Week 26 – half-way there

Week 26 Saturday 24 November to Friday 30 November 2012

Sandy beach

39 degrees. 5.10pm. 29 November 2012

365 Swims has reached the half-way point: this caper started on 1 June 2012, so if my calculations are correct there are only 182.5 swims to go. Easy. It won’t get cold again til April or so, by which time I’ll be counting down the last 60 swims. Too easy.

The Half-Way Week had plenty of variety.

Snorkel drawing

Illustration by Andrew Baird, from The Mariner, April 2002

‘Snorkelled at Jawbone Marine Sanctuary on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday. Hardly any fish, but it’s always cool and peaceful.

Image of banjo shark

Image courtesy of Reefwatch

‘Saw a small banjo shark in the shallows  at Willi beach on Wednesday morning. Banjo sharks are also known as fiddler rays and banjo rays. I reckon they have the head of a stingray, the tail of a shark and the colouring pattern of, almost, a giraffe. Talk about an identity crisis.


This strange vessel turned up at Willi beach on Wednesday morning. Mysterious at first, by day’s end the riddle was solved. A new marker.

Beach and rocks

In the background, the new yellow marker. (I wasn’t game enough to swim out there and take a pic.)

The new marker has buoyed the spirits of the serious swimmers. No need to worry about the yellow buoy near the angling club floating away anymore. There’s now a large yellow marker with a sign and a cross, a solid post for all to see: swimmers, anglers, and %^&*% jet-skiers.

Crowd at beach

39 Degrees. 5pm, 29 November. Several hundred reasons for swimming at 6am.

Serious heat arrived on Thursday. Thirty-nine degrees heat. Snorkelling at Jawbone was a relief – from the heat, and from the crowd at the beach.

Swimming in 1929

Willy Dolphins celebrate reaching the 365 Swims half-way mark. Photo courtesy of fortinbras/flickr


Week 25 – fishing harbour

Week 25 – Saturday 17 November to Friday 23 November 2012

Williamstown private fishing harbour

Photo by John Grieve

At the end of Bayview St, between the Williamstown swimming beach and Jawbone Marine Sanctuary, is this private fishing harbour. It’s a world unto its own. A step back in time.

‘I’m always taken by the solitariness of the place, especially during the week,’ says Willy Dolphin John Grieve, who pedals past regularly on his way to his morning dip. ‘It’s places like this that make a city, that  give a city its character.’

Williamstown fishing harbour

Photo by John Grieve

You don’t see many people here but you’ll see plenty of pelicans when the boats come in.  And a few weeks ago a seal was lolling about on its back.

Boats at fishing harbour

Photo by John Grieve

Who built the harbour? And when? And how did they get around local council by-laws? 365 Swims might need to visit the local history society. Or chat to some old salts.

Fishing village painting by John Percival

Gannets diving, painting by John Perceval

On the bike path between the fishing harbour and Wiliamstown High School’s Bayview St campus is this re-production of a painting by noted Australian artist John Perceval. The painting, the Hobsons Bay history marker tells us,  is one of a series of seascapes Perceval painted in Williamstown in 1956-57. He painted another Williamstown series ten years later.

John Grieve, who kindly took the three fishing harbour photographs, gets down to the beach very early for his daily dip. Then he heads off, more often than not, to play croquet. In the winter he barracks for Williamstown, from the Morris St ticket-box half-forward-flank.

Week 24 – rhythm

Week 24- Saturday 10 November to Friday 16 November 2012

Photo of notepad and goggles

Swimming, like writing, is all about rhythm. Kevin Moran, one of the Willy Dolphins, is a distance swimmer, so he knows a thing or two about rhythm. He’s also the Willy Dolphin’s poet laureate. At the past two Christmas breakfasts he’s entertained the Dolphins with a poetic account of the year’s characters and some of their antics. Here is his poem from 2010.

Each and every morning, every day of the year,

A handful of people gather, whom some folk think are queer.

Just upon the sunrise every single day

They walk into the cold waters down at Port Philip Bay.

The beach front at Williamstown is a picturesque sight,

When all these fearless swimmers, are seen in full flight.

Some come along for a plunge, others swim for miles,

The passer-bys say hello, but they all have curious smiles.

“Ice-breakers”, was the caption, on the photo in the paper,

That brought them notoriety for their morning caper.

John is in there early while Mark heads out to sea,

With Teresa, Pam and Paul making up another three.

Karen does her own thing and Roger is close at hand,

While Andrew, Lester and Michael make up another band.

Tom is also with them with Kimba close behind,

And on a Thursday and a Friday, Kevin you will find.

There is always a little banter about the local news,

Lester confronts one and all to ascertain their views.

Same change on the pathway, where they have to strip,

And hope that their towel stays, wrapped around their hip.

No-one has complained yet, and showers have been erected,

So now that it is Summer, a bigger crowd may be expected.

– Kevin Moran. 20/12/2010

(With apologies to fellow Dolphins Manny, Clive, Keith, Stephen, Greg, David, Dan and others.)


Kevin Moran has been a keen swimmer for all his life and took up open water swimming five years ago. Twice a week he drives from Essendon to Williamstown ( a 20 minute drive) to swim with his Willy Dolphins colleagues.

Week 23 – Jawbone (1)

Week 23: Saturday 3 November to Friday 9 November 2012

Beach sign

The weather was warm, the sky was clear. Jawbone was calling. I hadn’t snorkelled at Jawbone Marine Sanctuary since May, so it was great to be back. Not that there were many fish to see last Sunday. Only two, in fact. Don’t ask me their names. (Larry and Harry, maybe. Bill and Ben, perhaps. Wilma and Thelma, possibly. Scarlet and Penelope…)

The sanctuary is just around the corner from Williamstown beach. On a warm day the beach will be packed. Around the corner you’ve  just about got the water to yourself, save for the stingrays, the zebra fish, the banjo shark, the Northern Pacific seastars…

It’s a gorgeous spot that was pretty much inaccessible before the old rifle range was developed, 20 years ago, into the Rifle Range Estate. You pedal through modern suburbia – brick houses jammed up together like sardines in a tin can – and then you’re on a little beach, in a little oasis.

Here’s hoping there are a few more fish for The Great Victorian Fish Count in a few weeks’ time. It was fun last year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Week 22 – suits

Week 22 Saturday 27 October to Friday 2 November 2012

Lately, on Saturday mornings, there have been groups of  triathlon swimmers hitting the water at Willi at seven on a Saturday morning.  Twenty or thirty of them. Wearing wetsuits. A blackness in the water.

‘Rubber men,’ says Tom derisively. Then he wades out in his bathers and with his labrador Kimba (president of the Willy Dolphins).

‘Reel ’em in,’ I say to Tom, a bloke who thrives on a challenge. ‘Reel ’em in.’

I save my wetsuits  for the hot days, for snorkelling at Jawbone Marine Sanctuary. My wetsuits are my sunblock. And my protection from rocks and ‘rays.

Any day now I’ll get the wetsuits from the garage. And the flippers. And the gloves. And the earplugs. And the snorkel.