Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Day 12: Ferry yard and ferry dock

The air has a chill, it's a match for today's swim. Around the ferry maintenance yard in a half mile loop through the harbor channel, then back to shore and under the ferry dock. A bit tough, it needs proper staging. But fantastic, with the sun, calm water and view of Mt. Ranier (right).

What better day to have my brother in town, and the reprise of mischevious scheming from many years ago? My wife, brother and sister-in-law (left photo) will drop me at Waterfront Park just after the ferry leaves. I'll swim out to the channel and around the rusting hulks of dead and disused ferries, and hopefully under the ferry dock before the next boat arrives from Seattle. They'll be nearby to quiet the alarm if anyone gets too worked up over a guy in a black rubber suit swimming under the ferry dock, and they'll get some action photos.

Quick and quiet, and hopefully no Homeland Security alerts.

At least that was the plan...

I'll admit to being a little nervous driving to the harbor. The swim is totally reasonable, there's nothing beyond limits. Everything should be fine. I wonder if it might seem otherwise to some, like an extreme sports thing. Interesting. Is that how extreme sports happen, after working up to something it seems reasonable, but from the outside it looks nutty?

The dropoff goes well, walking through the snow in a wetsuit definitely seems odd, but the chill doesn't really cut through the rubber and I'm not outside long enough to get cold. Quick gear on, a few photos and I'm in. Thanks team.

I stroke harder than usual out into the channel, between a dock, an empty ferry slip and a old ferry boat resting at the pier (photo at right). It feels strange to be heading out into the channel and I pause frequently to look around. I want to know the where, what, and who over everything moving anywhere close to me. I won't trust my ears alone, even though motor sounds are so clear and distinctive.

The loop around the ferry maintenance yard is taking longer than I had hoped. It feels like more than the half mile I calculated on my Google map, maybe I'm swinging wider than I had figured. It takes what seems like a LLLLOOOOOOOOOONNNNNG time to get out and turn east around the boats, headed for the ferry dock. (Note: it's more like 3/4 of a mile, the satellite photo in Google maps is old and there's a lot more dock and boats to swim around now).

As I make the turn and come within view of the ferry dock, I see the next ferry come around the point from Seattle, heading for the ferry dock. I'm not going to cross under the ferry dock before the next boat arrives. I'm not going where the boat goes, I'll be closer to shore swimming under the pilings of the ferry dock, well away from the ferry. But I'm worried that the security people will be more intent when there's a boat at the dock. Oh well, I could sprint for the dock, but I don't think I'd make it anyway. Change of plans.

Finally, after what seems like a long 30-40 minute swim, I pull around the last boat and turn for the shore (photo at left). I'm the little splashy dot near the docked ferry boat. I'm swimming free in murky brown/green water in the bright sun, with no sign of the bottom. I want to get close to shore and out of the channel, then I just have the ferry dock security to worry about.

Here's the bottom, time to turn right and head for the ferry dock. The boat is just about to dock, it will arrive maybe 5 minutes before I get there. Swimming past the Harborview condos, the bottom is sand and gravel, with lots of shell debris. It's nice to notice that.

The cars start to drive off the ferry just before I arrive. I want to make this quick, I can see people walking along the edge of the car ramp that leads to the ferry, could it be security people waiting to wave me away? I put my head down and swim for the other side.

Will there be any obstacles under the docks? I usually swim slowly under a dock, watching all around, with one hand in front of my face in case I miss seeing some lines strung between pilings. But the sun is out and I can see fairly well even under the dock. I do keep looking around, and pause to check for obstacles, and everything looks fine (left photo).

Then...anticlimax, I'm under the car ramp and headed for the pilings that hold up the foot passenger ramp. Again, no apparent obstacles. I look up at the car ramp, see the same two people looking at me, it's my brother and sister-in-law. Great, no worries and I wave at them. I'm out the other side, and now if anyone objects at least I'm past the docks.

A nice feeling of relief, and I swim along the shore, wondering whether the human drama above the water leaves me capable of noticing anything underwater. I start seeing some tracks in the sand, about 1-2 inches wide and wandering several feet. But I can't tell who made them. Then there are more tracks and I can see...sand dollars. I haven't seen a single sand dollar yet this swim, and here's an entire city of them. I found a million dollars underwater, I'm a rich man.

It's a beautiful sand flat with what must be millions of sand dollars, mostly in 5-10 feet of water. They're piled up on top of each other, there are so many it hardly seems possible. Here's a link to a photo of a similar bunch of sand dollars.

What fun, a fantastic underwater site to close out the swim. I work slowly towards the shore, the sand dollars continue until the water is only about 4 feet deep.

My team is on the shore waiting, my wife first then my brother and sister-in-law (photos at left).

As I'm getting out, a small Coast Guard boat arrived and circled around offshore of the park. It's the 25 foot Defender class boat, with two deck-mounted machine guns, fore and aft, described here (photo right, and you can just see the Coast Guard "Defender" approaching as I get out of the water in the photo at the top of the post). We wonder if someone will meet us at the cars, but we're good and we get home without any problem. Next leg, on to Wing Point and my beloved open beaches again.

air temp: 29F
water temp: 49F
Dec 8, noon, sunny
wind light, variable
high tide, slack
visibility 10-20 feet
today's distance: 1.20 mile
total so far: 12.76 miles

today's notables:
sand dollars

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Mary said...

Glad to see you made it through some tough parts! I like the way you seem able to find some small positive moment (sand dollars, clams) and remind us how resilient nature can be.

What about an underwater camera??

Lee Anne said...

Go Mark! Keep up the swim, dude. I am having fun reading about your adventures. I am especially happy to hear about the sand dollars, especially after being so worried about your case of Industrial disease as you pierced through the murky droppings of the cold underworld beneath the Eagle Harbor.