Battle Point, Bainbridge Island (Skins)
DATE OF SWIM: 1/18/21
Featuring fields and fields of purple-black sand dollars, a surprise sailboat, chop, sun and great company!
Video and photos by @aqua.moose.pnw
Sand Dollars Everywhere- The Best Kind of Rich!
A short 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, Bainbridge Island is a mossy and salty outdoor lover's dream. The island is 45 miles around if you count all of the coves and crevices - I know because my swim buddy Kelly swam the entire perimeter! You can read more about her epic swim here. Bainbridge has numerous vineyards, forested parks and coastline to explore by sailing, swimming, kayaking, whatever you choose! I'd been to Bainbridge before for many sailing trips when I was learning to sail with The Mountaineers and even did an overnight trip once in Manzanita Bay. I'd also explored the island with short hikes and vineyard excursions, but had never gone to swim. With a few weeks off in between jobs, now was the time to explore! (PS - All of the incredible photos here are from my friend @aqua.moose.pnw, she's a GoPro master, swims pretty much every day, is hilarious, and is also training for the English Channel in September! Follow her on Instagram to follow her daily adventures in the Salish Sea!)
My swim friends and I geared up and swam a short ~1 mile distance from the Skinner Olallie Public Beach to Battle Point and back. The water temp measured at 46 degrees F, air temp was the same (a sub 100 swim, common in the winter here in Seattle - meaning the air and water temp equaled less then 100). The swim was amazing - clear, high tide, fields and fields of black sand dollars that looked like mussels peaking through the sand. I picked up a sand dollar at one point during the swim and it shone purple in the sun. Sand dollars are apparently sea urchins, which are sometimes "said to represent coins lost by mermaids or the people of Atlantis" in folklore (according to Wikipedia). My friend said they're "mermaid money!" I love that idea, it's so romantic.
It was a very choppy and sun-filled swim, my absolute favorite type of swim day. We swam for a total of 35 minutes, my new Garmin Swim 2 watch said 1.25 miles but I think it was a bit off, more likely around 1 mile.
We warmed up with the short walk through the mossy forest back to Battle Point park, where we had parked. I even skipped the squats - the little walk up the hill helped make sure my body warmed up again after swimming skins. My normal post-skin swim routine now typically includes: 1) Taking my wet clothing off ASAP, changing into a warm hat/gloves/Dryrobe/pants/sweater (I think I have this down to less than 3 minutes), 2) Doing 60 squats, 3) Drinking hot tea and 4) Sitting in the car for 10 minutes with the heat on high. I may have to start adding a short hike uphill to the routine when I can! By the time I got to the car, I didn't experience any bit of remaining after-drop (what the heck is after-drop?).
We parked at the Battle Point Park ball field and then walked to the Skinner Olallie Public Beach Access, swam to Battle Point and back. On a rainy day, it would be tough to store your stuff, but there's a bench you could put things underneath to try to keep them dry.
My swims this winter have gotten shorter as I have ditched the wetsuit lately and opted to swim skins. This means I've been swimming about 30-46 minutes so far, mostly depending on the air temp. When the air temp is closer to the 30s, my swims become shorter. When the air temp is around 46 and it's sunny, my swims can get a little longer. This entry into skin swimming has been incredible and made possible by all of my swim mentors, my own cultivation of patience, and my Garmin Swim 2 watch. The entire idea to start swimming skins mostly happened because I got very tired of wearing the wetsuit and not being able to feel the water. Normally, I'd go to the pool 3-4 times a week to swim without the wetsuit, but with COVID-19 closing pools, I had to get creative to feel the water more deeply again. This is my first winter skin swimming, I'm onto my third year of open water swimming overall.
I'm having a bit of a blog-identity crisis as I am no longer at this particular moment focused so much on distance, but more on the sensations that accompany a skin swim. Obviously, also, the name of the blog doesn't make sense if I start swimming skins more often :) My aim is that by the summer, when the water warms up, I can swim again 3-4 miles without the wetsuit, so I'm combining both distance and swimming skins.
The experience of swimming skins makes it a bit harder to play in the water, I have to keep moving and can't really use my new GoPro without difficulty. However, I can swim 30-40 minutes and feel incredible after. The mental health (focus, clarity, calm) benefits I would get from a 1.5 hour swim now come with only 30 minutes in the water. I also have learned more about cold water's anti-inflammatory benefits, which increase without the wetsuit. I am really enjoying the experience of skin swimming - it feels like I'm learning how to swim all over again as it's entirely a different thing. It forces me to slow down even more, concentrate on how my body feels in the water, and pay extra attention to my body in general. It's a constant practice of checking in with myself and knowing my boundaries.
If you're interested in learning more about skin swimming, I added new pages to the blog with more information as well! Click the buttons below to check out the additional resources.