Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

This was the best swimming day of the year.

Rob and I scored huge on the conditions Wednesday evening; the water was 67 degrees (I had to check it twice to be sure), the ocean was flat and windless with no swell, the water was amazingly clear (when I was taking the water temperature I could see the bottom under the pier) and empty of critters except for a few gulls.  I did a toe test and it felt so nice that I decided to go without my wetsuit for the first time in a year.  Allison was along to paddle with us.   We swam the buoy line, starting left and then back under the pier to the creek and back to where we got in.  The top 18" of water didn't have any 'bite' to it, so my legs and chest were comfortable, but with each stroke my hands would pull up some deeper water that was a more normal temperature.  Maybe if I had switched to breast stroke I could have stayed completely in the toasty layer.  There were also some spots where the temperature dropped but they weren't large.  Rob wasn't real happy with the increased visibility, he doesn't want to know what is down there, but it was strange and fun for me to be able to see the bottom moving along under us all of the way out at the buoy line.  I was in for 28 minutes and got a little cold after I got out, I'm such a clod water wimp, but this was a rare and special opportunity to experience conditions like this at Avila Beach.  I'll have to try and remember this if we see some sub 50 degree water temperatures this winter.

Byron was sitting on the beach when I came back from taking the temperature, so we got to visit with him both before and after we swam.  He experienced a bad bike crash on the 17-Mile Drive in Carmel about a week ago.  He still looks pretty rough but a lot better than the day after photo.  He came up on a car that had parked in the bike lane (to take pictures of some deer) and with traffic on his left, forest on the right and not enough space to stop he hit the pavement rather than the back of the car.  Besides the abrasions to his back, arms, hands and chest he experienced some serious injuries to his face, exposing his jaw.  He was treated in the ER in Monterrey by an excellent plastic surgeon and looks like he will have a complete recovery.  
I'm sure that he would enjoy hearing from those of you who know him.  
We will have to add him to the Injured Reserve list along with Duke and set up a special spot for the walking wounded. 


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It was sort of eerie at Avila when I got there a little after 10 this morning.  Everything was still; there was no wind, the ocean was completely flat, the 'waves' would not have come up to your knee, there were not many people on the beach and there was not a bird, seal. dolphin, whale, otter or any other sea creature to be seen.  I actually checked my watch to see if I had somehow managed to arrive several hours early.  I got a water temperature of 59.  The water was extremely clear and clean looking.  From the pier I saw Allison on her kayak and spoke to her briefly.  She had had a group of seals following her but they had taken off to find someone else to play with.   Rob, Susan and Yvonne were already on the beach and were followed by Sylvia, Ronnie (who found us on the net and is doing an Alcatraz swim in a couple of weeks), Amy and her friend John who is new to swimming in the ocean and Gerry Gross.  Rob was not going to swim. He had crewed a successful Anacapa Island to Oxnard crossing Saturday and worn out.  Joining him on the beach were Dale and Al McVay  and Rick and Rhonda.  With two swimmers who were both new to us and ocean swimming I decided that a route up and down the buoy line would be best so if anyone became uncomfortable the beach was only a short swim away.  Everyone did fine and enjoyed themselves.  We had people swimming a lot of different speeds and so group became stretched out but Allison did a great job of working back and forth along the line, keeping track of everyone and lending navigating assistance as required.  The water was especially clear for Avila Beach,  which was even more unusual because the visibility is typically better in the winter when there is less plankton.  While swimming under the pier I could clearly see the base of the pilings in the sand and count the shells on the bottom.  

We will swim Wednesday evening at 5:30, Sunday at 11 and also MONDAY, LABOR DAY at 11.  After  Monday's swim there will be a pot luck lunch.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Wednesday Evening, August 22, 2012

In the water this evening were Rob, John, Niel and about 10,000 sooty shearwaters.  While we were getting ready and talking about where to swim the birds showed up and began feeding on a concentration of bait fish that was about a mile offshore.  We walked down to the water and stood there trying to determine if and where the bait ball was moving towards so we could be somewhere else and if we wanted to go ahead and get in.   The birds didn't come any closer to shore but did move east and west.  After about 20 minutes of watching we decided to do a short swim on the west side of the pier.   The water temperature was 60 degrees and much cleaner than last Sunday with a slight breeze from the east, so the conditions were inviting, we just didn't want to find ourselves too close to the feeding frenzy.  We got started, swam under the pier and headed west staying farther inside the buoy line towards shore than usual.  We stopped frequently to keep an eye on the location of the birds.  The water temperature went way up as entered the outflow from the creek near the last buoy.   It was so warm that swimming out of it on the way back felt like I was just getting in.  We crossed back under the pier and just hung out in the water for a while, it was so comfortable bobbing around in the swell.  By the time that we had dried off the birds had dispersed.  There were whales around Avila earlier in the day but they were not to be seen this evening.  


