Thursday, November 6, 2008

Day 4: Bean's Bight

Size matters, and today's swim is proof that things are BIG and a bit odd in Puget Sound.

Today I pulled around the corner and came in sight of downtown Seattle, with the Space Needle and downtown skyscrapers. Yeah, the Space Needle is that Jetsons-looking tower built for the 1963 World's Fair in Seattle. The biggest tower around that looks like it was designed by a kid. A strange sight from half underwater. It was cold, the coast was deserted, although I did get my first people waving and hollering at me from shore, a couple of kids standing on their beach.

And I found myself turning into The Creature Aquatic, peering out of the glassy-smooth water with just my eyes showing, looking at the private shore. I've had enough time in the water this month to feel like I belong underwater, and to feel strange and a bit sad when it was time to climb out. I wanted to keep going but duty called, this was just a short weekday excursion with an ending time.

Today was colder, winter is coming. I switched back to the drysuit, and good thing I did.

Bean's Bight cast of characters:

geoducks (many, HUGE clam) largest burrowing clam in the world. Pronounced gooey duck (but it's not gooey and it's not a duck!)
moon snail and moon snail shells (BIG snail) Polinices lewisii, largest moon snail in the world
sunflower starfish (20 arms, BIG nearly 1 meter)
dungeness crabs (lots)

Not seen today, but also big in Puget Sound:
The Giant Pacific Octopus, reaching perhaps 25 feet across and 400 pounds, the largest octopus in the world.
The giant Pacific Seahorse, up to a foot tall and perhaps the largest seahorse on earth.

Air temp: 51F
Water temp: 53F
Nov. 5, 3pm, cloudy
Medium tide, rising
Visibility 10-20 feet
Today's distance: 0.82 mile
Total so far: 2.89 miles

I got in near the east end of South Beach, heading past the privately owned area with the gate and path. I'll swim past the gate and have to walk back through in my dive gear to reach my car, hope that works out OK.

The water is perfect glass, sky mostly cloudy but brilliant swimming water. Visibility is good, up to 20 feet and the feeling of the swim is magnificent.

The coming winter has brought a chill, buoys say the water hasn't cooled much but it feels colder. The air is colder too, and it's a jolt to slip gently underwater. My face hurts a bit, but the draw of the clear view is strong. In just a few strokes I'm feeling alive and at home.

This photo shows the shore, the water, and in the distance Mt. Ranier (you can't really see it in the picture, with most of the mountain hidden in the clouds. It's huge when it's out, looming over the water and covered with snow.

At the end of South Beach, there is more of the same bedrock shelves, with gravel patches and scattered boulders. Moving along, sandy patches start to appear and my first real sand flats with lots of eelgrass. I know what's coming soon, and sure enough.....GEODUCKS!

It's pronounced gooey-ducks, even though they're not gooey and not ducks.

These clams are some of the most amazing animals I've ever seen. The biggest burrowing clam on earth, with a shell size up to nearly one foot, and a siphon so huge it can't be pulled inside the shell. Geoducks can live up to 100 years, and sit 3 feet under the surface of the sand, with that huge siphon reaching up into the water.

After the fields of geoducks, a magnificent moon snail that reminds me of nothing but a big racing sailboat with a huge spinnaker unfurled. I dive down 12 feet and pick up the moon snail just to hold it. The moon snail's shell is big, and it takes a while to duck back inside when it's all ballooned out and crawling around on the sand.

The eelgrass and sand flats say "barracuda" to me, so I know I must have forgotten the cold, since I'm thinking of the barracuda haunts found in much warmer waters.

View Larger Map

click blue labels for notes on progress

I finally prowl the shoreline and slip out of the water where I can't see any's the damn golf course. I've heard of this place but never seen it, you can't see it from the road. It's a silly little golf course with sand "greens" and thankfully it's deserted today. I slink along the hedgerow of brambles, and wander back and forth a bit until I find a trail through the backyards and fences to Bean's Bight Road. Then it's just about a mile walk back to my car. But there seem to be people everywhere, and some gardeners smile at me, and one lady on the phone in her living room glares when I open the one gate I need to pass and slide by the path just outsider her fenced yard, where the gardener told me last week that it was probably ok to pass through. Then I'm back to my car without a hassle.

Here's the cormorants on the South Beach pilings again, this time with two herons off to the left, taking up a bit more room than the otherwise evenly spaced coromorants.

Next swim, around the southeast point and up the east side to Blakeley Harbor. That should be fun.


Chrisss said...

Thanks for blogging about your swimming adventures. I love Washington State and I'll have to get over to Bainbridge Island sometime soon.

Mary said...

Mark have you ever seen the seahorse that you mentioned? That would be awesome!