August 04, 2014

Lions and tigers and... 5-foot muskies?

Decided to suit up for a nice, leisurely open water swim this morning on Buckham's Bay before all the holiday boat traffic got going. Buckham's is a narrow, 2-km long bay favoured by anglers in both summer and winter for its fantastic fishing. In a conversation yesterday, a neighbour told me about a fish his friend caught last week.

"My buddy starts yelling at me from his boat. Said he caught a 5-foot muskie!" he exclaimed.

Yeah right, I thought.

"So I thought 'yeah, right!'," my neighbour continued. "I figured it was probably this big." He held out his hands a pretty generous fish-length apart. "Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen him get it into the boat. Unreal. It was seriously 5 feet long." Extending his arms and fingertips for effect, suggesting something roughly as long as I am tall.


Fast forward to this morning. The water is quiet, the public ramp is empty save for one fellow getting ready for an early boat ride with his son (bonus -- someone to help me zip up my wetsuit). I'm excited to try out my new MyFloat -- a nifty buoyant drybag that not only lets you carry your shoes and car keys with you, but also acts as a big yellow buoy so there's less chance of being mowed down by a power boat. You tether it to your waist, and it floats behind you about even with your knees. I pack it up, clip it on, and set out.

The water is warm, if somewhat murky. OK, really murky. I hit some weeds -- which normally doesn't bother me, but today I head for the middle of the bay to avoid them as much as possible. I thought of my neighbour's fish story. Fish like to stay in the weeds right? So I'm good. Though big fish like deeper water. Not so good.

Let's be clear -- I generally have no issue with fish. A fairly sizable one (by our local river standards) swam right under me a couple of days ago while I was warming up for a race. It was only around 18" long... while somewhat startling, it was no big deal. I've dived with sharks, but you could see those coming. No such luxury today. I started to consider what a surprise encounter with a 5-foot muskie would be like. Hey, noise scares away fish, right? I start humming underwater. That'll do it. No, wait -- I probably sound like a wounded animal. A mega-muskie breakfast burrito. I stop humming. I decide to chill out for a minute to take in the quiet beauty of the morning. I look up and gaze upon the loveliness that is nature. And that's when my float, which I've all but forgotten about, bumps into my elbow.

Thankfully the tranquility-piercing scream happens only in my head.

Beautiful, tranquil Buckham's Bay. Cue "Jaws" theme.
You might be surprised to hear that the remainder of my swim was actually very relaxing. I love to go out in open water for an hour and cruise at a leisurely pace. Too bad it's timed in triathlon. Feels kind of like wolfing down filet mignon (while getting punched in the face) rather than savouring and enjoying it.

I was really looking forward to grabbing a to-go latte and breakfast sandwich at the local grill -- which opens at 6:00 a.m. to feed and caffeinate the hordes of summer boaters. I wandered in wearing my swimsuit and towel (It's a small community, and it was a really big towel. Also, I have no shame.) and asked the young girl at the counter for a latte. "What's a latte?" was her reply. I was sure she must have misheard me. "You know, espresso with steamed milk..." Blank stare. Really? The good news in all this was, while the girl's supervisor showed her how to use the coffee machine, I struck up a conversation with a new resident of the Bay who recently moved from Bermuda. Turns out he's an avid swimmer. See? A plus to showing up in your swimsuit! Meeting new neighbours! Wait, that didn't come out the way I intended. Anyway, I filled him in on Ottawa's Bring on the Bay 3k swim, and the upcoming 4k "Escape from Aylmer-traz" interprovincial swim.

Finally on my way with breakfast in hand, I was grateful I'd waited to eat till after my swim. Because if you're going to enter the domain of the giant muskie, you probably shouldn't season yourself with sausage, egg, and cheese.

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