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?