Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 20: Point Monroe

Point Monroe on maps, the Sand Spit to locals. It's the northeast corner of Bainbridge Island and it forms a shallow lagoon. The lagoon warms up in the sun, and today was no exception, it was probably a nice 50F compared to the 45F of the open water.

image: beloved Fay Bainbridge logs. Kids climb and float on these for HOURS

The high point of today was riding the flooding tide into the lagoon. As I got closer I started getting pushed towards the lagoon entrance until finally the water was like a rushing river. No way to swim against this tide. It was a strong flood, and the current was probably more than 5 mph at the maximum flood.

Endless eelgrass flats again today, and a fortune of sand dollars in the lagoon. Also a surprising number of golf balls, probably 100 or so spread over the area around the sandspit.

air temp: 40F
water temp: 45F
March 10, noon, mostly sunny
wind 0-5mph from the NE
low tide, rising
visibility 0-25 feet
today's distance: 1.47 mile
total so far: 22.36 miles

today's notables:
moon snails
huge sand flats with lots of eelgrass
ghost shrimp and mud shrimp
golf balls(!)

I get in the water at Fay Bainbridge State Park, where the geoduck boats are dredging again (still). The water is murky, but I soon clear out into bright, sunny, and clear water. Ahhh!!! This looks almost tropical, but the icy fingers stabbing me all over are a very clear reminder that this ain't the tropics.

I swim across more of the beautiful Fay Bainbridge eelgrass flats, this time I head out a bit deeper since it's so clear, out to around 15 feet. There are crabs creeping, moon snails sailing, and sparkling light all around.

I cross over a few golf balls, what's this? I haven't seen a single one yet in my traverse of Bainbridge's shore. Eventually I'll pass perhaps 100 or more during the course of a mile, mostly in clusters. Is this some sort of local tradition? Golf practice hitting off the sand? Odd.

Pulling around the corner and heading west, I get a glimpse of the point that guards Agate Passage. A couple of miles ahead is the narrow passage between Bainbridge and the Kitsap Peninsula, where the currents rip on a moving tide. Also where boats whiz by close to shore in large numbers. My next big challenge.

The bottom here is very strange. It's entirely covered with woody debris. Logs, sticks, and twigs form a solid layer. There are no trees directly above, why does it collect right here? It's unique, maybe the tidal back and forth somehow delivers wood? Digging into the bottom here would find some unusual creatures, under the anoxic sediment caused by the decaying wood.

Around and around the sandspit, and then I can see the entrance to the lagoon. I've planned this swim on a flood tide rising from a substantial low. This should be good. I'm about an hour into the beginning of a 7+ foot tidal rise, and I'm heading into an 20 acre lagoon with an entrance less than 50 feet wide. That's a lot of water to move through a small opening. It must go pretty fast...we'll see. Of course I didn't bother to scout, just do it. My back of the envelope calculations say the maximum flood tide should produce several hundred cubic feet per second (CFS), which is a strong flow for a channel of this size.

A few hundred feet away from the lagoon entrance, I can quit swimming and drift. Here's a photo of the lagoon entrance at a low slack tide, before the current starts rushing in (right). I'm getting pushed towards the opening at the speed of a slow swim. The closer I get, the faster I go. Just before the entrance, I try to stand up just for fun, in about 3 feet of water, and I can't quite manage to hold myself. I'm soon pushed over and further into the lagoon. Then the channel narrows and the current really starts to rip. This is like a swift river now, no way I could swim against the tide or even stand up. Not that this is a problem, I'm getting pushed into a nice sandy/muddy little lagoon and if necessary I could get to the shore and drag myself out.

In fact, it's fun to get swooshed by the tide into the lagoon, rushing much faster than I can swim. Where the current roars, I'm bobbing over some 6 inch sand dunes on the bottom below about 2-3 feet of water, and the sand is dancing in the waves. I'd like a picture but I decided to concentrate on what's happening and the camera is safely in my fanny pack, zipped away. No chance to pull it out now.

The current keeps ripping until I'm a ways into the lagoon, looking at a sand dollar colony. And...the biggest oyster shell I've seen on this swim. About a foot long, 6 inches wide, and 2 inches deep. That was one big oyster. There are only a few here, but they seem to be doing fairly well since they're big.

The water is noticably warmer once I'm in the middle of the lagoon. Maybe 50F compared to the chilly 45F out in the Sound. I imagine on a sunny summer day after a high tide it's fairly nice to swim in here. The bottom is getting muddy further into the lagoon, and there are some very nice burrows in the sand/mud bottom. I wonder who's home? Probably the bay ghost shrimp or blue mud shrimp. I've dug these and their colleagues many times in more southerly beaches. It would be fun to find the innkeeper worm, Urechis caupo, but I don't think the stray this far north. This would be the right habitat, though. Once upon a time, I wrote a scientific paper on this most phallic of worms.

Here's a map of the sandspit and lagoon. I swam from Fay Bainbridge Park, just out of the picture on the lower right, around the outer shore of the sandspit, into the lagoon entrance at the far left, then through the lagoon to the lower right by the Park.

View Larger Map

1 comment:

nearshorepaddler said...

I've seen the "driving a golf-ball off the beach" phenomenon, but I don't get it. I'm not a great fan of it either, as I equate it to littering. Having canoed and kayaked these coastlines for several years now, I've had to alter course several times so as not to risk getting hit. One time I returned to a boat ramp, and three guys there didn't have the decency to pause while I approached. It's like coming in under fire! Please pay the money and go to a driving range where space has been made to do this! Yes, I am a curmudgeon. I know.