Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 15: Yaquina

I had to swim, even though the water was still a bit murky from the record floods of 2 weeks ago. Yeomalt to Yaquina was the sandiest part of Bainbridge so far. Visibility wasn't great but the sun was out so I could still see the bottom in 10-15 feet or a little deeper in spots.

It was fun to look backwards at some of the distance I've travelled (photo: taken from Yeomalt Point looking south, past Wing Point and Restoration Point in the far background). Wow, that misty point in the distance is a far piece for a swim.

I got out at Yaquina Road, just as dark was falling (2nd photo at right: from Yaquina looking north to Murden Cove.) I have a note from a local diver, Lyon McCandless, asking about the sunken barge off Yaquina and I don't know yet if it's still there, I was losing light fast when I got to Yaquina and didn't have a chance to look for it.

I did use my new underwater camera, and I have some beginner shots of some animals below. The photos above are taken from the water, from a swimmer's eye view while standing in chest deep water. I want to take more of these to try to capture the feeling of the swims.

air temp: 41F
water temp: 45F
Jan 23, 4pm, mostly sunny
wind from northeast, 5-10 mph
medium-high tide, falling
visibility 10-15 feet
today's distance: 1.32 mile
total so far: 15.97 miles

today's notables:
lots of geoducks
moon jellyfish
great blue heron (on a floating dock)
tern-like bird (?!) (seems unlikely, but I saw it!)

Yeomalt to Yaquina is a hard beach to see, mostly private. Not sure what I'll find. The beach is mostly rocky and gravelly at first, with some sand patches. Not especially dramatic but I hope I'll have an uplifting time anyway. I could use a boost.

I have to admit to feeling out of sorts when I start, I'm having a hard time getting into the spirit of this adventure. I'm relying on the underwater tour to take me somewhere. What will it be, and how will it happen?

I swim past the Yeomalt houses and cross over to the beach below a bluff. I can see the Yaquina exit far ahead, it looks a bit too far. Have I miscalculated my mile?

Ahead I see a great blue heron on a floating raft. How close will it let me swim? Magnificent bird, I used to live in Bodega Bay, California and watched great blue herons hunt in the fields near my house, pulling snakes and lizards out of the grass. I once thought they only hunted in water. That reminds me of the Osprey I saw from my house on Vashon Island a few years back. A lone Osprey that hunted in the field next to my house. I searched and searched the literature, and found info that uniformly said osprey hunt exclusively in water. Finally I found a reference that said very rarely hunts on land. Whew.

So now comes the impossible bird sighting. I saw an arctic tern crash into the water just ahead of me. I know terns from the Connecticut shore, and I might have mistaken a common tern for the arctic tern, but I'm positive it was a tern. Info says no, they winter in the southern hemisphere. Closest period when they could be here is either October or March. So, it probably wasn't a tern, but then again I think it was a tern. Maybe I can get some authoritative advice, I'm not a real birder and I won't pretend to be. Fun bird, nevertheless, and I can't find any similar birds that are expected here in the winter. Advice anyone?

The beach gets sandier and I expect geoducks but don't see any. I'll keep looking for their telltale chimney siphons sticking out of the sand. Eventually I see a geoduck smokestack sticking much further out of the sand than the typical short chimney. I pull my camera out of the fanny pack and try to get a picture.

With 2 wetsuits and no weights it's hard to get to the bottom. I'm swimming with no weights for safety, I like floating high for this swim. I can position myself vertically and float at neck level with no effort expended. Nice, except when I want to hit the bottom. I'm in about 12 feet of water and it takes the effort of Hercules to get to the bottom with one hand on my camera. And as soon as I quit paddling I bob immediately back up to the surface. I like it, but bottom photos now show up as a royal pain.

Kicking hard I manage to get one marginal photo of the geoduck (left).
You can't really tell because the photo is from about 2 or 3 feet above the bottom, but this geoduck had it's siphon about 8 inches out into the water. One thing you can see clearly in this photo is the fun little waves in the sand (1/2 inch to 1 inch tall). Like they're trying to provide visual contrast, the wavelets collect dark detritus on the trailing edge of the peak.

Shortly after seeing this odd geoduck, I found my first perfect jellyfish of this swim. I think it's a moon jelly, and I got this marginal photo. It's going to take some practice to get good underwater shots, but it's fun to start trying. Let me know if you like looking at the efforts (right). Again, nice view of the sand waves on the bottom.

And now I realize I'm fully into waterworld, my head is clear of the detritus of a lousy workday and tensions from getting what feels like undeserved abuse. Must have offended people by getting all mavericky. Who cares, under the water that all just dissolves away. Bye-bye.

This swim is definitely long, I'm fighting a modest current, getting pushed around a bit by a front quartering wave train that slaps just enough to throw off my stroke. Small but significant whitecaps that are stuffing me a bit and murking up the water. It's almost faster to keep my arms tucked along my sides and duck my head a bit to bull through the waves instead of reaching over them. The Yaquina exit is just ahead, and it seems to stay just ahead for too long.'s getting dark. It's getting dark fast. I realize I'm annoyed, just as I also realize that I'm into the swim so much that I don't really want to hurry to the end. Why am I pushing? I should have just enough daylight to reach the beach.

I know the answer, I love to push hard now and then, just for fun. I love to run up hills, more than flats and way, way more than downhill. I'm not efficient as a runner and I don't run very fast, so it's not that rewarding to accelerate on the flat. But if I'm any kind of athlete, it's an endurance guy (especially once I passed 40) and pushing up a hill gives me a rush of fun. Driving into Yaquina feels like that, and I'm having workout fun now.

Yaquina beach is not really a place name, but a road end park. Here on Bainbridge, some of the best water access points are old road rights of way that are city-owned still and legal for everyone to use. Many are undeveloped, but Yaquina has steps down to a sandy beach. I'm there, I fire off a few pictures and head up the beach to the car. Very nice. It's cold today, and I'm glad the car is only a few steps away. I strip down to skin quickly to get out of the wet gear. There's a bad moment until I get some clothes on, wet in the 41F air, but it doesn't last.

Lyon McCandless reports on "The End of the Olney" in his blog, reporting on a sunken stern from a submarine chaser. I found out thanks to a few nice emails from Lyon. I was planning to look for it, but I had to get out since it was getting dark fast when I got to Yaquina. I'll plan to look for it when I get in at Yaquina for my next swim. Sorry Lyon, I really meant to look.

1 comment:

justlikeme said...

Yes, keep using the underwater camera! The clarity & resolution may not meet your models, but it's fun to see some of what you're seeing.
rob dryden