Point Beals, Vashon Island (Skins)
DATE OF SWIM: 1/22/21
I woke up early for this swim, took the ferry to Vashon Island and met up with their swim group and my friend from Alki. We swam to a gorgeous sunrise of peach and blue hues. Afterwards, I enjoyed Snapdragon Bakery, a trail run at Shinglemill Creek and a trip to Granny's Attic (the best thrift store I've found in a while).
Peach and Blue Sunrise Skies
I woke up early for this swim, earlier than I normally have been swimming lately. This made me a bit nervous as I know the air temp can make a big difference in my ability to swim skins comfortably for a long period of time. I arrived on Vashon Island at 7 am before the sun rose and to kill time, grabbed a lemon currant scone and coffee from the Vashon Island Baking Company. I was to meet the Vashon Swim group (through their Open Water Swimming Meetup Group) at 8 am at Dilworth to swim Point Beals.
When we got to the point, there was an extremely strong north wind. It whipped us violently as we got ready and still as we swam. We swam south, away from the point. The waves were huge, perhaps the biggest I've encountered swimming in the Puget Sound yet. It was so much fun! I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that the water felt warm - I think it was partly because it was so cold out (43 degrees F) and the wind was so intense. I swam alongside with my friend Heidi, who runs the Vashon Open Water Swimming Group and swims at Alki regularly too. She took fun videos of me swimming, which then encouraged me to critique my stroke (haha).
Visibility was so low that I couldn't see much in front of me as I swam and I had to keep sighting, afraid that maybe timber would be in the way since the wind was so strong. This reminded me how spoiled I've been swimming in clear water during the winter, and how this is going to change soon in the summer. The swim reminded me of my SF Bay 10K, when I couldn't see anything in front of me at all as I swam. This is definitely scary and requires self-soothing while I swim. For anyone needing more of these types of skills during stressful situations, swimming is a great way to practice.
Luckily, I did not hit any rocks, encounter any timber, or collide with anything that would be an issue. I knew my friend would also give me a heads up if we were entering a particularly rocky area. However, this was still a reminder to always listen to myself, practice calming my nervous system and be safe. I'll have to prepare myself even more once the water gets warmer, I'm still swimming skins, the water is cloudier (more plant matter growing) and jellyfish are back in the water as potential obstacles to avoid!
After about 1200 yards, 30 minutes, we got out and the wind whipped us so hard that my thermos actually fell over with the wind. I struggled to get my suit off and my clothes on since I was slowly losing feeling in my hands and feet. I luckily managed to do it all and get out of the wind quickly before I really started to have trouble. This was a reminder to me that swimming skins actually does require me to pay better attention to conditions. The recovery is so much harder without the wetsuit. A very windy, cold morning might not be the best time to swim skins.
A Welcoming Community
I was so lucky to be graciously welcomed by the swim community. Heidi kindly swam with me the whole way, even though other swimmers in the group kept going for 1.5 hours. I also got to use a shower in an artist studio of one of the swimmers who couldn't make the meetup, but was able to offer me her shower. She is also an artist and gifted me a beautiful lino print of an Alki Sea Pen. I was so thankful for both the shower and the print! You can see it in the photo grid below.
After swimming, I took a trip to Snapdragon Bakery (one of the best on Vashon!) and then went for a short 2.6 mile trail run at Shinglemill Creek, my favorite spot for a short hike. Shinglemill Creek is a gulley full of ferns, moss and a winding little creek. After the run, I went to Granny's Attic for some quality island thrifting. I hit the jackpot while at Granny's - I got an Icelandic hand knit sweater, vintage gingham dress, psychedelic colorful button-up top, and 80s ski sweater. Sweater featured below!
Vashon, I'll be back! What a perfect swim day!