Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Short Swim Around Coogee Bay

I enjoyed last week's Dawny to Cockatoo Island swim so much that I decided to have a go at the 1 kilometre swim around Coogee Bay, an event which is hosted by the Coogee Surf Life Saving Club (http://coogeesurfclub.com.au/club/). There is a total of three swims in the event: an 800 metres dash for the juniors (11 to 13 years), the 1km course inside the bay and a 2.4 km swim out of the bay and around Wedding Cake Island.

Before the majority of entrants arrived. The line of breakers in the distance is Wedding Cake Island.

The swim around the island is, by all accounts, one of the most amazing swims along the Sydney coast, with submarine views of large boulders on the shoreward side and reefs of rock, seaweed and marine life on the open ocean side - all seen through clear blue water.

The registration process: entrants registered by age group and distance.

There is no way that I could manage the 2.4 kms out to the island, let alone navigate the currents behind the island and make it back to shore, so it was the 1km swim for me. 

The first buoy has already been placed in the water.

The day was gorgeous, warm and sunny after a week of rain and surprisingly cold temperatures. It's a popular swim, and there were lots of entrants in many age categories. The junior dash was first, then the 1km swim went off in two waves, the younger age groups first.  I was, of course, in the second wave. Altogether there were 427 people in the 1km swim, and, amazingly (unless I've misunderstood something) almost one thousand in the swim around the island (some people doubled-up by swimming in both).

A glorious day at Coogee Beach

The water temperature was 18°C, and there was a very high tide. Swimming out into the bay, I could notice the difference between this week's swim in the swell and the chop and last week's swim in the calm, flat waters of Sydney Harbour. I set off from the beach using a front crawl stroke, but several times reverted to breaststroke to catch my breath and give my shoulders a rest. One or two people were doing backstroke or sidestroke at various times. 

Last week I swam the 1.1km in 21 minutes, and felt fine afterwards. This week the 1km swim took me 33 minutes 16 seconds, and I had to have a sit in the sun for several minutes after finishing. Later in the day I had sore legs and shoulders. A reminder that the open ocean takes a bit more effort than the ocean rock pool or tidal baths. 

Later I walked up onto the cliffs to watch the real swimmers rounding the island.

Looking from the cliffs to Wedding Cake Island (barely visible in the very high tide). 
It's impossible to see the swimmers in this photo, but they were somewhere out the back when it was taken.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dawny To Cockatoo Island And Back

A Spring morning on the shores of the Parramatta River in Balmain. The jacarandas are in bloom in the park up above the low sandstone cliffs. A kookaburra is cackling from one of the tall gum trees. The Moreton Bay fig trees are casting cool shade away from the hot morning sun. And the Harbour is sparkling.

It's a perfect morning for a swim, and swimming is the order of the day. It's the day for the open water swim from Dawn Fraser (Dawny) Baths to (or around) Cockatoo Island. 

The swim has been an annual event for the past nine years. It's a fundraiser for the Balmain Water Polo club (Australia's oldest) who train and play at the Dawn Fraser Pool (also Australia's oldest). The swim to the island is 1.1km long, while the swim around the island is 2.4km long. I entered the shorter swim for my second year. I'm not sure that I could make it all the way around, and certainly not in the time allotted. This year I was determined to swim front crawl all the way instead of reverting to breaststroke half way there.

In the end, I came somewhere very close to last, so obviously front crawl is not my strong point. Still, swimming across the harbour with so many others was a lot of fun. The water was warm (21°C), the day was sunny and even the bull sharks stayed away. After the swim, there was free fruit - mangoes, watermelon and bananas. There was also a free barbeque, but, unfortunately, no vegetarian options. Maybe next year.

Looking from Dawn Fraser Pool across to Cockatoo Island

Loading the marker buoys

Taking the buoys across to the island to mark the course

Swimmers return from the Dawny Challenge around the island

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back To Balmain Baths

After an atrocious day on Saturday, it was a relief to wake up early on Sunday and find that it was a glorious morning. I headed off to Balmain Baths (a.k.a. Dawn Fraser Baths) as soon as I could. The pool re-opened for the summer season last weekend while I was still in San Francisco. The sun was warm and the skies were bright blue as I arrived.

I was the only swimmer in the pool for the first 17 of my 20 lengths. The water was a beautiful 19°C. Afterwards, I sat with a hot cup of tea, looking out across the bay and listening to the birdsong from the tall trees in Elkington Park above the pool.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Rainy Day At Bondi Beach

I had to go over to Bondi Beach on Saturday for work. I was looking forward to getting there early, and going for a swim. I'd already had a swim at Coogee since getting back from San Francisco, so I knew that the water was lovely and clear. The weather had been sunny and dry, if a bit cool, so I imagined a glorious morning of swimming.

But when I woke up on Saturday, it was cold and drizzling. By the time I got off the bus at the beach, it was a dreadful day. It was raining heavily, and there were banks of black clouds hanging over the ocean.

