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Island Life

Through the fog of years, I still remember the pool I learned to swim in. I was four, and the water was clear and warm. It was actually someone’s private, backyard pool- I do not remember their name. All the basics of the learning process have mostly faded from recollection, but I have no residual recognition of apprehension or fear involved with any of it, so everything must have gone mostly right with my mastering the basics of water dynamics. For some reason, my two remaining obvious memories of that time involve nutrition and deception through fear. I’m not sure if it was another student, or the pool owner’s daughter, but I remember her saying something about absorbing vitamin D from the sun. As this was the late 1950’s, it seems like an odd memory in that a fact such as this would have been more associated with “health nuts” than something served up as general knowledge and fact.

While the vitamin D thing has been confirmed and affirmed through time, I’m not so sure of the second recollection. It involved a story of this man who was in a pool when, in spite of its general crystal clarity, a growing cloud of red began to form around him. Supposedly, towards his own embarrassment and shame, he was called out for peeing in the pool, as the red coloration was supposedly some sort of dye that was lurking in the pool water and was there to indicate the presence of urine. I suppose this could actually have happened, but I think it was mostly told to us in order to plant that vague inkling of paranoia in the back of our brains that the sign over on the fence that read “We don’t swim in your toilet, please don’t pee in our pool” was more than just a clever warning. There has always been a Men’s room close enough to the pool deck so that relieving myself in the same water as I was swimming in has never seemed like a favorable option in any sense. As for swimming in a toilet, cinematically it sounds intriguing, but practically speaking it seems like a less than desirable pursuit.

Even though I have been in situations where there has been some indication of danger while I was in the water, I can’t recall any time when I was particularly worried about my well being. There have been, however, a couple of times in the last year or so when I felt threatened while out on the water in vessels of various shapes and sizes. Early last year, while still experimenting with the technique and rigors of rowing before injury altered that course, I was out in a single shell before the full light of dawn when I felt a bump and found myself stuck on a buoy that had caught in one of the oar riggers. In that awkward instance I felt a mild panic settle in because a light wind and the tide threatened to topple me into the dark waters all around. I knew I could swim to shore- I just didn’t want to get dumped into the coldness of the inner harbor in January, as well as suffering the humiliation of a ritual newbie rower dunking. I managed to dislodge the buoy and avoid a morning dip, but it took a few minutes of breathing and sitting still and balanced before the panic shock subsided.

And then there was the nervousness of just a few days ago, when on the maiden voyage of our recently acquired sailing craft we made the turn just south of Manzanita after a run downwind and began to tack back into the wind in order to make our way upwind to inner Quartermaster. The boat heeled way over to starboard with a creak and a bit of slapping from the sails, as I wasn’t sure where the edge was in terms of what this boat could do in these winds. Again, it wasn’t as if both Wendy and myself would have any trouble swimming to shore from there, in spite of the fifty two degree water temperature. It was more the fear of losing the boat and having to deal with the aftermath of its rescue and recovery.
With each tack across the outer harbor we gained confidence in our abilities and timing. Wendy got faster at releasing and the hauling in of the jib sheets- I got better at playing the mainsail and the tiller. The fear and the worry slowly subsided as the confidence of experience, however newly won, took over the rest of the sail. As it was though, our day’s lesson on the water ran a bit later than we had planned on, and we arrived a bit late for the six o’clock start of the Friends of Vashon Pool meeting. As it was though, we were there in time to see the graphic representation of the retractable pool roof that is being proposed, as well as the two year, possible workflow timeline for it to become a reality.

The Pool Friends have identified two goals as their reason for being. The first is to get an extended season for the pool- this has been achieved with the budgeting of the entire extra month of September in 2015. The second is to realize the full potential of the pool by getting it covered so that it can be used year ‘round. This would allow for the establishment of a number of new programs that would help to facilitate the lofty goal of getting to the point where every Vashon resident knows how to swim. We are, after all, surrounded by water, with a wide array of waterborne activities available all around us. With a retractable roof, the Vashon Pool could be come the hub of Island aquatics, with indoor scuba and kayak safety classes, a high school swim team, pre-season aqua jogging for the cross country and track teams, senior water exercise classes, maritime safety classes, masters swimming workouts, and of course swimming lessons for all ages, along with other activities still to be identified.

To reduce pool startup and opening costs this year, pool manager Scott Bonney has been running the pool filters and chlorination equipment in order to avoid the expense and water use involved in flushing a winter’s worth of algae and grunge from off season inoperation. With the advent of a new thermal pool cover intended to further cut operating costs, the idea has been hatched for an early spring, one day pool opening as a kick off for the Friends of Vashon Pool, “Raise the Roof” campaign to make covering the Vashon pool and year round indoor swimming here a reality. As it stands now, the plan is to bring the pool up to the upper eighties and have it open for lap swim and open swim on Saturday April 4th. This will be a free swim, open to everyone, with the Friends of Vashon Pool on hand with an informational booth to explain this new venture. Follow the friends on the Facebook at the website is in the works. And don’t forget to come on in, because the water will be fine.