Tuesday, September 22, 2009

day 42 lytle beach

Warm late summer day with glassy-calm water. Perfect for following the dance of the light waves on the sandy bottom of Lytle Beach. Ah........ (see photo at right).

And I can think of no better way to join the World Wildlife Fund's "What a Difference a Day Makes" tweet-fest. I'll tweet this post and join the fun.

I swam around Bainbridge Island to encourage people to get connected to their local ocean, lake, river, pond or stream. And today I swam a mile for WWF24. Here's one thing I saw, a Sea Blubber (big jellyfish, see photo).

air: 75F
water: 55F
wind calm
visibility 5-20 feet
tide low, rising
Sep 22, 3pm

sea blubber jellyfish (huge, 20 inches across)
light on bottom

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 37: Lytle Beach

I can smell the finish now, and I'm ready for the finishing party June 27th at Fort Ward State Park at noon. Come join if you can.

How fitting to approach the finish line on a grey northwest day, this time in June. Much like day 1 back in October 2008. I've seen a lot of grey this winter, both above and under the surface. You might say I've become a connoisseur of grey. The water and the air are also about the same temperature as on the day of my first swim.

Today I got in at Lytle Beach and swam almost to the Fort Ward Park boat ramp where I began just over 8 months ago, on Oct. 13, 2008. Remaining, just a small cermonial swim of about 100 feet. On June 27th, we'll do that in a group, and then have a celebratory half mile swim to the picnic area for the hardy. Then a party!!

Lytle Beach was beautiful on a low tide, thick eelgrass and some kelp beds, with a nice assortment of fish and invertebrates. Here's a cabezon (right) that was (apparently) guarding eggs in the shallow water.

Another interesting sight was this "fried egg" jellyfish (left), I don't know what it is so to me it's the over easy jellyfish.

air temp: 58F
water temp: 52F
June 19, 2009, 10 am, cloudy
wind calm
extremely low tide, rising
visibility 5-15 feet
today's distance: 0.74 mile
total so far: 40.81 miles

sea cucumber

I park at the Fort Ward Park boat ramp, just like day 1. Only this time I walk north for 3/4 of a mile to Lytle Beach to get in for my swim back to Fort Ward. It's exciting to be trekking this stretch of beach, knowing that this is my last big swim, and also my last solo swim. The ceremonial finish will be a social event, much different than most of this circuit.

Lytle Beach is deserted when I arrive, and I pile into the water on an extremely low tide. Immediately, I'm back into the kelp and eelgrass forests, parting the fronds to swim through and seeing animals everywhere. These low tide swims are great for seeing ocean life when the visibility is low, I'm immersed in murk and find the animals usually at arm's length, eyeball to eyeball (for those with visible eyes).

The bottom is a bit rocky, transitioning to sand as I move south. Mostly eelgrass over the sand, although a few lonely kelp plants try to hang on to whatever they can, often just small rocks. Loads of jellyfish, in the eelgrass and more open water. Also a few interesting red/orange sea cucumbers(?) (left).

I come upon some pilings, crowded with starfish and crabs (right).

Finally, I'm approaching the boat ramp and my starting point. I get out about 50 feet before my starting point from last October, leaving a short stretch for the finishing swim and party June 27th. Wow, I can't quite believe it's coming down to one last swim.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day 36: Pleasant Beach

Great swimming off Pleasant Beach, the fun continues. The nearshore ocean bottom is covered with a thick bed of 3-dimensional plant life, including some of the most magnificent eelgrass beds I've yet seen. The thick tall eelgrass beds are easily 6 feet tall in places, and so thick it's difficult to part the leaves and see the bottom.

Fish and all the other eelgrass animals are plentiful and easy to see, the cover seems to make them less likely to dash away when I swim near them. The rock sole above right was a fantastic find, and it never did swim away. After I came along it just slowly hovered off the bottom and moved almost imperceptibly into thicker cover. Finally, it hid it's head ostrich-like under some sea lettuce and seemed satisfied.

