Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 29: Battle Point

Nice scenery on the beach here on Battle Point. Unbelievable Pacific madrone tree (left), with the bark peeled off (normal) and a spiral pattern in the wood.

Also a very pretty lagoon (right). I swam this stretch on a super low tide, -2.5 and the day's high was 11.4 making a 14 foot tidal range. Clam diggers were out, I must have seen 10. That's the most beach traffic for any of my swims, and everyone was quite nice.

Interesting, one beachgoer had grown up on this beach and he said that beach use has gone down over the years, it used to be that there were many more people out on a nice day. Sad, I wonder if access is getting tougher? It was warmer today, making the swim and exit a bit more comfortable.

I was followed by 2 harbor seals today, one was smaller and maybe a young seal.

air temp: 60F
water temp: 48F
April 29, 2009, 4pm, partly sunny
wind from south 0-5 mph
very low tide, slack
visibility 2-8 feet
today's distance: 1.07 mile
total so far: 33.35 miles

today's notables:
plankton bloom
sand dollars
sand flats
2 harbor seals

I park at a friend's house and walk down the shared private beach stairs to what will be my exit point. Access is a problem here on Battle Point. It's warm (60F) and the beach is long on this very low tide, and it's not at today's maximum low yet. Wow.

Walking north on the beach to my entry point, about a mile, I can see it in the distance, the channel marker at the tip of Battle Point. I find a fish head on the beach, looks like a lingcod head (right). Also the madrone tree and lagoon shown above. A nice walk.

I find some huge sand dollar flats spread out above the water on this low-low tide (left). That's the Battle Point channel marker visible in the distance.

I get in at the channel marker and find the ebb tide is just ending. There was a bait of current as I started walking, but it's almost gone now. This is -2.5 feet, and the lowest tides of the year get to about -4 feet. With a maximum high of around +12 feet, that's a total of about 16 feet of tide as our maximum change. Today is a change of 14 feet in 5 1/2 hours.

The plankton bloom is alive and well, and here's my Mark marker of the visibility (right) a self portrait of me in the marine snow.

I can't see a lot of underwater detail, but the swimming is fantastic. Calm, glassy water, very low tide so I'm in the subtidal zone and plowing through a plankton soup so the Sound seems very much alive.

Here are two interesting starfish that are both in a curled up, bunched up posture. Almost looking posed.

My progress today puts me past 3/4, I think. The map (below) looks fairly complete, I can feel the finish line coming soon. And I have very much mixed feelings about that, I want to keep going but to where?

This plankton bloom is interesting the water is much clearer near my house, but the northern channel between Bainbridge and Kitsap County just stays bloomy, thick and has low visibility. This has got to be oceanographically interesting, but I can't explain it. I'd need aerial photos and current maps or something else that I don't have. And that's not what this swim is about.

View Swim Around Bainbridge in a larger map

Friday, April 24, 2009

Day 28: Battle Point

The westernmost point on Bainbridge Island, Battle Point (left). Named for a famous battle between two tribes that took place well before European discovery.

Swimming down the beach to Battle Point today was a lazy, hazy experience. Sunny and calm, warmer weather, no need to hurry, and the walk back on the beach was delicious and warm with the sun on my back.

The plankton bloom is now turning into marine snow (right). Bigger particles making for a strange low visibility scene. I can see a bit through the swirling snow, but not very well. Some places I can barely see the hand on the end of my arm. The photo at right is me with my camera held at arm's length in a particularly thick spot.

The next photo (left) is me in one of today's more clear spots. You'd never know from above that there's a snowstorm happening under the placid surface on this warm day.

air temp: 56F
water temp: 46F
April 24, 2009, 4pm, sunny
wind calm
medium tide, rising
visibility 3-7 feet
today's distance: 1.06 mile
total so far: 32.28 miles

today's notables:
plankton bloom
sand dollars
sand flats

More access trouble today, I have to park at the entry point, swim, and then walk back to the car. I haven't done this since last fall, I much prefer walking before I swim. But that's mostly because the wet walks started getting too COLD in November. I'll try swim first today and see how it goes.

The water is still thick with the spring Puget Sound plankton bloom. But the particles are getting bigger so it might be peaking. I'm guessing that bigger particles mean clumping and the aging of the bloom. At least I'm hoping that's what it means. It's fun to live in the plankton bloom, but I'd really like to see again. Try to picture swimming through this:

I swim out and in, looking for some clear patches. I wonder if further offshore will be better, but the clear patches seem unpredictable. I'll swim a bit and see if it gets better closer to Battle Point. The swimming is quite fine with the glassy water, bright sun and beautiful coast, and I can see far enough underwater to see what's happening on the bottom. I wander in and out to stay in view of the bottom, mostly from 3-7 feet.

Here's a huge bed of sand dollars, spreading over the last half of the swim. This photo is from about 2-3 feet away from the sand dollars, some other photos barely show the sand dollars from this distance.

Near Battle Point, I start getting small sheets of algae catching on my snorkel and getting stuck between my mask and snorkel. I have to keep shaking my head and pawing at the algae with my "lobster claw" 3 finger gloves. Finally, I pull out at Battle Point and lounge on this western shore in the warm afternoon sun. Here's the view looking south towards Point White and home (left).

View Swim Around Bainbridge in a larger map

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

June 27-finish date for Swim Around Bainbridge

I have big news...I will finish my Swim Around Bainbridge on June 27, 2009 if all goes well.

On June 27th, likely around 2pm, please come to a Swim Around Bainbridge Big Event at Ft. Ward Park on the southern end of Bainbridge Island. Everyone is invited to join the last small section of the swim, and you can walk, wade, swim, paddle, boat, or otherwise join in as I do the last little bit of my swim.

