‘Come quick’, the girls call urgently and simultaneously from the foredeck. It’s 8.30am and Julian and I are making breakfast and planning where to go when we set sail from Aguadulce. Lily and Katie are playing with their dolls on the foredeck, so we assume there’s been a dolly accident.
‘What’s fallen in?’ Julian calls up in the jaded tones of one who has rescued more than the occasional toy from the marina water.
‘Come quick’, Lily calls again. They always do this, never specifying the reason for the urgency. I abandon the porridge in the saucepan and jump up the companionway.
‘Look, look’, they both squeal, pointing to the water.
‘Do I need the fishing net?’ I ask, one leg in and one leg out of the cockpit. ‘What’s fallen in?’
‘Nothing’, Lily says. ‘It’s some strange fish’.
And then I see what’s causing all the excitement – a school of barracuda swimming past Carina’s bow. Long, sleek, grey with silver stripes down their sides, some of the larger ones are a metre long. They effortlessly glide through the water, on the lookout for food, menacing and very cool at the same time. Julian and I encountered barracuda on our SCUBA diving honeymoon on the Red Sea nine years ago, but we didn’t see them in such large numbers. There must be a couple of hundred at least swimming past us now.
We all stand on the foredeck, mesmerised by these new fish, watching their progress until the last barracuda has swum out of sight. Fifteen minutes later Katie reports they are now swimming past in the opposite direction. We’ve been enjoying watching our new companions for the past twenty-four hours.
We live on a fish tank. The water in the marina is often crystal clear and turquoise. Here in our winter berth, when the sun shines from a cloudless blue sky (as it so often does) we can see right to the rocky sea floor, 4 metres below. The shoe of one of Katie’s dolls lies there, clear to see, next to a sweeping brush that was there before we arrived. And what fish there are to be seen.
All winter we have enjoyed the spectacle of big fat grey mullet writhing at the surface as people feed them stale bread on the other side of the marina. In amongst the mullet are schools of bream, and other fish whose names I don’t know – silver and grey, forked tailed and flat tailed, fast and slow. There are smaller fish too – some with tiger stripes, others with black spots like eyes close to their dorsal fins, and little black fish that dart about. Shoals of tiny young mullet hang around the boats, feeding from the algae growing on the mooring lines. On sunny days the abundance of fish around the boat is enough to make the heart soar.
A few days ago I came up on deck. The sun shone down on the rocky sea bed to starboard, and I saw something new in the water. Sea cucumbers. Ray*, our neighbour, was visiting for a cup of tea and, at first, we all gazed down on the long rubbery creatures, not sure if they were what we thought they were, or if it was some rubbish that had come to rest on the sea floor. But what strange rubbish! The long rubbery tubes looked too organic and a couple had the distinctive rubbery spikes characteristic of some sea cucumber species. Sea cucumbers are slow moving critters, so we went away and came back a few times, monitoring their progress in relation to distinctive rocks, until we determined they really were alive and moving. They were gone later, but have returned this morning, like slow moving cats, seeking out the sunny spots on the sea floor, away from the shadows cast by boats and pontoon.
What delights to behold simply by standing on the deck of Carina in the marina that’s been our home for the past six months. Besides the marine life we are also treated to the spectacle of little brown finches alighting on our mooring lines and on the pontoon, as well as a kingfisher that makes the marina its home. Lily was the first to spot the kingfisher some months ago, perched on the guard rail of the boat next to us. ‘Look, a kingfisher’, she called below deck to Julian and, of course, he had to see it to believe it. Since then we’ve been getting rare, fleeting but precious glimpses of this beautiful bird ever since – on mooring lines and guard rails all over the marina, his blue-green and orange plumage catching our eyes for the briefest of moments before he quickly vanishes.
Sometimes I have to remind myself to take the time to take in what’s going on around me. Slow down, pause for a moment, and enjoy the spectacular abundance of life in the waters around my home.
*Ray is human, not ray!