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.