Sunday, April 18, 2010

One That I Missed

A year ago, on the day I set out on my swimming lark, I missed a small rock pool at Maroubra. Actually, there are two pools built from two semi-circles of rocks. They were constructed, on the south end of Maroubra Beach, to provide a safe swimming spot for young children when surf conditions were dangerous.

The pools are shallow at the best of times, but on the day I came back to swim them, it was right on low tide. 

I paddled across the smaller of the two pools, but there was just enough seawater at the far end of this pool for me to swim a bit of breaststroke and to float on my back. 

I'd "swum" another rock pool on my coastal trek, but hadn't actually had a decent swim yet. So, into the ocean I went, to bodysurf a couple of the small waves (I even got dumped by one).

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Swimming Along (Most Of) The Northern Beaches

 The Northern Beaches are on the section of Sydney's coast that stretches from the entrance to Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to the entrance to Broken Bay. Many of the beaches are famous for their surf and surfers, but today the waves were rather small and gentle.

It has been one year exactly since I set out to swim the Sydney coastline via the ocean pools and tidal baths. I decided to celebrate the anniversary by swimming some of the pools I previously said I was going to leave until next summer. It was a sunny, warm Autumn day, and the sea temperature was still 23 degrees, so I reckonned I'd be able to swim several without getting cold.

Although I have swum from several of the beaches along this part of the coast, I have never swum in any of the rock pools.

Fairy Bower Rock Pool

I started the day back in Manly, but this time on the ocean side rather than the harbour side. The first pool I swam was this small but pretty rock pool in Cabbage Tree Bay. It's famous for the sculpture of sea nymphs, 'The Oceanides', by Helen Leete.

The sea was absolutely wonderful: clean, clear, warm and salty. 

Queenscliff Pool

I was interested to find that this seawater pool is a 50 metre marked lap pool cut into the rock platform and formed with concrete sides and floor. I swam several lengths of front crawl, really enjoying myself.

Freshwater Pool

Again, this is a concrete 50 metre seawater lap pool (eight lanes, no less).  Unfortunately, it was closed, emptied for cleaning. Which means that I will need to return at some date to swim the pool. 

Curl Curl Pool

Curl Curl Pool is unusual in that it has a pool within a pool (plus a kids' paddling pool). Apparently, a second pool was built just outside the original rock pool. Then this pool was shortened to 50 metres, leaving a redundant basin beyond the main swimming pool.

North Curl Curl Rock Pool

It's a bit of a walk from the north end of Curl Curl Beach to reach this rock pool. You either hike over the headland and descend by steps to the pool, or, at low tide, you can walk around the rocks.  The baths are cut into a large rock platform, and the rocks themselves define one side of the pool. 

Dee Why Rock Pool

This is another concrete 50 metre seawater pool. It has a small paddling pool at one end. The water was so lovely that I found it impossible to limit myself to one length, even though I knew I was running out of time to complete this leg.

Collaroy Rock Pool

Another 50 metre lap pool with a small paddling pool, but Collaroy has a slightly irregular shape where it follows the sandstone cliff line. Again, I couldn't just swim one lap. It was just too good. I was probably getting quite a bit of exercise as these northern rock pools are mostly larger than the southern pools that I'm used to.

North Narrabeen Rock Pool

This is a huge ocean baths. I'm pretty sure that it's the largest of the ocean pools (rather than harbour or river inlet tidal enclosures) that I have swum in. The old boardwalk forms one side of a 50 metre lap pool that itself is within a much larger outer rock pool. There's even a big paddling pool.

Mona Vale Rock Pool

This is a smaller rock pool which is cut into a rock shelf emerging from the beach itself, rather than at the base of a headland or cliffs as is usually the case. The sun was starting to get low in the west as I swam here (daylight saving is finished), and I decided that I would only swim one more pool today.