Lots of tubesnouts in this area, and juvenile salmonids, small and large surfperch, crabs, piddocks, geoducks, a few oysters, moon snails. Pretty much all of my favorites.

Wow, a great beach and close to home. A sweet closure indeed to cross through the last few miles heading for the start-finish line less than a mile south now.

air temp: 66F
water temp: 54F
June 10, 2009, 1:30 pm, sunny
wind 0-5 mph, from S
extremely low tide, slack
visibility 5-15 feet
today's distance: 0.87 mile
total so far: 40.07 miles

today's notables:
rock sole
juvenile salmonids (species unknown)
thick eelgrass, also kelp, algae

I park at Beck Rd and walk on the beach north and west to my start at the Schel-Chelb Estuary, a restored estuary that hosts spawning chum salmon in the fall. Very nice project that looks like a success to me (only an eyeball survey, no data).

As soon as I drop into the knee-deep water, I find thick eelgrass beds and lots of animals. Fish, crabs, etc. Kelp covers every underwater surface of a floating dock. The water is a bit murky, but I can see well enough to have a great swim, mostly about 10 feet or so. One new sighting is a snake prickleback (right) an interesting little eel-like fish (right).

Once again I see many jellyfish, small and large. They are all around, in the more open water and also among the eelgrass beds. Here are two that caught my eye.

First I swim east to Lynwood Center, then south along the shore past Beck Rd. The underwater plants are thick at the corner and south to Beck Rd, the water has a thick, soupy look and feel, with a slick surface (right, a view of the surface). Not sure if it shows up in the picture.

The view towards Bremerton (right) from the beach looks in the direction of the naval base. Twice I've seen aircraft carriers scooting through this channel towards Bremerton and they are BIG. They make the channel and nearly 300 foot ferry boats look tiny.

One more swim and then the grand finale June 27th!

I come across two crabs fighting over a dead fish, each of them managing to tear off pieces to eat. They tug and pull every now and then,, but neither can get the fish away from the other crab so eventually they resume eating, each from their end (left).

The eelgrass is so thick and tall here that I have to swim through it, even though I'm in about 6 feet of water. Nice. I come to a floating dock and find a stunning view of feather duster worms upside down on the bottom of the float, with the streaming kelp and algae that cover the anchor cables in the background (right).

I'm approaching the channel marker at Lytle Beach, this is really my home waters. Lytle Beach is a very cute road end beach with public ownership very limited. It has an informal public park shared reasonably well with the private landowners nearby. There have been rough spots in the relationship, but mostly the sharing works. From here, I can see my start/finish clearly, Ft. Ward state park which is really my closest home water and beach (left).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 35: Point White 2

Just another lousy day in paradise, and a bald eagle perched on a rock near Point White. Today I saw more wonderful bottom and shore on the southeast side of Point White. Kelp, algae, and non-native wireweed make a thick bed of plants that are a great home to crabs, fish, and other animals. The bottom slowly changes from rocks and boulders to gravel to sand and eelgrass replaces the other plants.

Here's the biggest Dungeness crab I've ever seen, and he happens to be clutching a mate. I measured this crab at about 10 inches across the carapace, wow.

A lot of the crabs were mating, I saw maybe 10 or 20 mating pairs, including several different species--including red rock crabs and odd hairy-looking crabs that I think are helmet crabs.

The swimming here is loads of fun, I move slowly to watch everything. Lots of jellyfish including this one with a very yellow middle (left) and this fragile-looking clear one (right).

