Saturday, November 3, 2012

Living Here: Cool, Cool Water


Swimming at my house is not the same as it was a month or more ago. The water in the pool is cooling rapidly.

I notice this situation each fall. Around the equinox in late September, abruptly the sun is far enough south that the tall trees in my neighbors' yards shade the pool for a good part of the day. Without benefit of the warming afternoon sun, within a couple of weeks the water temperature has plummeted.

During this season I still get in the pool, but instead of an extended, soothing, leisurely soak, now the experience is brisk. If I need a little help waking up in the morning, I know exactly what to do. A brief plunge accomplishes the task. I often take these morning wake-up dips with a steaming cup of coffee on hand. Poolside cold drinks are out of the question for the next few months.

Gone for a while are the relaxing afternoon or evening "floats," when I hover between the earth and sky on a cushion of warm water and observe nature, or snooze. I'll miss those tranquil, meditative moments and the calm but energized way I feel when I leave the water afterward.

Swims for the time being are quicker, more active affairs. My pool is not long enough to allow me to get up any momentum swimming laps, but I kick energetically, dive like a seal, and tread water for exercise. It is reported that there can be health benefits to plunging or swimming in cold water. All I know is that when the pool is cool I feel invigorated when I get out.

Either way, whether the water is warm or cool, a little pool time makes me feel good.

A side benefit of the cool months in Yucatán is that pool maintenance is easier. That's because algae that sometimes grow on pool sides and bottom reproduce much more slowly in cool water. Microorganisms and bacteria that cloud water are in the same boat. I use less chemicals and work less often at keeping the pool clean during the cool season.

I continue to swim in all but the chilliest weather. Normally there are times from December into February when I don't swim much at all. It just seems too cold. It's funny to remember how I participated in the Polar Bear Swim in the Chukchi Sea at Barrow, Alaska some years ago. That day we splashed and swam amidst large chunks of ice. On the coldest Yucatecan winter days, my Mérida pool water would seem absolutely tropical by comparison.


Read another post on enjoying the water here.

16 comments:

  1. Mary and I still laugh about our first visit to Merida, over Christmas 2009. Our rented casita behind a home in Garcia Gineres looked out onto our hosts' lovely pool. The day after our late arrival brought a temperature of 73ºF, which is summer for those of us from Buffalo. Mary, being the hardier, went for a swim. A concerned neighbor contacted our hosts, concerned that she would die of pneumonia! ~eric.

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    1. It's all about what you get used to. I no longer can take the cold like I used to and tolerate heat fairly well, now that I have lived in this climate for a few years. I manage without AC and in fact don't like it.

      I know Yucatecans who wrap up in blankets and drag out their parkas when it gets below 70F...a hot summer day where I grew up.

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  2. Do you find that many people don't use their pools much in the winter? The mid-day heat in November or January still seems like good swimming weather to me, coming from the north.

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    1. Although afternoon weather may be fairly warm, especially for us northerners, the pool water can be pretty chilly. I think that most of the folks swimming in the winter months around here are foreigners...read Eric's comment above. After being here for so many years, although I do get in occasionally, I tend to act more like a Yucatecan in this regard than not.

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  3. Our very first trip to Merida was in January. The weather was warm, but I could not stay in the pool for more than a few minutes. I think the key is to just plunge in and kick around a lot. I would love to find an inexpensive way to heat the water just a bit in the cooler months. Just a few degrees would really help, but we all know that takes energy and energy is not cheap.

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    1. There are solar pool heaters of various designs, and I've thought about buying one, or finding plans and building one. You are right, just a few degrees would make a lot of difference, and a solar heater could accomplish this. The only ongoing expense would be to run a pump and shouldn't be prohibitive. However my problem is that the way my pool and patio are designed, I don't have a good space for one...I'd have to take out too many plants and trees and it would be ugly. Going to the roof, which would be the best place, is just too far. If I ever build another place, a solar pool heater will be included in the construction design.

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    2. Some folks simply run a length of hose - like garden hose or that clear plastic hose that's everywhere - up to the roof. Arrange a few large coils of lots of hose on the roof, paint it black, and return to the pool. A small pump works best to circulate the water slowly and only run it when the sun is shining. If you lay a sheet of plexiglass over the coils, they get even hotter.

      Well, it's an idea, anyway, and the only cost is hose and pump.

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    3. And it's a good idea and would work in many cases. Variations of it have crossed my mind. In this case, with a roof that's two stories up and not terribly close to the pool, it would require festooning the back of the house with a lot of hose. If I can't make a nice-looking, permanent installation, I'd rather just live with cool water...

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  4. Just started reading your blog, Marc - very enjoyable.

    We are in the process of renovating our first house in the Centro, and the decision to go with a similar 'passive' unheated system has been made easier by reading your posts on the subject.

    Gracias.

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    1. Paul, I am glad that my observations helped out. I just took a quick look at your blog. The designs pictured there are very interesting and I will spend some more time looking at them. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    2. I'm going to add some photos and drawings of our house on the blog today (hopefully).

      You can never have too many 'building a house in Merida' blogs.

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    3. I just looked at the post. We're neighbors. I walk by your place just about every day.

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  5. That's great - we'll be there over the holidays (Dec.24th - 1st). Feel free to drop by for a visit.

    p.s. I don't quite look like my avatar.

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  6. As I sit here in San Miguel wrapped in my rebozo (it must have been pretty cold last night), reading your blog it's hard to imagine it being that cold in the Yucatan. But then I think back to a diving trip I took to Cozumel, in March actually, and the wind was really chilly. We all had to go out and buy sweatshirts.

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    1. It does get chilly here, but not by SMA or northern standards. I have never needed anything heavier than a sweater or light jacket in Merida. There are pueblos in the interior of the Peninsula that get down to near freezing once in awhile. I haven't experienced that so far.

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