Newport Rock Pool

This is the rock pool where Max Dupain took the photograph of young men swimming and sunbathing in the early 1950s ('At Newport') that became the iconic image of Australian beach culture. There's a reproduction of the image at:

It was starting to get late by the time I'd swum the Newport rock pool, and I had a long way to go back to Marrickville. I still had four rock pools on the Northern Beaches left to swim, and also four tidal baths in Pittwater (an arm of Broken Bay at the mouth of the Hawkesbury River). This should be an easy swim next time as the peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and Pittwater is quite narrow from this point north, making all these pools close together. That day, however, really will have to be next summer or autumn.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Swimming My Way Around North Harbour

North Harbour is one of the three arms of Port Jackson. The other two are Middle Harbour and Sydney Harbour (although many people, myself included, commonly use Sydney Harbour to refer to Port Jackson).  North Harbour is the least extensive of the three arms, being more of a large bay than an arm as such.

 Forty Baskets Beach Pool 

One of the many pools and beaches to be found along the Manly Scenic Walkway. Today is the first time that I have ever swum here.

Another welcome swim in the warm Autumn sun.

Fairlight Beach Pool

This is a gorgeous little pool on a pretty little harbour beach. Notice the view out to Sydney Heads and beyond to the Pacific Ocean.

It's been many years since I last swam here. I'd forgotten just how good this pool is. I spent quite a bit of time in the water here today.

Above Fairlight Pool looking back towards Forty Baskets Beach.

Manly Cove Swimming Enclosure

Arriving at Manly Cove after walking from Fairlight Beach. The ferry back to Sydney is tied up at the wharf. It's difficult to see in my photo but the swimming enclosure takes up most of the beach. The building on the left is part of the Oceanworld aquarium. 

In the 1940s they used to use the slogan, "Manly: seven miles from Sydney but a thousand miles from care", to lure Sydney's workers over to the beaches and other seaside attractions here. It is still a very busy spot with large ferries full of daytrippers coming and going every half hour. Some stay on this calm harbour beach to swim, but probably most walk the short distance to the incredible surf beaches.

Little Manly Cove Pool

Another beach and pool that I had never been to until today. It was getting late, but the sun was still really warm. This was my last swimming spot, so I was going to just relax and enjoy the last of the afternoon.

So, I finally swam my way right around Sydney Harbour (or, more properly, Port Jackson). This section of the swim trek started at Watson's Bay a few days short of a year ago, then continued in December and has now been completed over these last two weeks or so.

There's still the Northern Beaches and their ocean baths to be tackled, but that could be another year away.

Completing The Swim Around Middle Harbour

I actually began the swim around Middle Harbour last week when I swam Balmoral Baths and the non-existent sharkproof enclosure at Balmoral Beach. Today was a chance to complete the swim around Middle Harbour, and, hopefully, around Sydney Harbour itself.

Northbridge Baths

Northbridge Baths is a large enclosure in Sailors Bay. It's a bit like Wylies or Balmain as you pay a small entrance fee, and there are hot showers, a kiosk and a lifeguard. You can also hire kayaks from here.

 The warm, salty water became deep very quickly, and I swam over to the lane ropes to do lengths of front crawl and breaststroke.

Swimming Enclosure in Garrigal National Park

Thank you National Parks and Wildlife Service. You always provide pertinent information. 

This swimming enclosure is at a very narrow part of Middle Harbour just before it becomes Middle Harbour Creek. There are some great bushwalks through the scrub along the harbour and creek.

It was low tide when I got here, and I had to struggle through shin-deep mud to get into the swimming enclosure. There was quite a deep channel, though, so I was able to swim the length of the faux shark net.

Pickering Point Swimming Enclosure 

 Another walk down steps and a bushland track to get to this enclosure. The day was starting to get warm, and I was ready for my lengths in the baths. 

Sangrado Pool

As I arrived at Sangrado Pool, there was a council notice telling users that the pool was closed. I was disappointed, but thought I'd walk down the bush track to the foreshore just for a look. As it turned out, the pool was simply missing its shark net. The outer walls of the baths were intact, so I just did my lengths between them.

Clontarf Pool

By the time I got here I was getting really hot, so, after I swam a couple of lengths, I stayed in the water, duck diving in the deep parts and trying to get cool. The pool and beach are very popular for families with young children. this was the only place I swam on Middle Harbour today that was close to being crowded.

This was the final tidal baths in Middle Harbour, but it was still early so I set off to swim North Harbour ( just around Grotto Point from here).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another (Short) Leg Of The Swimming Trek

I've been slow to continue on my trek of ocean pools and tidal baths (the reason for this blog in the first place). Part of the reason why is that the remaining pools are all north of the harbour, and I live on the south side. It's a bit more difficult for me to get up there, especially to the Northern Beaches and Pittwater.

