Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 21: Port Madison

The swim from the sandspit to Port Madison begins the crossing from the east side of the island to the west side. Around the northwest corner of the island is Agate Passage where the tide roars through a narrow opening between the mainland and Bainbridge Island.

photo: looking northwest across the mouth of Madison Bay, with Agate Passage in the background, about 2 miles away.

Today's swim crosses the mouth of Madison Bay, and includes an excursion into Madison Bay. It's more than a mile long and I have to decide how far into the bay to go. I started across long gravel flats in fairly murky water. Then it was around a corner into Madison Bay where the visibility dropped to near-zero. The bottom is mucky with decaying algae and the water is cloudy. Not a lot of fun, and I have a better time swimming on my back and looking at the fabulous sun and blue sky silhouetting the dark green fir trees, along with the views of snowcapped mountains in both directions.

I go as far as the narrow point at the bay entrance, maybe a quarter of the way into the bay. I probably won't go further into the bay, I'm getting tired of murky bays on this round-island traverse and I don't want to go back down into the doldrums I found myself in when I went all the way through the much larger Eagle Harbor and then back out the other shore, for 3 days in the harbor.

Port Madison is site of early habitation on Bainbridge Island, both native Americans and early European settlers around 1850. Here's a sign on the shore about the local history (left).

Once there was a bustling port here, and the first town on Bainbridge Island followed construction of a lumber mill by George Meigs (photo, left). A historical source mentions "Seattle is a lumber town across the bay from Port Madison."

Later Meigs built ships in the area and in the 1870s, Port Madison alone exceeded the production of sailing ships over the entire San Francisco Bay Area." Port Madison was the first county seat of the then-named Slaughter County (soon renamed Kitsap County), and home of the first school in the county.

Now it's a sleepy area with prestigious waterfront homes, many with docks. This photo (right) is the same area as the photo from the historical sign above.

air temp: 46F
water temp: 45F
March 12, 1pm, sunny and gorgeous
wind 5-10 mph from the NE
low tide, rising
visibility 0-15 feet
today's distance: 0.93 mile
total so far: 23.29 miles

today's notables:

I get in at the lagoon entrance, and wade out across the flats. Dipping in the knee-deep water, I pull along looking at a zillion clam and oyster shells. The water is fairly clear, not a bad day although the little wind waves are enough to roll me around just a bit.

The bottom is sand and gravel flats, with eelgrass covering about half the surface. Agate Point looms ahead, and the corner leading to the west side. The snow-capped mountains are out and beautiful in the clear cool sky.

The mouth of Madison Bay comes quickly, and the tide is filling up the bay so it'll get even quicker when I turn into the bay. It's nice swimming with a running tide, makes the swimming each. I can watch myself flying over the bottom when I put just a bit of energy into swimming.

The water is getting cloudier and cloudier as I move into the bay. Also the bottom is gravel with mucky algae on the rocks. It just looks a bit nasty here. In my head is the presumption that there are a lot of people living around the bay, but it might not be anything simple like that. Could just be the natural way of things here.

Cloudy water is bothering me, so I roll over and swim otter-like on my back, watching the view above the surface. I often do this for a moment of contrast, and to counterpose as a yoga instructor would say (bend my back the other way). I have some powerful flippers and it's easy to kick for some speed and watch the swirling water behind me. Especially nice when the water isn't inviting.

As I get out a harbor seal is watching me carefully. I didn't see it underwater, it was too far away for that in this murky water. This is the closest I've been approached by a marine mammal, except maybe the sea lion that cruised by when I was getting in near the Country Club. Another canid came up to me when I reached the shore, wagging it's tail.

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