scavenger season

We’re all scavengers at heart. Who doesn’t like picking something up for nothing and making use of it? I love it, as do other members of the family. And what better place to do a bit of scavenging, than on the beach?

Since we moved here the shoreline around the island has been an endless source of treasures and surprises all rolled into one. If you like collecting driftwood, shells, pebbles and odd bits of this and that blown in by the tide, you’d love it here too.

This weekend there was some major scavenging to be done. It was almost a salvage job, but I’ll come back to that. Let’s call it ‘Op Groin’ or ‘Operation Groin’ for non-military types. The start of the operation was some weeks back on another beach where an interesting piece of wood was spotted protruding from the wet sand as the sea retreated into the distance. Sunday afternoon dog walkers passed by without a glance, until someone began digging and digging and digging… without a spade too! Some time later, along time later actually, a giant oak groin/beam was uncovered and claimed by the digger. Determined not to loose his booty he hauled it across the beach into the dunes and buried it. This short sentence does not accurately describe the Herculean effort it took or the toll on clothes and hands and patience, by those of us who advised against it. Once in the dunes, photos were taken of the ‘secret’ location so Pirate-like he could return to collect it another day. End of the first part of Op Groin.

beach skytom

Several weeks passed. Christmas came and went before Op Groin went into full swing again. More troops were recruited to help with the next sortie. There was some doubt about whether the buried treasure could be found, but ‘sniffer-dog-like’, the damp wood buried in the dunes was uncovered again and four healthy volunteers shouldered the weight and carried it down the beach, along the footpath and back to the recovery vehicle on the road. Success is a six foot beam drying in the garage.


But it wasn’t all over. This beam needed other similar pieces to be really useful. Fortunately, two more likely items were spotted quite recently nearby, so this weekend Op Groin Part 2 swung into play. The battered wood was spotted quite quickly this time, not buried, just lying on the rocks. And while the storm clouds brewed overhead, I helped manhandle the pieces into the vehicle, at the same time as rescuing an old football and some interesting pebbles, before we piled into the car as the heavens opened. Two more immense beams are now drying in another outside store. Thank goodness that’s over!

Today on a cycle along the beach keen eyes spotted a mast leaning at an odd angle from the shore. We headed over, careless of brambles and mud, wondering what a large boat could be doing so close in. It was a sorry sight. A large, rather lovely yacht was marooned on the beach, lying on its side, all out of sorts its hull imbedded in the sand. We later discovered that this yacht was swept ashore just a few hours after Op Groin had ended. Now, that would have been a very big salvage operation. Fortunately for the owners our prime family scavenger had returned to London by the time the boat appeared. No one’s too clear about the law of salvage, so we left the boat safely in the hands of a couple of frolicking seals.


As for Op Groin, thankfully the operation didn’t leave any casualties, apart from sore shoulders, and one day the wood drying in the garage may be turned into a beautiful table or a bench or even a bed… we can but hope.


steal or salvage?

Can you steal from the sea? This moral dilemma has been troubling me for a couple of nights…as I hunt around for a corner of the sheet in the middle of the night. These fresher September nights are a refreshing change from the routine of tip toeing out to the water cooler in desperate need of a fresh breeze. So I have been a little troubled about the legalities of sea salvage and what’s allowed. It all began with a ‘run of the mill’ trip to the nearest beach…

We have been out to the same little bay on a number of afternoons, but each time with a different set of visitors. The last few weeks have involved a never-ending stream of ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’ – some sad as we wave goodbye to loved ones for several months and others bringing a smile as familiar faces appear through the arrivals door. It’s a little weird to keep driving to the airport so often but never actually boarding a plane. On departure for her flight, our daughter commented: “It’s odd you’re staying here,” and I’m still getting used to that fact.

Back at the beach, as we bumped along the cliff track to the secluded bay, we could all drink in the deep blue and turquoise scene on our left, where dark black rocks and yellow sandy cliffs curled their arms around the clear water. We’ve named this bay, Sea Carrot Bay, on account of someone finding what was believed to be a ‘sea carrot’ on the sea bed a few weeks ago (please don’t tell me you’ve never seen a sea carrot!). Bags, snorkels, beach mats in hand we eased ourselves carefully down the winding steps to the beach below, mastering the knack of feet slipping from flip-flops on the sand coated steps. At the beach some tried out snorkelling for the first time, others just put on flippers, while the expert son No. 2 just wore goggles! This particular bay affords a view of the crumbling old hotels and buildings lining the beach of Famagusta. Between the gaps in various jagged rocks forming archways and strange ‘windows’, the multi-storey blocks are visible like mini painted scenes on the horizon of the bright blue water. While we were floating around, some peering down at the fish and rocks below, a strange piece of wood was spotted on the seabed by the eagle-eyed Major and son No 2. promptly dived down to investigate. Earlier I’d seen him lift up a concrete weight with a rope tied to it. I was impressed, but then realised everything weighs less underwater and it wasn’t just the gym sessions taking effect. So, the piece of wood was brought to near the surface after a bit of panting and heaving and the salvage operation of swimming it to shore began. On asking, “why are you carrying a really heavy piece of wood to the beach?” The answer was: “Treasure!” Too many Pirate films had them thinking this was part of a wrecked ship. The huge beam was lifted onto a rock by the beach for further examination and looked like…a piece of battered brown wood, with some holes and bolts, slightly curved, with lots of sea creatures attached to it. And it smelt of fish. So I was a bit perturbed that they announced it was going home with us. There was no hidden key or map or even a hint of treasure hidden within.

“But it belongs at the bottom of the sea,” I protested…”and what are we going to do with it?” Apparently it would go in the garden. The question of who it belonged to, didn’t seem to be an issue. So two strapping lads were tasked with lugging the beam, or piece of ship’s hull, up the winding cliff steps and then it was manoeuvred into the car, with passengers dispatched to the other vehicle to make room for the salvage. The smell behind my left ear on the journey home wasn’t pleasant and I was glad to get out of the car when we got home.

Yesterday I went for a swim and noticed a kind of fishy-sea smell as I headed up one end of the pool. Glancing up I saw the gnarled-shipwreck-like beam of blackened wood staring down at me. Thank you guys for the authentic decoration on the edge of the pool – we won’t be taking this back to the UK with us, but we now have a little bit of history and something from the sea bed at Sea Carrot Bay in the garden. I’m a bit hazy about the laws of salvage and realise raids from customs officers are always a possibility – but I have planned my excuse. ‘Didn’t you know this area of Cyprus was once under the sea and this ancient scrap of wreck must have been left behind?’. One day it’s presence here will puzzle archeologists, because who would dream that a family would drag it from the sea and drive it home several miles as a trophy or even a garden ornament?