Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 4: Birchgrove
Yes, although it seemed insane at first, when the 5km radius restriction was imposed in mid-August 2021 our best option for a swim proved to be Birchgrove, between the Balmain Sailing Club and Dawn Fraser Baths. The stories about the presence of bull sharks in the harbour had us hunting down research about them online and it seems as though they don’t really enjoy cold water, so with water temperature around 14 degrees Celsius at one stage and rarely getting to 17 C, we felt relatively safe.
It seems to be about 400m from the Sailing Club to Dawn Fraser Baths and we were happy to stay there. The regular distance allowed us to structure the sessions like our pool sets and everyone seemed content with that too. The water temperature proved shocking at first, but you do get used to it and once again, most of us had wetsuits. There was no cafe nearby, but lockdown rules prevented us congregating at cafes, so there was no point in having one anyway.
We usually swam three to four 800m loops, including some medleys, drills, build-ups, drafting practice in pairs (or threes), distance-per-stroke and some changing pace work.
One of our swimmer’s partner (Helen) loves to bake and she brought us BAKED GOODSTM on a couple of occasions, including the best frosted cinnamon scrolls I’ve ever had.
Apart from some razor sharp oyster shells on ladders and pylons the only hazard we encountered were jelly fish that seemed to stay about an arms length under the water. On a couple of days they were all over our course, but they proved pretty harmless. One swimmer did see a big scary stinger, but I didn’t. Maybe I am blessed with an ability to not notice things?
I missed the last two weeks of swimming due to my wetsuit being sent to Caringbah for repair. I could have driven or even walked down to Caringbah pick it up several days ago, but I wasn’t allowed to and it still has not arrived in the post.
By the last week of September we were led to believe that outdoor pools would reopen on the 27th, so hopefully this will be the last time I need to post about swimming during lockdowns. I live alone and my relations are all outside both my 5km and 10km radius during lockdown, so this was basically the only way I could regularly catch up with friends. Swimming is very important to me in a way that is hard to express, but I don’t much like swimming alone, so I am really grateful to a range of people who kept me company over these lockdown periods: Howard, Henry, Rob, Anita, Justine, Kirk, Axel, Carl, Paul Simon and Richard (hope I’ve not forgotten anyone else who swam with us at any of our locations).
Swimming in Sydney during COVID Lockdowns Part 3: Redleaf Pool 2021
When the 10 km radius limit was imposed we could no longer travel down to Malabar as it was beyond our travel limit. Ugh. This new phase of our COVID lockdown had started badly. Redleaf or more correctly Murray Rose Pool is a harbourside pool run by Woollahra Municipal Council on Seven Shillings Beach. It looked ideal for us with change rooms, showers and a decent cafe for a post-swim coffee.
I was unable to find parking anywhere nearby, so I was not going to make our agreed start time. I did find parking eventually, somewhere in South Melbourne from memory, and then began the long trek with my wetsuit and towel to the pool. I may as well have left the car at home and walked from there. In the end I was only a few hours late, but I still raced to get into my wetsuit and then ran down to the beach to feel the water temperature and join my freezing comrades.
It seems to be a little-known fact, but the waters in Murray Rose Pool are piped in directly from the Antarctic. This pool is the coldest pool on our planet. Upon entering the water my brain was immediately frozen and I had no idea what I was doing for the next 45 minutes. My Garmin watch told me the water temperature was 15-16 degrees Celsius, but that is rubbish. It was nowhere near that warm.
Unfortunately there are no photos of this swimming location as my fingers were too frozen to be trusted near a camera or even my phone. It took me approximately three weeks to warm up and feel somewhat human again. My brain may never recover. Needles to say, we did not return.