Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Day Swim

I went for a swim on Christmas morning on a gorgeous, warm, Sydney summer's day. I had hoped to have a long, cool swim at Wylies, then drink mugs of tea and eat tofurkey sandwiches. But the sea was too wild and choppy to spend any time in the pool. Instead I went down to Coogee Beach and swam in the ocean, and then swam lengths in the little ocean pool below the Surf Life Savers Club. The water has really warmed up again. It must be about 19 or 20 degrees Celsius by now.

Coogee Beach

The 'Ross Jones Memorial' Pool

Saturday, December 11, 2010

(Probably) Only Four More Pools To Swim On The Trek

Actually it should really be three pools left, but I completely missed one today. Now I will need to go back to swim the missing pool. I say probably because I am using an urban street directory to locate the pools. It could be possible that there are estuarine baths that are not indicated on the map. I'll need to do a bit more research.

Anyway, I had some free time today, so I set off to swim a little further on my intermittent navigation of the Sydney coastline.

There has been an upwelling in the New South Wales coastal waters these last couple of weeks, and sea temperatures have dropped considerably. Mid - November, the water temperature was 19 degrees Celsius, but, by late November, it was down to 17 degrees. Yesterday, the Wylies Baths website reported the temperature as 15.5 degrees. That's pretty much what it felt like today.

Back to the Northern Beaches 

Bilgola Rock Pool

I arrived at Bilgola Beach at about seven in the morning as the kids' swim school was in full swing. Neither of my photos show how one full length of the pool at the shallow side is separated by chains from the main pool. This is the kids' section, and there were plenty of them with their red-shirted instructors this morning. They must be a hardy lot on the Northern Beaches. The seawater was very cold indeed, but none of the kids seemed to be bothered.

Avalon Rock Pool 

This is a smaller rock pool than many along the Northern Beaches. It must get a lot of waves crashing into the pool at high tide or when the surf's up, as it was full of dumped seaweeds today. A lot of seaweed had already been fished out of the baths, and had been left on the concrete decks in the sun where it lent its own particular aroma to the occasion. If you look closely at the second photo, you may spot a high wire fence at the landward side of the pool. Many of the pools along the Northern Beaches have these to protect swimmers from rocks falling from the unstable cliff faces.

Whale Beach Rock Pool 

A shallow rock pool. I'm not sure that it is still being used for swimming these days. The sign actually said it was closed, but there were families using it. I thought I'd just have a paddle in the correct direction, as it was only half full, but, in the end, there was enough water for me to carefully swim a length of breaststroke.

Palm Beach Rock Pool

There are some amazing coastal views along this section of the Northern Beaches. It was a clear, sunny day with bright blue skies, and it was easy to look over to Barrenjoey Head and the coast beyond Broken Bay. At this point the Warringah Penisula is a narrow neck of land, so you also get views of Pittwater and Broken Bay itself.

The day had become very hot, and I was no longer worried about the cold water. I had a great swim at Palm Beach (probably most famous these days as the location of TV's Home and Away).


Pittwater is a large body of estuarine water extending south from Broken Bay and the Hawkesbury River, it is parallel to the coastline.

Paradise Beach (Avalon) Baths

These tidal baths are on the other side of the peninsula from the Avalon Rock Pool. It's calm water swimming here, and it gets very deep on the far side of the enclosure. The water was quite a lot warmer here.

Taylors Point Baths

Oh dear, the one I completely missed. I didn't even realise until I came home and looked at the map. I'll return to swim here on the final day of the swim.

Salt Pan Cove Baths

The tidal baths at this location are no longer used. Apparently the enclosure used to be 30m x 20m. It looks like the council have removed any remains of a swimming enclosure. All that's left are the stone steps and a short section of stone wall. There are even signs saying that swimming is not permitted, so I had a paddle in the shallows.

Bayview Wharf Baths

I have no idea why there is a replica in miniature of an Easter Island statue at this tidal baths, nor do I know why about 4 metres of the baths are unenclosed, but there's a friendly reminder from Pittwater Council to the effect that having unenclosed sections of pools is not without drawbacks.

