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Rockbusters

Here’s a thing.  It’s Sunday morning and sunshine invites us back on the water.  The wind has disappeared.  The last storm has tossed our boats around in the compound, damaging one of them,  but the beamy Safran is still intact.  We rig it up, stow the coffee and fruit cake, and head for the beach.

The tide is high and last week’s storms haven’t quite finished with us.  Waves curl and break.  We need to plan this launch.

Knee-deep in the surf, we keep tripping over mystery obstacles. Storm-tossed rocks.  Half-digested bits of building.  Jagged bits of masonry that could tear a hole in our precious boat.  We remove as many as we can, clear a corridor to open water, and push off.

Today’s expedition takes us along the coast to Dawlish.  The sea is livelier than it looks.  Past the Langstone Rock, we start to wallow in the backwash from the sea wall.  Ahead, the line of containers that have badged every news broadcast for the last ten days: the makeshift breakwater shielding the now-famous Dawlish Breach.

We call a halt, break out the victuals, and inspect the repair operation.  After ten minutes, we’ve counted just four guys in the hi-vis gear.  It is, to be fair, a Sunday but a couple of million people to the west rely on this rail link and the visible effort is underwhelming.  Money no object?  We begin to wonder.

By the time we get back, the falling tide has revealed most of the beach back in Exmouth.  The gleaming sand is littered with yet more debris.  We hand over our boat to the next crew and set about clearing a twenty five metre safe zone for both launch and retrieval.  We’re currently refurbing our new home, Exmouth’s magnificent old Lifeboat Station, and money – as ever – is an issue.  The last thing we need are hefty repair bills for our tiny fleet.

A lot of the debris has already been sucked down by the sand.  These are sizeable bits of brickwork and masonry.  Think crowbars.  Think wheelbarrow. Within minutes, we’ve mustered a sizeable workparty from club members.  A mountain of rubble begins to grow beyond the high-water tideline.

And here’s the thing. It’s the first sunny Sunday in yonks and the beach is packed with walkers, kids, dogs, the whole seaside schtick.  Many of them are curious about what we’re up to.  Is this some kind of community initiative?  Don’t we have better things to do on our precious weekend? 

One couple have just picked their way along the beach as far as Orcombe Point and back.  They’re young and active.  They report a wasteland of storm-tossed debris.  They describe it in apocalyptic terms – unbelievable, really dangerous  – yet their grasp on what might happen next remains remote.  Someone will presumeably come along and sort it.  Job done.

Tossing another ball for the Labrador, they’re intrigued by our efforts.  We do our best to explain that most of this stuff comes from self-interest but they don’t really get it.  Aren’t the council supposed to do all this?  Why break sweat when the job belongs to someone else?

We’ve still got two boats on the water.  The beach is still a landing hazard.  I mumble something about all hands to the pump, about mucking in, but they don’t get the hint. Yeah, right.  They smile.  Call the dog to heel.  And stroll on.

Our little strip of beach cleared,  we retire for more coffee.  In a curious way, we’re surprised by what we’ve done.  Jonno says we’ve missed a trick.  A photo or two pinged to the local press would have done the club no harm at all.  Robin suggests we ought to do this thing professionally.  Rockbusters Inc.  Mike Drew, on the other hand, has doubts about the whole enterprise.  Another blow, he points out, and the beach will be full of debris again.

But that’s not the point.  We’ve achieved something.  We’ve swopped half an hour’s sweat and effort for the knowledge that – at least for now – we’re not going to rip the bottom out of one of our boats.  Plus something else.  After two weeks of serious humility – or maybe helplessness - at the hands of the Weather Gods, we’ve posted a small but important victory.

Money no object?  Fat chance.  Rely on your own efforts.  And stay afloat.