Then, we'll have a party. So mark your calendars and plan your day around the swim. Stay tuned for more as it develops.

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.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Day 26: Manzanita

A beautiful, blustery day and some strange magnetism drew me to what promised to be a murky swim. The wind was blowing alongshore and the sandy bottom was stirred. With the ongoing spring plankton bloom, I expect murky water and that's what I get.

Enjoy the sublime beauty of the day from the beach (right).

Below the surface, the conditions match my mood (left). Regardlesss, I want to plow through the thick water, swimming against the chop, and see if I can find some clearing.

air temp: 51F
water temp: 45F
April 11, 2009, 1pm, partly sunny
wind from the south, 10-20 mph
very low tide, rising
visibility 0-10 feet
today's distance: 0.98 mile
total so far: 29.47 miles

today's notables:
river otter
sand dollars

I park at Dock Road, there's a small sign memorializing Manzanita Landing, which dates back to the late 1800s. Walking the beach to my start, I see two interesting sights. Sand dollars exposed by the very low tide (right). Lots of sand dollars.

And then a river otter, scrambling across the beach from a stream. It hops into the ocean, looks around, and dives underwater. Too quick to get a picture. I've heard of the river otters going into the ocean and now I've seen it. I wait around but it doesn't show itself again.

One day running at Ft. Ward state park, I saw a big otter cross from a swampy area to jump into the ocean. I've seen a lot of sea otters in my life, and that's what it looked like. It seemed too big for a river otter, and it was stocky rather than the thin weasel shape of a river otter. Odds say it was a river otter, but it REALLY looked like a sea otter. Today's otter is small and weasel-looking, it's a river otter for sure.

I get in the water by Hidden Cove Rd, and it's murky. Darkish and hard to see, this will be more of a swim than a dive. I wander further from shore and closer to shore, looking for patches of better visibility. At one point I can't see my hands held out at arm's length in front of my face. It's still fun to swim, even when I can't see much. Finally, I get a bit of clarity, maybe 5 feet of visibility (left).

Yeah, that's after a bit of clearing. I'm in about 4 feet of water and I can just barely see the bottom. Suddenly, out of the gloom I can see the sun, a bright glowing sunflower star (right). This picture is completely unaltered, no added brightness or color. It's a truly amazing orange starfish.

Plowing head on through small waves and thick murky water eventually gets me to the end of the swim, Manzanita Landing at Dock Rd. Next, historic Manzanita Bay, home of some of the island's early industry and a big dock.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day 25: Seabold

Two new visitors today, I saw a harbor seal following me and a nice sea run cutthroat trout under the Agate Pass bridge. Riding the current out of the passage and along the shore was fun, until a huge eddy put me against the current for about a half mile.

The day was perfect, sunny and getting warmer. I wasn't cold getting out of my wetsuits. The drive to my parking site at the exit and my walk along the shore were both nice, I'm swimming south now along the more rural western shore of the island. Here's the view looking south from Hidden Cove Road (left photo). Yes, those mountains are real, they're the Olympic range on the Olympic Peninsula just west of Bainbridge. Here's the view looking north towards the bridge just visible in the distance (right photo).

I think I'm 2/3 done, with 28 miles covered out of an estimated total swim of about 40 miles. Once a week and I'll be done by the end of June.

air temp: 57F
water temp: 45F
April 7, 2009, noon, sunny
wind from the north, 5-10 mph
low tide, rising
visibility 5-15 feet
today's distance: 1.54 mile
total so far: 28.49 miles

today's notables:
harbor seal
sea run cutthroat trout
piddocks and geoducks

I park at Hidden Cove Road road end, and start walking up the shore to the bridge. The tide is just starting to flood, and I can see current running south, the direction I'll be swimming.

I get in just under the bridge and head southwest with the flooding tidal current, ready to turn south once I clear out of the narrow pass. What's this? Just as I reach the end of the pass, I see an adult sea run cutthroat trout, a fantastically beautiful fish, and a very lucky find in the ocean. They live nearshore, and run up the Bainbridge creeks to spawn in the early spring. They're sparse in the ocean, I'm happy to see one.

A fishing friend confirms that searun cutts hold in the pass, hugging both shores, right exactly where I saw mine. I didn't have a chance for a picture, so click here for a nice underwater picture of a sea run cutthroat trout.

Coming out of the pass, I see more kelp than anywhere else I've been, some tangles of it whipping in the current. Also some fields of some big clams.

The current works with me for maybe a half mile, then suddenly turns against me in a big eddy. I swim hard to get through, but it lasts for about a half mile, making for a longish swim through this middle section. The water is fairly murky, and it's mostly hard work and not too exciting, until I notice a harbor seal peering at me from further off shore, maybe 30-40 feet away.

I hold very still, with just my eyes out of the water, watching. The seal watches back. Finally, it ducks underwater and I watch half in-half out of the water. I swear I can just see it at the faint edge of visibility, but I can't be sure. I wait for a couple of minutes and don't see it, so I start swimming slowly, watching both underwater and above the surface. Finally, it surfaces right in my wake, exactly where I was when I first noticed the seal. It's following me for sure. Then it ducks underwater and I don't see it again.

Meanwhile, the current is still working against me. Until, suddenly, I'm out of it and the current is pushing me forward again. Thank goodness, I was getting a bit tired.

There are fields and fields of clams here (see photo at right), they look like piddocks to me thanks to some ID tips from commenters.

The last half mile passes quickly, running with the fairly swift current. I'm out, it's sunny and warmer, the beach is beautiful and the far shore is ringed by snow-capped mountains, and a bald eagle is flying overhead. Just another ordinary day on Bainbridge Island, with an ocean to enjoy and land to admire.

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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