Scotland Island

I went to check out the ferry for Scotland Island (a largish, inhabited island in the middle of Pittwater), hoping to swim their tidal baths. Unfortunately, I'd just missed one by a few minutes (it was leaving as I got there), and the next one was an hour away. As I would have had to walk around to the opposite shore of the island to swim, then walk back to catch a ferry, I decided to give it a miss today. I will return to swim here, then swim an enclosure in Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park, then the last Sydney baths up on the Hawkesbury River, before I backtrack to the one I missed (I should also return to Freshwater Pool which was being cleaned when I was there).

One more day should probably see me finish this rather silly lark.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dawny To Cockatoo Island Swim

I don't usually bother with organised swimming. It can get a bit competitive and 'blokey'. I was a member of a winter swimming club way back in the mid-1980s, but that didn't last long; I wasn't particularly interested in races and competitions. So, since then, I've avoided the various open water swims that occur from Spring to Autumn around Sydney and N.S.W..

Last year, however, I turned up to swim my lengths at Balmain's 'Dawn Fraser Baths'  on the morning they held the annual 'Dawny Challenge'. It was interesting to see the people who were taking part in the event. Apart from a couple of groups of grim-faced, must-win competitors, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly with all ages and sizes prepared to have a splash about and a good time. It looked like fun.

I thought I might give this swim a go, so this year I decided to enter. I got the date wrong (of course), and yesterday, thinking I had eight days to go, I did twenty laps in the baths. I realised my mistake when I got out of the water and read the sign. So, today, during the swim itself, I felt a bit on the tired side.

The 'Dawny To Cockatoo Island Challenge" is an annual swim organised by Balmain Water Polo Club . There are two events: The Challenge, which is 2.5 kilometres around the island, and the Swim, which is 1.1 kilometres to the island and back. I registered for the shorter swim, figuring that, at my swimming pace, I wouldn't complete the longer course in the time allotted, if at all.

Looking Across to Cockatoo Island From The Baths

It was a beautiful morning, clear, sunny and warm. The water temperature in the Parramatta River was 19 degrees celsius. The water looked quite calm from the decking, but we were told that it was a bit choppy and there was a current running from west to east.

Just before the start of the swim

The start of the swim was delayed due to a rescheduling of the Harbour Ferries, but it was really pleasant just lazing around on the decking. When it was time to start, the swimmers set off in staggered waves, depending on which swim they were in. I set off swimming front crawl, so that I didn't kick anybody in the crowded water, but, by the time we were half way across, I was pretty much on my own and could revert to my lazy breaststroke. I found myself keeping pace with a few stragglers behind a large group of frontrunners but ahead of another large group of swimmers. A perfect position.

Swimmers returning from the swim around the island

After the swim, there was a BBQ breakfast for all participants. The sausage and egg rolls weren't of much interest to this vegetarian, but there was plenty of fresh fruit. It was great, just lazing on the decking around the pool, eating watermelon and mango.

After the Dawny to Cockatoo Challenge

Coda: Not content with my morning dip, I went over to Wylies Baths in the afternoon. It was a gorgeous  day: warm and sunny with a cooling sea breeze. I swam slowly through the cool, clear water. There was a cormorant in the pool, diving into the weed on the bottom, so I spent a bit of time underwater, watching. Then I sat in the sun watching the waves breaking on Wedding Cake Island. A perfect Sydney day.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back To The Baths

While I was away swimming in the chilly waters of San Francisco, one of my favourite swimming baths opened for the summer season. Balmain (or Dawn Fraser) Baths is a great place to swim. The oldest remaining swimming baths in Australia (with the oldest swimming club), Balmain Baths is a tidal, saltwater pool on the Parramatta River. The showers and changing sheds are in a Heritage building on the register of the National Estate. It's a relaxed and friendly place to swim a few lengths.

I like to get here just as they open on a summer morning. Usually, there are only a couple of swimmers in the water, so it's easy to do my ten to twenty lazy lengths. 