Still, today the rain stayed away, so I thought I'd better make a start. Today's pools were all easily accessed by public transport and walking. It was a great day to take ferries across the harbour.

Coincidently, last month marked a quarter of a century of living in Sydney for me, and I haven't been to any of these pools since my first twelve months here.

McCallum Pool (Cremorne)

I remember walking some of the Sydney Harbour foreshore track during my first winter in Sydney. I thought this tidal pool looked amazing but I didn't have any swimwear with me, so I couldn't swim. I made a mental note to come back here, but it's taken me 25 years to do so.

There's a great view of the city from here, with the opera house and the harbour bridge taking pride of place (not that clear on this photo from my cheap camera).

It's a lovely shady spot under the gum trees. Or a sunny spot on the wooden decking.

Clifton Gardens (Chowder Bay)

I remember coming here during my first summer proper in Sydney. I loved the walks through the bush along the harbour foreshore tracks down to here, and on to the National Park on Middle Head. The swimming enclosure was lots of fun. The walkway is high above the sea, and I loved jumping off into the very deep water.

There's a lot of seagrass growing in the shallows, but ten metres or so offshore it becomes a lovely sandy bottom. This is quite a large enclosure, so it was a decent swim to complete one length as required. The water was so gorgeous though that I did several lengths. Also, old bloke though I am, I couldn't resist climbing up the ladder from the sea to the walkway, and jumping off into the clear, warm, salty water.

Balmoral Beach

First up, I swam the perimeter of Balmoral Baths. The water was really warm and really salty. As with most of the harbour tidal baths, this gets very deep very quickly. There are some great spots along the outer walkway where you can jump into the water. Today, however, there were several muscular and bronzed young chaps doing somersaults and other spectacular dives to impress a group of girls, so I modestly limited myself to a swim.

The second spot for a swim was the site of the Balmoral Beach sharkproof net. I remember coming here during my first Sydney winter, and swimming in this very place. Today, I was a bit confused because I thought I could remember seeing, back then, a prominent, very visible shark net. All I could really see now was a line of marker buoys about a hundred metres or more offshore, but I guessed the nets must be suspended between and below these. I got a surprise when I swam out there and duck dived down below a buoy - no net. Still, I swam the length of the beach, practising my lazy front crawl in deep water on a long swim.

Later, at home, I did a bit of investigating on the internet, and found out that the shark net was, controversially, removed two years ago.

There are some beautiful views from Balmoral Beach across Middle Harbour  to Sydney Heads and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bicycling To Botany Bay

Not content with swimming at Mahons this morning, I got on my new (cheap) bicycle, and pedalled very slowly along the bike tracks along and around the Cooks River to Botany Bay. I couldn't swim at Kyeemagh as they are still working on the desalination pipeline, and the swimming enclosure has been taken away. So I lazily cycled down to Brighton-Le-Sands, and had several swims there. Each of the swimming enclosures along Lady Robinsons Beach are huge, so swimming along the length of the shark net is quite a workout in itself. I seem to be using front crawl more and more, which is the stroke I used to use when I was swimming a lot in the 1980s. I gave up the stroke because I used to get bad shoulders, but so far i've been okay. Then again, I'm a very lazy swimmer these days.

Mahons In The Morning

It's been raining, on and off, for nearly two weeks here in Sydney. The ocean's been pretty rough as well. As a result, I haven't been swimming for quite some time. I missed the last weekend of the season at Balmain Baths because of heavy rain and stormwater pollution. The only swim I managed was on a bushwalk to Kingfisher Pool in the drizzle.

Until today....

Mahon's Pool from the cliff path

Finally, Sydney had a sunny day, so I went swimming in Mahon's Pool. The rock pool is just up the coast from Maroubra Beach (you can just make out the beach in the photo). Today, most of the surfers seemed to have decided it was almost winter and were wearing wetsuits. The seawater, however, is still 23 degrees celsius. Even the air temperature got up to 27 degrees.

The water was clear and warm

I swam front crawl, breaststroke, sidestroke and even a half-hearted backstroke. Then I just floated in the water for ages. I really didn't want to leave. Especially as the rain is supposed to return tomorrow.