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It was sunny and warm in and out of the water today.   The water was 60 degrees and much cleaner looking than it has been recently.  There were almost no sea birds to be seen, only one seal cruising the shore break and no sign of the bait fish we saw on last Wednesday evening.   Swimming today were Monte, Jennifer, Rick, Niel, Rob, Amy, Adrian and Gerry.  This was Adrian's first time swimming with us.  We did the triangle route clockwise and kept well away from the pier today, as there were a lot of fishermen with lines in the water.  There was only a slight breeze so the water was flat except for near the end of the pier where we were more exposed to a small swell from the SW.  With both 60 degree water and plenty of sunshine it was very comfortable out there today.  After we were back on the beach I could see a series of large splashes in the water that were probably 2 miles +/- off shore.  Even with my binoculars I could not tell what was making motor home size fountains in the water but it had to be either whales breaching, or a Russian submarines......  I wish that they had been just a bit closer.

Rob and I will be swimming Wednesday evening at 5:30. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Wednesday Evening, August 15, 2012

It was sunny with a slight offshore breeze.  The water was 59 degrees and has become cloudy with plankton.  There were a few pelicans diving on the east side of the pier but there was no organized feeding going on.  There were 2 or 3 Humpback whales in pretty close, between the Avila Rock and the buoy line.  Rob's friend Cliff was going to join us.  Cliff has multiple channel crossings (Catalina 2X, English Channel once) and was interested in seeing what swimming is like here.  Dave had come by to relax on the beach so he and Cliff had lots of channel swim stuff to talk about.  We decided to go in on the east side of the pier, cross under, do the west half of the triangle and decide if we wanted more when we were at the end of the pier.  Allison would accompany us in her kayak.  When we grouped up at the end of the pier Allison pointed out a whale that was close by, off of the end of the pier.  This is the first time I have seen a whale while swimming!  We decided to head in towards the middle of the buoy line on the east side, swinging wide to avoid the fishing lines from the pier.  While we were drying off a large flock of birds came around the end of the pier from the west.  they just kept coming and began feeding on some bait fish near the buoy line.  The birds just kept arriving until this was the largest bait boil I have seen, covering almost the length of the buoy line and from the buoys in to the sand.  I could see a dozen or more seals and a whale working the fringes of the bait ball.  We were able to walk down to the water and pick up small fish, 4" or 5" long (sardines, smelt?) that were being washed up on the shore.  People were lining the railing along Front Street to watch the spectacle.  I'm very glad that we were already out of the water. 
I'll be back on Sunday.  Rob will be in Long Beach for the Naples Island Swim this weekend.
Cliff's wife, Cliff, Rob, Allison and Niel just before the birds arrived.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

58 degrees, not much wind and whales!

Swimming today were Rob 2, Sylvia, Yvonne, Rick, Amy and Dale.  On the beach soaking up the sun were Niel, Rob, Dave and Gerry.  Allison and Beth were out kayaking and  accompanied the swimmers.  The group did the triangle going clockwise.  It is a good thing they had the kayaks along because a couple of jet skis came way too close at high speed. Where's a harpoon when you need one? The whales showed up about 3/4 of the way towards 
Avila Rock when the group was getting in the water.  There were perhaps 3 of them and they were working slowly to the west.  You could easily see their spouts and backs when they surfaced.  45 minutes later when the group was getting out of the water the whales were off of the end of the Avila Pier.  Allison and Beth went out and were able to get a close view.

