Friday, September 29, 2017

Evanston September 29

Small Craft Warning, 5-7ft waves with occasional 8-9 foot waves, strong NW wind, water temperature dropping 3 degrees, cold air ... So says the Weather service and press. So why are we at the Lake at Evanston? Actually if today were a Saturday instead of Friday I would have preferred Ohio Street, but I hate dealing with traffic and parking downtown on weekdays. Jody points out that Ohio St would have lower waves but much more chop and be worse to swim in. But more because careful parsing of the reports indicated that this dire forecast was really for later in the day and with nighttime wind from the west the wind waves would be offshore with only soft reflection nearshore. As for the temperature we were hoping that the waves would mix the water, our cold earlier in the week with the warmer offshore water. Also the mere existence of waves adds a degree or 2 of warmth to the water.

But all of the above, the official forecast and my interpretation was off. There were actually 2-4 foot wind waves coming in from the northeast, remember waves always come in towards shore regardless of wind direction. In addition there were some larger waves. And these brought the warmer water that had been blown offshore by the recent SW winds. So water temperatures were in the low 67's. The air was actually about 64 with bright sun so it was certainly warm enough to swim. Going north the waves were hard to swim in, we mostly did breast stroke, partly to keep our heads out of the water and partly to stick closer together. Up by the north wall the waves were larger but with longer wavelengths. We stood on our sandbar about 50 yards from the wall and shore for a while but that got us cold. We swam crawl back to the beach non-stop and what was usually a 20 minute swim only took about 10. This warmed us up. Back at the beach there were some waves big and hard enough to body surf so we did that for a while. Then, for some strange reason, park district workers came to paint the guard chairs. Since that is where we left our stuff we had to get out.

So why were we here today? Because it was loads of fun.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Evanston September 26

The heat continues, another hot day predicted. Although there was some talk of wavy conditions that was not the case this morning. By the beach we had glass smooth water although there was some chop and even a few waves, boat wakes from far off boats? But the water was colder again, more homogeneous but in the 64-65 range. This is somewhat strange since all the reporting stations seem to insist that the water is still in the 70's. But for anyone who follows this blog that it is not unusual during an August heat wave for the water to drop from 70 on one hot day to 58 on the next. I have called this the "August inversion" where a west wind blows the warm top layer out to be replaced by "up-welling" of cold water from lower in the Lake. But this year our heat wave came in September and we did not really have strong west winds. So perhaps it was only a half-hearted inversion so only dropped the temperature by a couple of degrees and then only near shore.

As Jody and I were leaving a lone woman about our age swam into our beach with a safety buoy seemingly from nowhere. Since we were curious we greeted her as she came in an asked her where she came from. She apparently got in the lake at Lighthouse beach on the far north side of Evanston and swam the the 3.5 miles to our beach. She was actually relieved when we told her that the water was 65. She thought it felt cold but maybe it was just her and was glad to hear that it really was colder then it had been. And we were relieved to know that we aren't the only crazy ones swimming in the lake in late September.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Evanston, September 25

We are still in our September heat wave, air temperatures are still expected to get near 90. But the Lake has cooled anyway, although pockets of cooler and warmer water were still present the average was a consistent 67. Probably upwelling from the bottom of the lake was responsible. Not much in the way of waves today, we did see a lot of algae accumulation near the beach, some waves would have helped. Did a quick out and back because I was due at the dentist shortly.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Evanston, September 23

Not quite as perfect as yesterday but still probably best September 23rd ever. Slight air quality alert problem and a south breeze with a few small waves in the middle, flat near the walls. Got buzzed by a jet ski. The big change in the water is that the absence of bigger waves has left the water unmixed both horizontally and vertically. Although generally the water was in the 70-72 degree range there were areas of warmth and areas, especially under the surface where it was quite cold. Jody and I both volunteered at a 5K running race so we came later than usual. Quite a crowd on the beach. We even saw one other swimmer.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Evanston, September 22

A perfect summer swim. Except it is no longer summer but Fall as of today. Water was 71 air on its way to a high of 94, bright sun, no wind, no waves, just a little light chop. I had on my summer gear, no magic (neoprene) pants, no thermal cap, no jacket or sweatshirt on the way to or from the beach. Not much to say other than it was perfect.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Evanston September 20

Looking back at old diaries the water was "in low 70's" on September 20, 1998. Today I recorded a 71 near the north wall so perhaps this ties the record for late season swims. A southeast wind today made it not too bad swimming to the north wall with 1 foot waves building to 3 foot chop. The large chop was no-doubt due to the waves being impeded by the wall. We were OK but it was quite an adventure getting away from the wall. I had wanted to go around the end to see the other side, but we had already seen the north side of the south wall, which was very calm. We did find that there was, as not unexpected, a northbound current. This made the swim back very long. In fact Jody opted to go to the beach instead of the wall, but I convinced her that we needed to check that the water was actually calm and did not just appear that way. It was calm. While we were finishing a lady windsurfer I had seen years ago had her windsurfer on the beach. She seems about our age. In spite of the relatively rough water she calmly mounted her board and took off into the lake. Its funny that while there were plenty of people out to enjoy this warm (going to 88) September beach day only us old folks actually went in the water.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Evanston, September 18

We started out this summer slowly, but we are now catching up. There were a variety of reasons for not visiting the Lake early, but the September warm up, Jody's retirement and the lack of good pool options has put us on the lake 3 days a week lately.

