn't be able to stay there for much longer.

A couple of hours later, we had a very distressed grandmother approach us asking for help. They had forgotten, in their mirth and fun, to keep an eye on the tide and had left it too late to walk back across the rocks. With daylight fading and so many little children, it would have made it very dangerous - probably impossible to attempt without someone getting into grave danger.

My son and his cousin were playing out in the bay with a little outboard motor, so I offered the use of the boat to take the children around to safety in the next bay.

We raided the boat shed for life-jackets and loaded the children into the boat while Rob and the boys took them round. It took several trips and was rather an adventure for all of us.

But it was also a reminder of how quickly things can change when you're beside the sea.


Amy at love made my home said...

A great reminder to be careful and watch what you are doing by any water. Great of you to perform a rescue and take them all back to safety. xx

Gracie Saylor said...

Rachel, I am so glad your family was there to help! Our family tries to exercise your attitude toward the sea as well. While we lived in Crescent City, CA, by the Pacific Ocean we were horrified to see a high school class from out of town down on the rocks next to the waves. A rogue wave swept two students into the ocean and only one was saved. The ocean is beautiful, but mighty.

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