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?

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mini mishaps

Problems come in threes don’t they? Well that’s what I’m banking on…
Yesterday we had a few and it started with a dawn attack by ANTS. Yes, my worst fears were realised when we sat down to breakfast. We’d been re-telling the slightly amusing tale of a friend showing us a sealed packet of muesli he had taken from the fridge earlier and saying it would get ants in it if they didn’t keep it in the fridge. Someone took a close look at the packet and said, “But there are ants in there now!” “No, there can’t be this is a new packet, it hasn’t been opened.” But it was true the ants were already in there…in a sealed packet of muesli. Where there’s a seam of plastic an ant can finds its way in. But seconds later as someone began to pour out their muesli, tiny ants were spotted in our own tupperware sealed muesli. It turns out the tupperware leaks…or at least that one did! Someone said the ants are just extra protein, but strangely I didn’t feel in need of that kind of protein. It wasn’t a good start to the day.

Still there was plenty of time for more upsets.

Going to the beach here is best done later in the day, after 4 or 5pm when the sun is slightly less burning hot. There are some beautiful little bays not far away, where the rocky cliffs and clear blue water make it ideal for snorkelling. So after flippers, snorkels, bottles of water and towels were bundled into the hot car, we all jammed ourselves in, a bit like neatly packed sardines, but ever so slightly less smelly. On arrival at the top of the cliffs we were all looking forward to a refreshing swim and there was plenty of space on the little beach, as well as some welcome shade. Very dodgy half made steps frame the approach to the bay, but at least there is a rail at the top to stop yourself sliding down the steps which slant precariously downwards in a zig-zaggy kind of way. The rocks on this side of the island are either a soft sandy colour or very dark brown with jagged surfaces. The light coloured rocks seem to be higher up, but many of the dark rocks protruding from the water are shaped like mushrooms, where the sea has eaten away at their base, leaving a strange flat top balanced on a narrow stem above the surface. Everyone was in the water busy fitting on flippers and adjusting masks and I was thinking, ‘what a beautiful spot’…then I looked down to watch one of the boys swimming under the water below me without flippers. What are those black things on his feet?…Oh dear, oil had struck. Large black patches of crude oil were splattered on his feet. His father sighed… “You must have stood on something.” Tut, tut how careless! He swam on out to sea, two black soled feet splashing in the water behind him. “You’ve got black feet too!” I called after him. Then followed a lot of diving to rub feet on the rocks below and scrub them on the sea bed to no avail. It wasn’t coming off. The sea seemed a little less magical after the oil encounter and I was slightly worried I would swim into a slick or come across marine casualties floating on the surface. Back at the beach we discovered the oil was lining the beach disguised as seaweed, we had all walked over it, bar one, who had waddled into the sea in his flippers…there’s always one! No-one could wear flip flops back as our soles were covered in tar, and arriving home, there was a dash for the turps before anyone could enter the house….but the day wasn’t quite over, nor were the hassles.

How do you open your door? Slot the key in, turn it until it releases the lock and probably push it open. Sounds sensible. Some people though are in the habit of turning the key and if the door doesn’t budge, giving it a shove with their shoulder. To me this is a bit like kicking the boiler to make it start or smacking your computer when it misbehaves. You feel better but it’s not effective. However, opening the door to the house yesterday evening was attempted with a shove when the key didn’t open it easily. This particular shove from a 6ft something teenager resulted in one cracked glass panel on the top half of the door. Good end to the day! The next hour or so, after turps had been administered to oily feet and flippers, a couple of lads became glazing experts, tapping and removing broken glass from the door and clearing away splinters from the floor. That’s it, time for bed… this day of mini mishaps has to end now because three is quite enough.