We will be swimming Wednesday evening at 5:30.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Three Martini Swim

I accomplished a long time goal by completing a Three Martini swim at Avila Beach on Saturday.  This is a 10k/6.2 mile course made up of three laps around a triangular course.  The 'stem' of the glass is the length of the Avila Pier.  The 'glass' is a triangle made up by connecting the end of the Avila Pier, the end of the Poly Pier and the rock off of Fossil Point.  A lap around the glass is 2 miles.  Add in the in and out along the pier and you have 10k. 
The water temperature was 57 degrees.  Rob and Beth Barnes had volunteered to paddle for me.  I got in at 8:20AM.  There was fog and low clouds but all three turning points were visible from the beach.  The first lap went smoothly.  there was a swell and current out of the SW theat was pushing us around a bit.  At the start of the second leg from the Poly Pier to the rock the fog had thickened around the point and we see the rock but could stills see the Avila Pier.  By the time we pulled even with the Avila Pier the fog had cleared and we continued on.  The sun came out at the beginning of the third lap and brought with it a rising wind.  The start of the last leg from the rock back to the Avila Pier was tough.  I was running out of gas and was swimming into a building chop.  As we got closer to shore the chop lessened and I found some more energy.  It felt good to swim in along the pier and stand up.  I was swimming for 3 hr. 49 min. 

Many thanks to Rob and Beth for keeping me safe, fed and well navigated.  I could not have done this without both of you.
Historical Note: 
Tom Lorish gave this route it's name after he, Pat Farrar and I completed one lap many years ago. 
Duke Parmelly is the only other swimmer to have completed a Three Martini swim.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Wednesday Evening, August 8, 2012

A Wonderful Evening at The Beach

Niel, Ed, Ruta and Rob were joined this evening by Shawn.  Shawn and his family were vacationing locally and brought him by so he could swim in the ocean.  Shawn is from Santa Clarita, swims and does triathlons.  The water was 64 degrees (!), kind'a cloudy and there was a offshore type breeze coming from the ESE.  There were a lot of pelicans and other birds diving on bait fish on the east side of the pier so we decided to go in on the right side where there was no action.  Ed and Ruta stayed on the buoy line while Rob, Shawn and I continued on over to the Poly Pier.  Shawn was good about waiting for the more senior and slower swimmers in our group.  Once at the Poly Pier we doubled back along our route to our starting point, covering about a mile.

Last week we had a visit form the mythical (sorry Rob) superhero Aqua Thor.  This week we had three real superheros come by for a visit.  When we got out of the water Duke and Angela were waiting on the beach.  A week and a half ago Duke (a.k.a. Rufus) had suffered a heart attack while competing in the Golita tri.  After a week in the hospital he was released this past Monday and this was the first opportunity to see him.  He looks great and is doing well.  You can read all of the posts and see the photos at  

While I was walking back from the showers Dave VanMouwerik pulled up to the curb.  Dave had stopped by to say hi and to thank Rob and I for being in Palos Verdes on Monday at the finish of his successful Catalina Channel Crossing.  Dave did very well, finishing on schedule in in just over 12 hours.  He looked a lot better, less tired and greasy.  
Thas is Dave on the right, briefly talking with Rob before getting back in to swim back out to the boat.  There are photos of and links to an article about Dave's swim at

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday, August, 5, 2012

The water was 57 degrees and flat, with no swell or chop worth noting.  It was sunny, warm and calm.  There were a few pelicans and seals around.  We had a big group today; Niel, Monty and a friend who's name I did not get, Sylvia, Rob, Ed, Ruta, Dale, Rick, Byron, Susan and Gerry.  Allison accompanied us in her kayak.  There were boats forming up for a race near the end of the pier so we stayed to the buoy line today.  The route turned into however long each of us wanted to go along the buoy line, with most people doing between a mile and a mile and a half.  We had a few curious seals check us out and Allison and Rob took a short detour to investigate a good sized sea jelly.  

Dave VanMouwerik begins his Catalina Channel crossing attempt tonight at approximation 11:30PM.  You can follow his progress at


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Wednesday Evening, August 1, 2012

It was warm and sunny at Avila with a fog bank hanging over Shell and Pismo Beaches.  The beach was still crowded, which is usually a indication of warm water, and I got a reading of 62 degrees.  There was a steady breeze from the SE, a chop on the water and a current running from left to right.  The water has dirtied up some but it did not look like a red tide.  There were a few pelicans diving for dinner, both near the end of the Avila Pier and over towards the Poly Pier, but it was pretty quiet.  Rob and I were getting ready to get in when we were greeted to a surprise appearance of Aqua Thor, super hero of the beach and open water swimming.
With his skulls speedo and helmet swim cap Rob and I felt confident that no ocean critter would dare mess with us on this swim.
Well, it turns out that Aqua Thor is a bit shy of the water so he didn't get in with us.  Rob and I swam down the buoy line to the point and back in 33 minutes.  It was bumpy and into the current on the way down to the point but we got a nice push on the way back.  The water temperature was sure friendly and there was much less loose kelp then there had been on Sunday.