Sunday, April 19, 2009

Day 27: Arrow Point

Manzanita Landing to Arrow Point. You can't get there from here. I set out with a bad plan today, beceause I couldn't make a good one. The water is thick with the spring plankton bloom, and visibility is down, so I can't go deep into Manzanita Bay and hope to see anything. I'll need to cross open water, and since there's no way to walk the shore on this leg, I'll have to cross the open water at least twice. This is going to be a real swim.

It's a gorgeous spring day, warming up and I have all the time in the world, no need to hurry. I end up swimming over 2.2 miles, and spending nearly 2 hours in the 45F water.

Today I saw a river otter on a dock and even managed to get a picture (right). I was shadowed by a harbor seal for the first half of the day, seeing it again and again, usually 30-50 feet away. I wasn't able to get a picture, it was too shy for that, and I didn't see it underwater.

The spring plankton bloom is still going strong, and the muddy bays had very low visibility, approaching zero. This is my last bay swim, and I'm looking forward to 10 miles of open coast until the finish.

air temp: 56F
water temp: 46F
April 18, 2009, 1pm, mostly sunny
wind from the north, 5 mph
medium tide, falling
visibility 0-10 feet
today's distance: 1.75 miles
(extra swimming to reach starting point: 0.47 mi)
total so far: 31.22 miles

today's notables:
river otter
harbor seal
sand dollars

Here's a map of the swim, I park at Beach Rd (the blue dot on the left, near Venice), walk north east to Arrow Point (yellow line), swim across the mouth of Manzanita Bay (red line), walk around the point (yellow line) and swim across the little east arm of Manzanita Bay (red line) to Dock Rd. and Manzanita Landing (the blue dot on the right, near Manzanita). After a total of about a half mile of swimming, I start my "swim" (blue line) along the shore, cutting across Manzanita Bay about halfway from the mouth to the end where the visibility drops to near zero. I get out at Beach Rd. on Arrow Point.

View Manzanita Bay swim in a larger map

The first swim is 0.3 miles across the mouth of Manzanita Bay in open water. Visibility is 5-10 feet, and the murk comes in patches. I keep a close watch above the surface looking for boats. In the middle of the bay, I see a harbor seal alongside, only about 25 feet away, looking at me. I try to get my camera out, but it's gone. I keep watching and it shadows me for quite a while, never getting closer and never allowing a picture. As I reach the shore, there's a river otter on a dock, and it's calm enough to let me take a picture (top of post). Then it drops down under the dock on a float, and rests there above water but hidden carefully. I'd never notice if I didn't see it go down there.

I walk the shore to my next swim, 0.17 mile across the small arm of Manzanita Bay. This arm is murkier, and visibility is only about 3-5 feet. I find the bottom when I get to about 4-5 feet of water, and swim over to Dock Rd. and Manzanita Landing.

Here's where the swim begins. The bottom is muddy, and there's a lot of life buried. I can see clam siphons and a million holes in the mud, many of them probably ghost shrimp.

I work into the small arm of the bay on the north shore, until visibility drops to 1-2 feet, then I head across to the south shore. There looks to be more current here when the tide runs, the bottom is sandier. Moving around the point and into the big arm of the bay, there are rocks coverred with barnacles and lots of shell debris. Also some live oysters on the surface, even a few big ones (left).

I spot a mesh bag, it has small oysters in it. It looks like someone put them in the bay to grow, maybe part of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund's great work restoring native oysters to the Sound. This might even by Morgan Rohrbach's project, she's a mom with a daughter in my son's preschool.

I head further south, into the bay, until I can't see the bottom while I'm swimming in 2 feet of water. Time to cross over and head west around Arrow Point. I'd like to see more of the bay, but even if I swim it I won't see it. And it's getting to be a pain to walk around the floating docks, I don't want to swim under while I'm alone (might get tangled in something), I don't want to swim around, so I go to the shoreline and climb over, what a pain. Walking around a dock or two lets the water drain out of my wetsuit so I feel cold all over again when I get back in the water. Ugh.

Another crossing of the bay, then just a regular shoreline swim to get to my exit point. I'm a bit tired by now, and I'm feeling the coldness of the water. This is a long day's swim and portage. Maybe the cold feeling has something to do with the ongoing decomposition of my outer wetsuit. Here's a shot of the cracked and leaky rubber on my shoulder and the gap on my ankle where the seam has split open. Yes, that's skin showing on my right ankle and calf, brrr. I definitely need the shorty underneath this old rag.

I had hopes that Patagonia would sponsor me by donating a new wetsuit, but they don't seem interested. Too bad, I thought they were a natural sponsor. Maybe I'll try O'Neill since I'm actually wearing a 20 year old O'Neill that belongs in their wetsuit museum. I'll trade them straight across for a new one!!

Finally, the shoreline and a bunch more docks to go around, under, and over. I come across the sandbar visible in the satellite photo and pull along in 18 inches of water. It's fun to examine the bottome in minute detail in such shallow water with the bottom inches from my face. I hear a loon laughing at me, is it because of this odd snorkeling in nearly no water?

Around the corner, past the big armored bank on the tip of Arrow Point (left). Just as I'm about to get out, here are some of the biggest sand dollar flats I've yet seen (right). This photo also gives a good sense of what it looks like to swim through the murk. The water here is about 4-5 feet deep, and visibility is about 5 feet and the water is very green, as in the photo. Puget Sound during a bloom.

This bloom is funny, near my house on the south end the water is clear. I keep checking by my house before I go swimming on the north end, and it's clear down south and murky up north. What's up? I would expect mixing and eveness after a couple of days, but it's been distinctly different for about 2 weeks.

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