More big crabs than anywhere else I've seen, and lots of fish. Even one fairly large starry flounder that I scare up when I'm no more than a foot away. I get a close up view of it's eye as it startles and dashes away. A swimming raft near Pleasant Beach has schools of fish underneath, mostly surfperch, and one young lingcod lingering nearby.

air temp: 60F
water temp: 51F
June 7, 2009, 11 am, mostly cloudy
wind variable, 0-5 mph
extremely low tide, slack
visibility 5-10 feet
today's distance: 0.90 mile
total so far: 39.20 miles

today's notables:
starry flounder
breeding crabs, including BIG crabs
thick plants, kelp, wireweed, algae, eelgrass

I enter just east of the Point White channel marker and find better visibility and a fantastic view. Big boulders covered with kelp, algae, and wireweed make a thick 3-dimensional bed of plants and parting the canopy with my hands reveals lots of life.

The tide is still ebbing, and there's a slight current heading east so I drift with my camera and just watch everything. It's a bit chilly since I'm not generating any heat, so eventually I start swimming just to stay warm.

The bottom slowly changes to smaller rocks and eventually to sand, and near my exit on Pleasant Beach (just west of Lynwood Center) the eelgrass takes over. Rich, thick eelgrass several feet high, with lots of animals lurking on and around the plants.

As I get out, I look south towards Ft. Ward Park and the start--and end of my swim around Bainbridge Island. It's maybe a mile and a half away. Here's a photo looking south towards Ft. Ward from Pleasant Beach (right). THe point in the foreground is Lytle Beach, a popular community access point at the public road end and informal community park.

Here's a crab menagerie, this is just a small sample of the wonderful world of crabs on Point White.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 34: Point White

Point White is my new favorite spot. I found a huge kelp forest covering the bottom and the scattered boulders. Wow. Thick kelp provides a nice 3-dimensional living habitat. Here's a kelp crab on...kelp (left).

I saw more fish than anywhere else, a lot more, including the hugest school of shiner surfperch that streamed past me for minutes. It seemed like there were many, many thousands of them.

Point White had miraculous abundance, at least today, like a tropical coral reef. My other favorites included some luminescent-looking jellyfish (left), many different crabs, etc., etc. More pictures below. It was a bit cloudy, so I didn't get very good pictures of anything. I'll probably go back for more pictures.

During this swim, as I came around the corner of Point White, I saw my finish for the fisrt time since I swam south away from Ft. Ward park last October. Now I'll be coming back to Ft. Ward from the northwest in just two more miles of swimming.

Here's a photo of Point White from the north, looking at the channel marker, the mainland of the Kitsap Peninsula is in the background, and the Bremerton ferry is steaming by. The kelp forest is just under the surface here.

air temp: 73F
water temp: 52F
May 29, 2009, 4 pm, sunny
wind N, 0-5 mph
extremely low tide, slack
visibility 2-10 feet
today's distance: 1.13 mile
total so far: 38.30 miles

kelp forest
huge schools of surfperch, flatfish, rock gunnel hiding under kelp, crabs, jellyfish, etc.

Just before this swim, I got a tip from Lyon McCandless about the boulder garden near Point White. I'm eager as I get in at the Point White pier.

The water is cloudy, but a lot better than last time. I'll be able to see enough to make it worthwhile. Just as I'm starting, I see a nice little 6-inch flatfish. It's not close enough to identify, but a good sign.

Swimming south towards Point White, I find bunches of kelp, more than I've seen anywhere else this close to shore. I'm excited. Soon I'm swimming through a lush 3-dimensional kelp forest. The tidal current keeps the kelp fairly close to the bottom, but it still provides lots of cover and there are lots of animals taking advantage of it and hiding among the leaves. Parting the leaves shows crabs and fish almost everywhere, including an interesting looking green gunnel that kept darting just far enough away to elude me.

Near the actual Point White, a massive school of shiner surfperch started streaming past me, and it went on for several minutes, a continuous flow of fish. It seemed like a million of them.

Rounding the Point, I saw Ft. Ward state park, my starting and finishing point. It's about a mile and a half away straight line distance, and about 2 swimming miles away. I can smell the finish of this swim around Bainbridge. Check out the map below, there's just one small unswum gap in the cove on the southwest end.

I'll be back to Point White, this is too good to visit just once.