On this, my first weekend of the season, it was more like winter swimming. There was a strong, cold westerly blowing. The air temperature was 12 degrees Celsius, while the water was 17C. It made for a brisk walk from the pool to the changing shed, and an extended stay in the solar-heated showers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back To The Bay

Almost two weeks after my first swim in San Francisco Bay, I came back for one more. Again, I was able to use the facilities at the Dolphins Club. It was another sunny day, though not as hot as it had been a fortnight ago. The water had also cooled down, and, for the first time this year, I wished that I'd worn a swim cap. Actually, many of the local swimmers were wearing thick, helmet-like, insulated swim caps (e.g. I looked for the water temperature on the club board, but it hadn't been posted. Later, I found out the water was 58 degrees Fahrenheit (or 14.5 Celsius). It certainly felt a bit chilly.

I swam along the marker buoys between the pier and the breakwater. I'm told that it is a quarter of a mile, so I must have swum half a mile altogether. Later, I spent a bit of time (but not too much) floating on my back, looking at the views. I was very grateful for a hot shower, and even more so for the sauna. Actually, that must be the only occasion that I've stood shivering inside a sauna. I soon warmed up, but I came away wondering how I would ever be able to think of myself as a winter swimmer again.

San Francisco Bay Swimming Clubs

There are two swimming clubs situated at Aquatic Park. Both date back to the late nineteenth century, and incorporate rowing clubs as well. Many members of the clubs swim throughout the year. Water temperatures range from 16 degrees C in September to 10 degrees C in January (that's real winter swimming).

The clubs are open to the public on alternate days, excluding Sundays and Mondays. The club that I used for both my swims was the Dolphins Club ( ). It' s in a fantastic old wooden building, with marvellous views from the windows of the club rooms. 

There is a friendly and relaxed atmosphere at the club, and it's a great place to sit around after a swim.

Swimming in the Bay is not without its hazards according to this sign at the club.

The other swimming (and rowing) club is the South End Club ( ). I'd hoped to swim from this club for my second swim in the Bay, but I was here on the wrong day.

Goodbye To San Francisco

I took this photo just a couple of hours before I flew back to Sydney. I couldn't swim at this beach (at Crissy Field) because I'd already packed my speedos. But I did have a somewhat chilly paddle.

Sundry Swims In The U.S.A.

I managed to go for a couple of swims while I was over in the U.S.A. for a couple of weeks recently. I spent most of this time in New England, and originally hoped to go swimming in Walden Pond. Some very bad weather put an end to that plan, but I did get the chance to swim in two lakes in Vermont.

Emerald Lake, Vermont

This lake was in one of the State Parks. It was a gorgeous setting, especially with the Fall colour in the forested hills.

The water was cool but very soft and very clear. I swam over to a small island in the lake, then across to a wooded shore. I didn't want to get out at all, but eventually the cold got to me. 

Lake Shaftsbury, Vermont

This lake was shallower than Emerald Lake, so the water was warmer and I was able to spend more time swimming. I swam across the lake to the far shore, and then back out to the middle to duck dive and lazily float on my back. 

These lakes are very popular swimming spots in the summer months, but I was the only one in the water today. 

Later in the week, I was in Maine, and had the chance to swim in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in 21 years.

Short Sands Beach, Maine

The Atlantic felt every bit as cold as it used to feel when I lived in Cornwall in England. While there were a couple of wet-suited surfers in the water at Long Sands Beach further along the coast, I was the only fool in just a pair of speedos braving the water that day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

San Francisco Bay

After a (much) delayed fifteen hour flight, I finally got to San Francisco on the same date that I left Sydney. The day was really hot (88 degrees Fahrenheit, so 31C) and sunny. I caught the trolleybus over to Fisherman's Wharf and walked around to Aquatic Park. There were plenty of people on the beach, but not too many in the water.

I walked around to The Dolphins Swimming (and Rowing) Club, and used their facilities. They have their own liitle stretch of beach behind the club, so I just walked down the steps and got into the sea from there. The water temperature was 61 degrees Fahrenheit according to their board (16C). It felt like a winter swim in Sydney, but someone that I was talking to told me that this was their top temperature for the Bay.

