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