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Alki | Please tap on the glass

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Tag: Alki

The Alki Outfalls – preview

For the past few months I’ve been taking a break from serious training and just trying to enjoy being in the water again. To focus my playtime a bit, I’ve come up with a project to work on – exploring two big sewer outfalls off our beach at Alki. This will give me a fun way to use GoPros and drones and boats and swimming to have a new little adventure just a few feet down from where I’ve been swimming these past few years.

I’m not a pro at this, so you’ll see lots of inconsistency in format, style, fonts, and general feel of the video. This is just me messing around, trying to find what works and what doesn’t. With any luck, they’ll get better over time.

Before I say to much, here’s the first short preview of what’s to come…

Puget Sound Temperatures

Once or twice a month, the folks at King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks send a boat out onto Puget Sound, drop some instruments to the bottom, pull them back up, and then do this again somewhere else. A full description of CTD sampling methods is available at King County’s Marine Monitoring website. The data they collect from this sampling is publicly available and I’m sure is put to good use, but I’ve never come across any of it in a presentable format.

So with Excel and some free time, here is a snapshot of the around 370,000 data points at three locations taken over the past 15 years.

It looks like King County offers fifteen CTD locations, but since I don’t have all the time in the world, I only looked at the three I found most interesting (i.e. closest to Alki Beach). Stations LSEP01, LSNT01, and KSSK02 are shown below.


The CTD data is recorded every half meter, both on the trip down to depth and the trip back to the surface. In addition to temperature and depth, King County records conductivity, dissolved oxygen, light transmission, and chlorophyll. But again, limited time, limited resources, so I’m only looking at temperature. A temperature profile over the past five months is shown below.


At the surface, water cools and warms quickly while the temperature the bottom trails slowly behind. Temperatures at depth peaked this year in late August or early September. We’re now in the annual cooling-off period, with surface temperatures this week getting below 10C. Early March is when coldest temperatures are found at depth.

Because of the fickle nature of surface temperatures, let’g almost totally ignore them. Instead, lets give some emphasis to the stable, plodding temperatures down towards the bottom of the Puget Sound. What are they up to?



CTD-LSNT01-2000to2015At all three locations, 2015 has had the warmest maximum and minimum temperatures of the past fifteen years by around one degree C. No wonder swimming felt so nice.

For the record, the data goes back to 21 October 1998. Why did I stop at the beginning of 2000? Well, I just forgot to, and ran out of time. The data is there if you want to look at it. At LSEP01, it looked kind of like 2008.

So what does this mean? What will this year be like? I don’t know and I don’t know. If you compare December temperatures to the rest of the year, there isn’t much of a pattern. A warm or cold December seems to have little correlation to winter lows, and even less to the next summer’s high.


So what does the future hold? My guess is that the temperatures in March will be a smidge colder than last year’s, but I’m not a magician. We’ll just have to wait and see.

data from: King County Puget Sound Marine Monitoring http://green2.kingcounty.gov/marine/Monitoring

Photos: Alki Light

Photos: Alki Beach

The benefit of being regular

On Saturdays, my typical morning routine is to swim off Alki Beach at 9:30am, followed by a warm-up period in Tully’s, followed by an additional drink or two at Celtic Swell one block over. It is planned, it is prescribed, it is predictable, it is other synonymous ‘P’ adjectives.

The benefits of being a regular at a commercial establishment are readily apparent. For example when I get my post-swim beverages, both hot and cold. Like anyone who frequents a café, pub, or otherwise, I can count on a friendly smile awaiting me when I walk in shivering, a welcome respite from the cold impersonality that trails the new guy in a big city. Being this type of regular also comes with a free drink every now and then, an added bonus.

But that type of regularity, the Regular Patron, is not the only type of regularity. A big part of my Saturday routine has been a practiced effort to make my routine a routine. To arrive at a given time and, more importantly, to finish swimming at a certain time. To establish one time each week when everyone knows there will be at least one other person swimming at the beach. Whereas the Regular Patron comes wanting, the Regular Swimmer comes to share.

One of the best things about CIBBOWS, the open-water swim group that calls home Grimaldo’s Chair at the end of Brighton 4th Street in Brooklyn, is their well-rehearsed predictability and dependability. Throughout the year, and especially in the summer and especially on Saturdays, a group of swimmers will be at the beach from around 9am on through the early evening. Without fail. There is no need to call ahead; you just know there is always someone there.

When I swam with CIBBOWS, I always intended to meet them at 10am for a swim. I wanted to be a Regular. The train ride from the Upper East Side was over 90 minutes and more often than not a late night or a hangover or both precluded me from arriving as planned. I was not the predictable one of the group for sure, often arriving around 1pm just as most people were packing up. But that was fine, I could depend on the rest of the group to hold down the tradition on which I depended; I’d just arrive when I could, do a short swim, and then eat everyone’s left-over snacks.

Upon arriving in Seattle, no such group existed. It wasn’t long before I found a small network of swimmers willing to join me in the always chilly waters and often inclement weather of the Pacific Northwest winter, but every meeting required a plan: time, place, directions, guest list, warm-up spot, transportation. Fun for us, but certainly not great for the part of me that wanted to sleep in an irresponsibly show up mid-afternoon, and not great for getting those unsure and unfamiliar to drop in.

It is now over a year later and we’ve grown. We’ve picked a time and place. Every Saturday, we say, someone will be at Alki Bathhouse at 9:30. An average swimmer will be in the water for a half-hour, and will then head to Tully’s to warm up, we say. And we advertise this. When someone asks, “Will you be cancelling this weekend because of [holiday/weather/Seahawks]?” we’re quick to remind everyone that Of Course we will be there at 9:30am, independent of time, temperature, and teams. We’re always there at 9:30am. Always. And this is working.

As of this weekend, we’ve expanded our formerly invite-only swim group to an ad-hoc, make-it-if-you-can group of eleven plus, shivering on the beach on Saturdays! Local residents have taken note of the unusually large numbers of regular swimmers in the water. Our fireside chats at Tully’s are taking over a larger and larger portion of the café. And this is only February!

The benefit of being the Regular Swimmer is that other people become regulars.

Now, my new goal is to meet someone at the beach who arrived for a swim at 1pm because she knew a group would still be there hanging out after their regular 9:30am swim. And maybe someday, I can be that person again.

Photos: Sea creatures of Alki

Alki Beach swim map