There have been more dolphins at Williamstown Beach this autumn and winter than I have seen before. And what happened yesterday has never happened to me before.
So what has happened was – Rick and I were swimming quite quickly when I saw a little dolphin swim underneath us – the tail was flat not a vertical sharky tail.
I looked around and saw a couple of big dolphins bobbing up and down next to us. As soon as I got near a no-boating marker, I stood up on its ledge to look around. Then it became clear that we were surrounded by dolphins. There were about 20 and they wanted to say hello. So I cleaned the goggles and tried to duck dive underwater and swim around with the dolphins.
They were in no hurry to leave us and it all happened very close to shore.
Dolphins in Port Phillip Bay are a separate species called Burrunan Dolphins and are under threat. There’s said to be about 120 left in the bay and a smaller number in Gippsland Lakes.
Burrunan dolphins have white markings on their tummy.
Want to have a go at open water swimming? Check out this temperature guide (below).
Spoiler alert: You can do it. You can acclimatise to the cold water, with wetsuit or without. Soon the pool will be too warm for you and your body will be thanking you for having a go.
In the middle of winter, the ocean water temperature goes down to 9c in Melbourne Australia. That is very cold and no one can stay in the water for extended periods of time at that temperature.
Here’s a typical timeline of a cold water swim at this temp:
* 1 minute: Walk in slowly, thinking: “No I can’t do this.”
* 5 minutes: Standing in waist deep water, thinking: “I def can’t do this. Can I turn around and get out without being noticed?”
* 8 minutes: Dive in, start to swim: “OMG, how do I breathe?”
* 10 minutes: Just start to breathe normally (sort of).
* 15 minutes: “I think I’m doing it.”
* 20 minutes: “I feel amazing and I’m not really all that cold. haha.”
* 25 minutes: “I’m awesome and I’m feeling things and bits I haven’t felt for so long.”
* 35 minutes: “OK now I’m starting to feel cold again.”
* 40-45 minutes: Getting out – “No I don’t want to get out, let’s do it again.”
* 10 minutes after getting out: “Yeah I’m cold, where is my thermos? My jumper? My ugg boots? How do I dress myself again?”
* Rest of day: “You can’t tell me nothing, I swam in the cold ocean today.”
Before you leave home, check the weather conditions and the water temperature. It’s easy to google the water temperature for your local area. You can look up Seatemperature.org or bom.gov.au for your local ocean water temperatures.
Any temperatures below about 18 C is cold water swimming.
And here is a quick temperature guide to swimming in the sea:
Cold water swimming temperatures in centigrade/Celsius:
Mid 20s degrees: warm enough for everyone
22C: Warm in Victoria, but a bit nippy for northerners from NSW and Queensland!
20C: You might like a wetsuit for longer swims but not necessary.
18C: Time for a wetsuit unless your swim time is quite short. FINA and Swimming Australia say wetsuits (not swim-suits) are mandatory in OWS events under 18 degrees.
16C: FINA and Swimming Australia rules say no event can be held in water under 16 degrees.
15.5C: This is really cold and you will need time to recover from swimming in water of this temperature. You can’t leave the water and expect to be able to drive a car, for example. Swimmers who want to qualify for an English Channel attempt must swim for two hours, without wetsuit in water that is 15.5C or less.
10C: This is cold for everyone, including those who do cold water swimming every day. Limit swims to 45 minutes and don’t attempt without a wetsuit at very least.
8C: Do not enter the water for more than a very short period of time – max 30 minutes – for the most experienced swimmers.
5C: This is called Ice swimming. Please seek medical advice.
What about swimming in rivers and lakes?
Freshwater is often colder than the sea so approach rivers and lakes with care. Plus freshwater doesn’t have the same buoyancy as salt water so swimming can be a bit more tiring. The sea water keeps you afloat more easily than water in the pool or freshwater in rivers and lakes.
Safety in the open water:
The golden rules from Lifesaving Australia are:
Swim in a group, never swim alone
Don’t stray far from shore
Shorten your swim time in winter.
Also: A thermos of hot tea is your best friend. You will get colder when you get out of cool water so what you do after a swim is very important. The warm summer months are ok. You can hang around in the sun and get dry quickly. If it is a cool day, you need to get out of your wet gear, get warm and monitor yourself.