Sunday, May 15, 2011

grunting sealions

I did two swims today.

The first was a full-body wetsuit long-distance swim. Judging from google maps, I swam about a kilometer. It's about 800m out to the island I want to swim to this summer, so I figure I need to be able to swim about 4km before I try it, because there will be a lot of current.

As I was stepping into the water, two sealions cruised by at a distance of about 10 meters (the width of a two-lane street). Yet again, this is the closest I've ever been to these animals. The distance keeps on closing, and I'm trying hard to keep cautious about it.

They dove after staring at me for a while, and I waited 2-3 minutes for them to resurface before I swam out. I never saw them resurface, which always scares the shit out of me because I imagine them just sitting there under the water, watching me.

(By the way, the sealion colony is out at the island I want to swim to, so I'm expecting a full-on-nightmarish experience once I actually do try that swim. I'll have someone with me in a boat though.)

While swimming across my usual cove, a seal came up close - again, closer than a seal has ever come while I've been in the water. I think it's the same seal I always see, and I'm afraid she is getting too comfortable around me. This time she literally swam alongside me, watching me with her big black unblinking eyes. She was about 10m away as well. Every time she dove I had a bit of a panic - I think I would literally shit in my wetsuit if she nudged me. I freaked out a bit when I saw movement right behind me, but it was my own foot.

From now on, I'm bringing my swimming goggles out with me. This "no visibility in the lower hemisphere" bullshit has got to stop.

I now realize I will have a wilderness encounter every time I enter the ocean. It's always different, and it's always a huge rush.

Today I thought to myself, while swimming, "If you keep doing this every day, it's only a matter of time before something dangerous happens, or you have a big scare." Then I thought, there are probably ways to maximize the time before that happens, but I don't know what those are yet.

For the moment, I just act like a seal - stay alert, pop up high and check the far horizon in 360 degrees fairly often. Maybe the goggles will help too.

I went down for a naked swim at sunset tonight and something big splashed in the water behind me just as I was taking off my clothes. It sounded big like a seal, and the ripples were big, but seals don't do that. Big salmon or something? I don't know. I thanked the gods for letting me be so close to these creatures, and slipped in.

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