I really didn't fancy swimming from the beach, and leaving my clothes on the wet sand in the rain, so I headed for Bondi Baths. There were a few swimmers already there, but plenty of room to swim plenty of laps in the 50 metre pool. The water is currently nineteen degrees.

Bondi Baths (also known as Bondi Icebergs after its famous winter swimming club) has a concrete saltwater  pool, hot showers and a sauna. There is a clubhouse and a restaurant, both of which were rebuilt almost ten years ago. It's a great place for a swim, but I rarely go there, preferring Wylies with its rocky bottom and sea life. I've only been there twice in the last couple of years, and, before that, not since the 1980s. Still, Saturday's swim was pretty wonderful.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Last Swim In San Francisco

It was with quite a bit of sadness that I travelled to Aquatic Park for the very last time this holiday. I really enjoy swimming in San Francisco Bay with its views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. I also love going to the swimming clubs here. Members of the clubs are friendly and helpful, and make visitors feel welcome. For my last swimming day, it was the Dolphins Club that was open to the public. That makes five swims from this club now, and only one from the South End Club.

The half mile swim was really good fun. The day was warm and sunny, and, if anything, the water seemed warmer than last week. I wore my swimming cap, but probably didn't really need it.

Later, after a quick, hot shower, I enjoyed lounging in one of the club's comfortable rooms. The large windows showed the amazing views of San Francisco Bay. 

Then it was time to leave to catch the plane back to Sydney. I've really enjoyed San Francisco and the swimming both this year and last year, and I'd love to come back again one day. Meanwhile it's home to begin swimming at Balmain Baths, which opened last weekend for the summer season.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Swimming In The Russian River, Sonoma County

The Russian River in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, was the warmest swim I had in California. I swam from one of the river beaches in Monte Rio late in the evening. Earlier there had been canoes and kayaks on the water.  The far bank of the river had hill slopes thickly forested with redwoods. The water was shallow until mid-stream, and, even then, it only got to about chest height.
It was clean and clear all the way across the river.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tenaya Lake In The Sierra Nevada Mountains

Tenaya Lake is in Yosemite National Park, but it is not in the Yosemite Valley. The lake is up in the ranges at an elevation of 2,484 metres (8,150ft) (Wikipedia). It is one of the few lakes in the national park that is accessible by car (but only from June to November when the Tioga Pass road is open).

The waters of the lake are very clear, but are also very cold. I had a beautiful swim, but I only stayed in for about fifteen minutes. I slowly swam half way across the breadth, into deep but clear water, then hurriedly swam back to shore as the cold began to bite.

There was a keen wind blowing down from the peaks and gathering speed across the lake. By the time I was dry, I was probably as cold as I have ever been after a swim. 'Twas well worth it, though.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Swimming In Yosemite National Park

After a week of swims in the saltwater of San Francisco Bay, I got the chance to do some swimming in the fresh water of the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. 

It was quite incredible, hiking through the Yosemite Valley in the hot sun, looking up at the sheer, high, granite cliffs and the steep wooded slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There were many swimming holes in the river that were close enough to the trails to take the plunge.

So, of course, that's exactly what I did - twice. The first two photos were taken at a spot were there was a sandy beach on one bank, and a deep, rocky swimming hole below the other bank.

This first swimming hole was deep enough and clear enough to duck dive down to the bottom, then surface and float along gazing up at the spectacular scenery.

At the second swimming spot, shallow rapids gradually gave way to deeper water. I had to walk over the slippery rocks to find water deep enough to swim in, and, even then, had a few bumps on the knees.

The water was so clear, but very cold. Luckily, the day was so hot that it took little time to warm up again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Swim From The South End Club

The two swimming clubs situated at Aquatic Park on San Francisco Bay are The Dolphin Club ( http://www.dolphinclub.org/about.html ) and The South End Club ( http://www.south-end.org/club.shtml ). Both date back to the 1870s, and were formed as both rowing and swimming clubs. Members swim in the Bay all year round

The clubs are open to the public on alternate days, excluding Sundays and Mondays. Previously, both last year and this year too, I'd been for a swim on days when it was the Dolphin Club that was open for public swimming. I was lucky enough on my fifth swim in San Francisco Bay to swim from the South End Club. 

The swimming course at Aquatic Park

A swimmer returns to the South End Club pier

Thursday, October 6, 2011

San Francisco Beaches

After a couple of great swims from the Dolphins club at Aquatic Park, I went to look at a few of the San Francisco beaches.

Firstly, I walked along the coastal footpath from Baker Beach around to The Bay. Both Baker Beach itself and Marshalls Beach along the walk were quite dramatic with booming surf and views of The Golden Gate Bridge. The waves were too wild and the currents too strong to swim at these ocean beaches.

When I got around to the Bay side of the Bridge, the beaches at Crissy Field (East Beach) were calm enough for swimming, so in I went. The water was cold but it was a really hot day, so I soon warmed up.