Today we were back again in hard waves again, 2-3 feet with a short period at the beginning. We opted to just swim halfway because of the waves and the chop on top of them. I felt like I was drowning one drop at a time as I ingested a bit of water in my nose each time I came up for air swimming against the waves on the way out. The way back was better and we went to the wall. The wind was blowing almost straight along the wall so it was the same on both sides. I was somewhat surprised that there was no rip current at all. By the time we got back to the beach it seemed much calmer than it was when we started out. Jody tried to convince me it just seemed that way since we had been out in it. But the Wilmette Buoy data backed me, at about the time we went in the wave height started down and the period increased so it was better. The sun was out and the water was 68.0 uniformly so at least the water felt pleasant.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Evanston September 16

The Lake keeps changing. We expected something worse but today there were 1 foot trochoidal waves. (I have described these in previous posts.) By the beach and out in the open water they were quite tame, especially if you don't accidentally swim directly into one needing a breath. But out by the North wall they had churned up the water into soft 3ft chop. The water was balmy 68.6 and the air was quite warm with a hot sun going towards the upper 80's later today. So it was actually pleasant, Jody and I lollygagged for 15 minutes or so just enjoying the ride. Back at the south wall it was fairly calm again but we could see it was rougher on the other side. So we investigated. Strangely it was not nearly as rough as below the the North wall. But we felt warmer. In fact it was, I recorded the first Lake temperature above 70, actually 70.2, since early August. We were later today so it was almost 9 by the time we left, there was already a bunch of people at the beach to enjoy this, possibly last, beautiful beach day of the year.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Evanston Thursday September 14

Same spot, different Lake. After almost 2 weeks of waves the water was absolutely flat by the beach, 1 inch ripples further out. We did have fog all the way to the beach where suddenly the fog lifted and the lake was too bright to look at. But then patches of fog obscured the sun. But we always had 100 yards or so of visibility and never got out of sight of the trees on shore. Jody loved the pool-like flatness so I had a hard time keeping up. Relatively speaking I'm faster in the waves. Both the water, 67.2 and air were warmer than recent swims but the fog and flatness made it seem much colder. But we had a great wall to wall swim.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Evanston Tuesday, September 12

Last Thursday September 7 we had nice soft 3 foot waves. Today we had hard 1 ft waves. The difference is in the period, 5sec on Thursday, 2sec today. Last Thursday we really did not feel the waves swimming crawl but today, because our bodies did not fit on a single wave, the waves were very noticeable, both up and down and with water from the chop in our faces. It was probably the toughest swim Jody and I had this summer but we still did wall to wall. Water temperature is still an OK 66.3 F.

Ohio Street Big Shoulders, September 9

A nice day this year, full sun, not too hot with an easterly breeze. Conditions were somewhat worse than September 2, with the wind from a different direction. The race directors announced a temperature of 64 so that swimmers could do a last minute switch to wetsuits. I did not, of course, take the offer. In fact the water temperature was between 66 and 67 depending on where on the course you were. Both turns had waves but otherwise it was just chop. Overall, one of the nicer Big Shoulders swims.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Evanston, September 7

The waves have been large all week with cold air temperatures and slowly falling Lake temperatures. We avoided the Lake. But finally we couldn't wait any more so we came anyway with 3 foot waves recorded at the buoy. With a west wind we figured the beach should be lower, that was not completely true. But these waves were soft, walking through the surf zone these waves would flow around us rather than knocking us around. There were a lot of strange holes in the sand, however making walking some what of an adventure. One good thing is that all the larger pebbles that had lined the water line making entry and exit uncomfortable are now up on the beach, a big improvement.

Swimming was actually easy, the waves were mostly long swells with a small bit of chop. When seriously swimming it seemed like swimming on flat lake water. Changing to a breast stroke however made the waves very visible. We did a short swim for various reasons, one being the cold air, about 60, and cool water about 66.

The other reason was to fool around in the waves. One thing that surprised us was the lack of a rip current by the near wall. Also Jody, and to a smaller extent I, tried to body surf on the waves. But again they were too soft, rather than carry you they just flowed around you.

Ohio Street, September 2

Another wavy day but we, Jody and I, wanted to take advantage of the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to get me a bit more work towards Big Shoulders next week. So we decided, based on wind direction to try Ohio Street. With some of the construction on the flyover done, but not yet open to the public, and all the summer buoys put away, including the mile markers, it seemed less crowded and more inviting than recent visits. Near the beach the water was choppy but not very wavy but the farther north we swam the waves became bigger. These were hard waves and the trip north was difficult. We did not go beyond the bend, partly because we needed to get back home and partly because of the 3 foot waves. The trip back was much easier. Water was about 69 and the air was around 60.