View Swim Around Bainbridge in a larger map

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 33: Crystal Springs 2

This is the land of murky water, at least right now. My lowest visibility swim yet, if not for a family fun plan I would likely have stayed out of the water. But then again, spring plankton blooms are a part of life here, so why not swim through a soupy spring day in the Sound?

Today's low tide is -3.4 feet, one of the lowest tides of the year. With today's high of 11.8 at 6:52 pm, that's a tidal range of 15.2 feet in just over 6 hours. Wow.

My wife and kids dropped me off at the north end of my swim, Crystal Springs Rd by Baker Hill Rd. The plan is for me to swim just over half a mile to the Point White pier, where they'll be looking for interesting things exposed by the super low tide and playing in the water. Kids seem to swim in any water, even 51F, it's amazing. I remember those days, but it hardly seems real since I only get in this water with a lot of rubber on my body.

The plankton is thick, part of the time I can't see my fingertips with my arms extended in front of me. I watch above the surface or swim with one arm ahead of me at all times to avoid running into something.

When I arrive at Pt. White pier, there are my two kids frolicking along with some friends from the hood (left). That's my 7 year old daughter in the green shirt and my 4 year old son in the orange shirt, and their friends next to them. The adults are smartly standing at the edge of the cold water, watching.

air temp: 58F
water temp: 51F
May 24, 2009, 11:30 am, sunny
wind variable, 0-5 mph
extremely low tide, slack (-3.4 feet)
visibility 1-5 feet
today's distance: 0.62 mile
total so far: 37.17 miles

algae bloom
extremely low tide, excursion 16 feet

I get in at Crystal Springs Rd, and immediately realize this is a low visibility swim. The shoreline is muddy brown, with visibility about 1 foot. Further offshore, I can see up to 5 feet but I can't see the bottom clearly anywhere. It's a foggy blur through the soup. I opt for swimming out of the gloom, even where I can't see the bottom.

"Where am I?" (right) I do a few dives just to see what's on the bottom, and find myself in 10 feet of water above some amazingly colorful starfish on a big boulder. No hope for a photo, except a green cloudy view of the blogfish.

When I pull out of the water, it's great to have a greeting, and spend an hour poking through the algae and sand, digging hopelessly after retreating geoducks, looking at great critters, and generally having ocean fun. Here's a picture of my wife standing by Pt. White pier (left), the water reaches within a few feet of the dock on a high tide.

The mussel crust on the pilings is just one of the interesting sights (right).

View Swim Around Bainbridge in a larger map

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 32: Crystal Springs

Another beautiful day in paradise. Here's the Crystal Springs shoreline as I walk north from where Crystal Springs Rd is along the shore, to my entry point. Ah. The weather and water are warming up for the summer, the wind is dead calm, and the beach is gorgeous with big trees right down to the waterline. Does the water look a bit cloudy to you?

Yes, unfortunately there's a new plankton bloom in town. Murky Murk returns (right). The visibility is low and I have to stay in shallow water if I want to see the bottom, mostly 5 feet or less.

It's a nice swim, but not a lot of view of the bottom and underwater photos just don't show much besides murk.

air temp: 66F
water temp: 50F
May 22, 2009, 4pm, sunny
wind from N, 0-3 mph
medium tide, rising
visibility 3-8 feet
today's distance: 1.21 mile
total so far: 36.55 miles

schools of small fish
algae and plankton

I walk north from Crystal Springs Rd towards the Gazzam Park shoreline. I can see that the water is cloudier than my last swim, but I never know how bad visibility will be until I actually get underwater. Sometimes the water looks fairly clear from above and turns out to be cloudy, and once in a while the surface view looks worse than the underwater view.

Today, the underwater view is actually worse than I expected, even though the surface view looked murky. Oh well, I can still see well enough to make the swim worthwhile.

