Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day 24: Agate Passage

Today I rode the current through Agate Passage. Here's a picture of the eelgrass bowing to the current (left).

It was beautiful, calm, sunny, and the first warm day of Spring around Seattle. It was fun to zip along through the narrow passage, riding the flooding tide into the channel that leads to Bremerton, along the west side of Bainbridge Island. I've really turned the corner past halfway, and it's time to head south along the west side of the island, back to my starting place.

Today was the day I had to worry about boat traffic, in the busy 800 foot wide channel, with a ripping current. I was careful and paid attention to what was happening on the water's surface, and everything was fine (here's a boat going past me, right). A big eddy in the current tried to pull me out into the channel, but it was only a weak pull and I swam through easily. I chose a reasonably mild flooding tide for my first Agate Passage ride, so I didn't have to worry about the 5-6 knot currents that roar through on a big flood or ebb. Check out this YouTube video for a view of riding a big flood tide through Agate Passage.

air temp: 55F
water temp: 45F
April 5, 2009, 10 am, sunny
wind calm
low tide, rising
visibility 5-15 feet
today's distance: 1.53 mile
total so far: 26.95 miles

today's notables:
laughing loon
plankton bloom

I get in the water at North Road, just as the morning sun rises over some trees and burns through the light overcast. The mountains in the background behind the cormorants on the pilings make a nice starting point (right).

I look for the lovely pteropods from last week, but they're nowhere to be found. I heard a story from a friend about my swim through West Port Madison, a seal was following me. I never saw it, but by coincidence someone saw me and told the story and it got back to me. Bainbridge is a small town.

The bottom is sand and gravel, with eelgrass, moon snails, and a few crabs. The current here is starting to tug me towards the passage ahead, I've been looking forward to this for a while, especially after finding videos of divers riding the passage on a big tide.

Finally, I come around the corner into the passage and it's time to glide. The current is running about as fast as an average walking speed, maybe 2-3 mph. Not too fast. The eelgrass and other plants whipping in the current are fun to watch as they go whizzing by.

The water has a lot of plankton, new since last week. The sun is getting higher in the sky and the days are getting longer, and it looks like it's time for the first big spring plankton bloom. I hope the water doesn't get too thick to see throuh. It's ok today, but if it gets any thicker I won't be able to see enough to do my swimming.

The bottom is interesting on this ride, occasionally a big boulder looms ahead of me and I go racing by, too quick to stop and take pictures. I could probably swim hard enough to get stable briefly for a photo, but it's more fun to just ride the train downstream and enjoy the scenery.

Suddenly, I feel the current pushing me sideways away from the shore, it's a big eddy in the current. I was worried about this, and it's why I chose a moderate flood for my first ride through the passage. It's not too hard to swim through, but next comes the part of the eddy that 's pushing straight against me. It's a bit of a push to get through it.

I keep watching above the water for boats, they'll be close in the passage and I don't want to be surprised. I'm being passed by a series of boats here, but I'm well out of the channel, fairly near the shore, and the boats don't come close enough to worry me.

I find an interesting totem pole in front of a house (left). I'm getting close to the bridge, it's been a quick mile and a half with the current. As I was looking at the totem pole, a loon was laughing at me. Again, I couldn't see it, this is the second swim in a row with a laughing loon that I never saw.

As I'm approaching the bridge, I think I can see's my two wonderful children racing down the shore to wave at daddy-o, what a great sight (right). My wife and kids came to meet me today, what fun.

Here's a picture of me arriving under the Agate Passage bridge, taken by my wife (left). Safely through the passage, and definitely more than halfway now. I'm heading back towards home at the south end of the island. Six months and 26 miles later, after 24 swims, I'm starting to have thoughts of finishing. I think I'll be disappointed to complete the circuit, not sure what I'll do to keep myself in touch with the local water. Maybe do it again? Or visit a few places more intenively, like Blakely Rock and Wing Point.

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