I swam off in the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge, but within the shelter of the Aquatic Park surrounding piers and marker buoys. I was in the water for about half an hour or so. It was an amazing swim, but I was glad of the hot shower afterwards.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First Leg Of The Pacific Swim

I'm hoping to swim on both sides of the Pacific today. First up is a South Pacific swim at Coogee Beach. It's early morning; the air temperature is 12 degrees C., and the water temperature is 16 degrees C.

Next stop is San Francisco, where, after crossing the International Date Line, I'm hoping to swim in the North Pacific on the same day (well, date).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

First Swim Of Spring

Actually, it felt more like mid-Summer than the first weekend of Spring. I was up in Townsville in tropical Far North Queensland for the weekend. The days were very hot and humid, so a dip in the Pacific Ocean, early in the morning, was very welcome.

I walked along The Strand, which is the seafront promenade, to a couple of sections of the beach and had a couple of swims. The ocean was very warm (and a wee bit muddy), but still worth a dip.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Last Of The Winter Swimming

The First of September is the (official) start of Spring in Australia, so this weekend has been my last chance for an (official) Winter swim.

All last week there were strong (and cold) westerly winds blowing, flattening the ocean, and making swimming conditions perfect at any stage of the tides. Today, however, a southerly change has been moving up the coast, bringing a swell with it. I could only get to Wylies on high tide today, and the pool was too rough to swim in. So, it was a case of wandering down to the beach and swimming in the pool under the Surf Life Savers' Club. It's protected, to some extent, from a southerly swell, but, even then, it got a little rough at times. I swam for about 20 minutes in the 15 degrees water, and certainly missed the hot shower afterwards. Luckily, it was a perfect day, so a mug of hot tea in the warm sun soon restored me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Colder Water

I didn't think the seawater temperature would get down to 15 degrees this winter, but it has (with one weekend to spare).

Today was a gorgeous Sydney winter's day, sunny and bright with barely a cloud in the sky. There was a strong, cool westerly blowing which flattened out last week's swell on the ocean.

The water was clear and sparkling (and cool). I swam twenty, lazy lengths in the sun. I still can't be bothered to wear a swimming cap. Later I sat up on the decking, drinking a mug of tea and watching the ocean.

Afterwards, I wandered along the cliff path, past the Ladies' Baths, and down to Coogee Beach.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Only Two Weeks Left

There are only two weeks left for (official) winter swimming. The water temperature has only just dropped to 16 degrees. I doubt that it'll now get down to 15. I've given up the idea of wearing a swimming cap this winter.

I swam my twenty lengths late in the day, just as the light was beginning to fade. I had to wait for low tide because the swell had been so big. In fact, conditions were so dangerous that Wylies was closed on high tide.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Water's Getting Cooler

The water is finally cooling down. I went swimming at Wylies yesterday, and the temperature has just dipped below seventeen degrees. Today is the first of August, so there's only four weekends of Winter left. I wonder if it will make it down to 15 degrees this year?

Still no need for the swimcap. I swam twenty lengths with the occasional set of waves breaking into the pool.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cold Days at Coogee

A dreadful week to begin the winter holidays. Usually, at this time of year, it's crisp and cool but also sunny and bright. Not this year - we've had days of grey skies, drizzly rain and cold, damp winds. I could almost be back in Lancashire. The air temperature has been well below average too.

I've managed to go for a swim at Wylies Baths every day of the holidays so far. It's been a different winter swimming experience from my usual one. Still, the seawater has stayed at seventeen to eighteen degrees most days (warmer than the air), so still no need for the swimcap.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Winter Solstice (or thereabouts) Swimming

I haven't posted on this site for weeks now. I've been swimming on Saturday and Sunday every weekend, but nothing remarkable seems to have happened. The weather is fine and sunny and very cold at the moment. The ocean temperature is still 18 degrees Celsius. I don't even need to wear a swim cap yet.
 I went swimming again last Sunday and took a couple of photos with my phone. The air temperature was only 14 degrees. A bit chilly walking up the steps from the pool to the showers.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

First Swim Of Winter

A cool, overcast and drizzly day for my first winter swim. Winter officially starts on the first of June in Australia, so last weekend's dip was still in Autumn. Today's air temperature was just 13 degrees C, but the seawater is still 20 degrees. So, no need for a swim cap yet.