Marshalls Beach

Baker Beach

Crissy Field (East Beach)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Another Swim In The Bay

My first swim in San Francisco Bay this year was overcast and misty and filled with the continual sound of foghorns across the water. My next swim was very different on a very hot and sunny day.

Water temperatures are 14 C according to the Internet, but it didn't really feel that cold because I was wearing a swimming cap.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Swim In The North Pacific

I managed to have a pretty wonderful swim in the cold waters of The Bay on a cool, foggy day in San Francisco.

I started out from the Dolphins Swimming club at Aquatic Park. I swam along the half mile course marked by buoys inside the sea walls.

I had views of Alcatraz, but only glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog. Foghorns were sounding out continuously across the bay.

There was no temperature chalked up on the board, but I reckon it was about 15°C, so I was glad of the hot shower and sauna in the clubhouse afterwards. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Swim In The South Pacific

Actually, nothing unusual about a swim in the South Pacific, but it's a precursor to a swim in the North Pacific some time tomorrow. Yes, I'm off to San Francisco again, for (among other things) a few swims in The Bay.

My swim at Coogee was unexpectedly cool, but probably nothing like as cool as the chilly San Francisco waters will be.

Today, out in Western Sydney, where I work, the temperature climbed above 32°C on a very sunny day. But, by the time I'd taken train and bus the 45 kilometres to the coast, the 'southerly buster' had swept through the city and pushed temperatures down to 15°C. It was overcast and gloomy, with dark clouds over the sea, as the evening light faded.

On the beach, the strong winds were very cold indeed. Even the water temperature was lower than it's been since early August, clocking in at 16°C. I swam a great many lengths of the S.L.S.C. pool, and eventually warmed up a wee bit. However, no hot shower, and those southerly winds, made for an uncomfortable few minutes while I was getting changed.

The water was cooler than it's been for some time.

The evening lights were coming on after I finished swimming.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Last Weekend of Winter

Early today I set off for my final swim of winter in thick fog. As I arrived at Coogee, the sun had just begun to burn off the worst of it, but it was still a little misty out on the ocean.

The water is back to 17°C again after dipping down to 16°C last weekend. The water seems to have stayed warmer this winter. These temperatures are so mild, that we've even had some bluebottles (portuguese man of war) drifting in on the unseasonal onshore breezes.

The water was very clear. There were scores of small fishes swimming alongside and below me. I did 20 beautiful lengths avoiding the occasional  bluebottle.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Wintry Day At Wylies Baths

Yesterday, it was blue skies and bright sunshine, and a perfect Winter's day in Sydney. The baths were gorgeous, and some people were even sunbathing on the wooden decks.

Today is a different story. The skies were grey, the breeze was cold, the rain drizzled down and the top temperature for the day was 15°C. 

According to the board, the seawater temperature was 17°C, but it seemed cooler than that. After I finished my 25 lengths, the hot shower felt like it was scorching my skin. I haven't had that feeling since the 14°C water in San Francisco last year.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Winter Swimming At Last (and only three weeks left)

The notice board at Wylies Baths tells the story. The seawater temperature has finally dropped down to a winter level. Last weekend it was 18°C; this weekend it's 16.5°C. I doubt that it will drop much below this temperature now. In a little over three weeks it will (officially) be Spring.

I swam my twenty lengths in clear, sparkling water. Though the temperature is a bit cooler than recent weeks, it's still mild enough to swim in just a pair of speedos and no swimcap.

There seem to be a lot more people swimming right through the winter these days. There also seem to be fewer people using wetsuits. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Finally - A Little Calm

Swimming in the sea has been difficult these past couple of weeks, even at low tide. The swell has been very big (up to 4½ metres some days). Wylies Baths has been closed to swimmers on and off over the past few weeks. Last weekend I didn't get a swim at all. So, it was with relief that I read about the swell dropping during this past week. As the weekend approached the seas flattened out, and I was able to turn up at the pool for an early morning swim, even though it was just after high tide.

It was a glorious morning, but the air temperature was a wee bit on the cool side at 9°C. On the board it said that the sea temperature was 18°C, but I'm somewhat sceptical about that. The first length felt colder than I've been used to recently. Still, three years ago it was about 15° at this time of year, and it got down to 14° during early August. In any case, the water was clear, clean and refreshing. I swam 20 lengths through several small schools of tiny fish, then sat in the sun until I started shivering. A hot shower and a hot mug of tea soon fixed that.

About a fortnight ago, I was swimming here in rough conditions at low tide, when I noticed that one of the two posts that stick up out of the pool was missing. It had been buckled over and bent under the water by the force of the waves. The image below shows the two posts, which is how Wylies has looked for the 25 years that I've been going there. In that time they've been used to rope off a wading area for small children in the summer, but nobody seems to know what they were originally intended for nor how long they've been there.