Here's an interesting photo I took (left), I put the camera on the bottom pointed straight up in 6 feet of water. My head is just visible in the corner, a few bits of algae are visible, and the surface isn't really visible, it's just a glow.

The shoreline has some concrete walls, they look like erosion control structures since they run down from the shore into the deeper intertidal area (right). They've done what such structures do, accumulate sand and gravel on the upcurrent side and starve the downcurrent side. Catching gravel at the expense of the beach downcurrent. There are about a dozen or more, so somebody spent some money trying to save the beach (or the houses on shore). It creates a scalloped effect to the beach.

Once again, my close view of the bottom shows me another fun barnacle rock (left). Does that water look a little green to you? The color is completely unaltered, it's green.

Soon I'll come around White Point and see my finish at Ft. Ward State Park, maybe two more swims.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Day 31: Gazzam Lake Preserve

Today I swam one of the least developed shoreline areas on Bainbridge, the shore of Gazzam Lake Preserve. Access was difficult, I had to bushwhack in my wetsuit, but it was worth the trouble. Here's a picture of the shore (left) showing gigantic trees growing undistirbed all the way down to the high tide line. Fantastic.

Another calm day, and I found myself noticing something very small, a barnacle feeding frenzy (right). That's a clamshell in the upper left, and small barnacles enlarged in this close-up photo. Click the photo to enlarge even more and look for the fan-like cirri (legs). Barnacles are small crustaceans that live on their back, kicking their feet up into the water to filter out food.

As if that's not strange enough, there's the even stranger barnacle mating strategy, with the very long prehensile penises that allow mating while the animals are both locked inside their own houses. Mating for the anti-social.

These barnacles are making hay from the ongoing plankton bloom that is keeping visibility down. At least I could see well enough to make it a great swim.

air temp: 58F
water temp: 47F
May 8, 2009, 4pm, mostly sunny
wind from N, 0-3 mph
medium tide, rising
visibility 8-12 feet
today's distance: 0.98 mile
total so far: 35.34 miles

crabs, crab rock
deserted shore

Today's access is either a long walk from Fletcher's Landing, or finding access from somewhere near the end of Crystal Springs Rd. Since Crystal Springs Rd is part of my neighborhood, I choose the hunt.

I drive to near the end of Crystal Springs Rd and find a vacant area where I can park and try to bushwhack to the beach. It's a long, steep, brushy hill leading down to the water. It works ok, although the last 30 vertical feet are almost straight down, I have to use trees like a ladder. Then I'm on a beautiful and deserted beach, with a view south towards Rich Passage and home (left).

I walk a mile north to the place just south of Fletcher's Landing where I got out last time. I pass the Gazzam Lake Preserve trail, and the undeveloped shore in the picture above. It's nice to see what an undeveloped shoreline looks like. There are only a few places on Bainbridge where houses could be built but aren't. And now I'm one of the few people to know that from close-up personal experience.

I get in the water, curious about what things will look like after the big storm of several days ago. The plankton bloom is still hanging in there, and the water looks about the same as during my last swim.

Swimming south, I find another Bainbridge funicular (right). Click the image to magnify, you can see the cable car at the top and the cables coming down to a concrete landing pad on the beach. Now that's determination to use the beach.

Here's a moon snail that was sliding among the rocks and gravel (left), I've usually seen them on sand. There is sand just a tiny bit deeper here, so maybe it's worth a brief walkabout on gravel for this big snail.

The ocean isn't remarkable downslope from the undeveloped beach, that's interesting. I don't know what I expected, but I thought I'd notice that the undeveloped shore somehow made a difference in the water. Nope. It looks the same. The gravel beach at the north end of Crystal Springs Rd is covered with barnacles, and somehow I notice them whipping the water in their feeding frenzy. I haven't noticed them feeding so vigorously anywhere else, it's worth trying to get a good photo (see barnacles at the top right of this post).

Then I'm out and bushwhacking back up the hill, thankfully nobody notices me and I'm away in the car, sneaking in and out for another private access success.