Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day 2: South Beach

Today was a good day because I didn't get eaten. How's that for low expectations? I wasn't really too worried, but I have heard rumors of predators hanging around salmon farms. If true, I suppose they want salmon and not me.

If you want to see where I've been, check out this nifty Google map (below) and you'll see my progress. If you zoom out, you can even see noticeable progress looking at the whole of Bainbridge Island. Nice. And from this satellite photo you can even see the big honking salmon farm that I just swam by.

View Larger Map

Air temp: 60F
Water temp: 53F
1:30 pm, mostly sunny
High tide and rising, swimming against slight current
NW wind 5 mph
Visibility 10-12 feet, except a couple of murky places, 3-4 feet.
Today's distance: 0.89 mile
Total so far: 1.53 miles

Surfperch schools
Spider crab

And...the first bald eagle of the winter, they usually don't show up until more like January. Every year, I've watched at least two baby eagles grow up and fly away. Leaving the area around July for the salmon season in Alaska I suppose.

As I get ready to swim, all I can think about is the salmon farm. What will be there? The entry is easy, nice sandy beach in a public park. After today, my swim routes get a bit more challenging. Lots of private land so it can be hard to find legal entry and exit points, and some are fairly rugged banks.

As soon as I start swimming, the salmon farm looms. I debated whether or not to ask permission and advice (will I get eaten if I swim by your salmon farm?). Then I did what I knew I would do all along, just got in the water and swam by. No problems, of course. Nothing rushed out of the murk to grab me in hammer jaws.

As far as I can tell, the farm is run by a company called American Gold, and they claim their farmed salmon is "natural." A news article says they sell their salmon to Whole Foods, so it must be fairly good compared to other salmon farms.

Passing by the salmon farm, the only thing I can see that might be a problem is a fairly rich algae bloom on the bottom. But that can sometimes be natural, and a real study would be necessary to draw any conclusions. Nothing obvious like hordes of escaped salmon swimming around.

The bottom in the area is mixed, sand, some bedrock shelf areas, gravel, rocks and boulders. Enough bumpy terrain to expect to see some fish, and then swimming under the salmon farms dock I see a huge swarm of small surfperch, thousands of them. Mostly fairly small, up to about 6 inches long. My first big collection of fish on this swim. Can't be sure of the species, and there might be more than one present.

Moving past the salmon farm, I encounter a noticeable current working against me, and the water gets murky, maybe 3-4 feet visibility. Soon I turn the corner around the point on the southwest tip of the island and the water clears and current disappears. Back to clear water, clean bottom, and boulders to look around for fish. Just around the corner I find a very impressive school of large surfperch, probably redtail.

I'm starting to feel the drysuit zipper rubbing on my shoulders, and it feels like it's getting rubbed raw. Oh great, am I leaving a blood trail, chumming past the salmon farm? Later, I do see some breaks in the skin, I really was losing a bit of blood. Next time I'll go with my wetsuit, it will let me move my arms without tearing the skin.

Pulling up onto the beach, I see the impossible to reach public road end and a nice private staircase adjacent. Where will I go? Guess. I'm easily up the private stairs and nobody cares. A very nice swim, I'll be back again soon.


Noelle said...

This is a really cool project! I swam up part of the Hudson a couple of times this summer, and there truly is nothing like a good open water swim to make you feel in touch with your surroundings.

Best of luck navigating the fish!

Mark Powell said...

thanks noelle, and swimming up a river is awesome fun. Also swimming down whitewater without a boat, yikes.

Anonymous said...

Mark - there is a surfing party building for the Sunday afternoon before the SCA Seafood Summit starts...I think that will be a great second chapter of "Water Sports for Conservation"! I hope you can join us!

Mary said...

Mark that last comment was me, Mary from Plitt....

Williams' said...

Hey Mark - sounds like fun! Scott and I bought wetsuits and have done a bit of swimming and bodysurfing around the Bay area. Pretty sheltered in comparison but it's pretty new to me. People think we're crazy and that the water is too cold... cold is relative though : )

I am glad I found your blog - looking forward to seeing what your upto!