Eleuthera recap

The staff at the Island School/ Cape Eleuthera Institute all wear a lot of hats and have to be flexible. Clare and I headed to the boathouse for our 5 am rendezvous with Ron, and learned that Scott would be taking the first shift on kayak. Rachel (who was supposed to take the first kayak shift) was up very late taking care of a student needing medical attention.


Our boat was loaded with kayak and supplies for the day… We only needed to board with our personal items and head for Lighthouse Beach. Ron held a course about 1/2 mile off shore. Traveling around 20 knots was smooth, and the ambient light of the full moon somehow made the air feel warmer. When we arrived at Lighthouse, Ron dropped anchor about 100 yards from the beach. There are some shallow coral formations that were hard to differentiate from the dark areas of turtle grass from topside, but once I goggled up, I could see quite clearly as I swam to the beach accompanied by Scott. It was now about 6:45… A few minutes later than the 6:30 start goal, but with my back to the low cliff, I was facing a full moon; bright white, beams shooting through the scattered clouds and striking the ocean in the distance. Behind me, and out of sight, I could sense the orange-red glow of the soon to be rising sun. What a production. The lighting crew here is top notch!


I stood atop a plastic milk crate that just happened to be lying on the beach, raised my hand, lowered my arm as Scott blew a whistle to signal the boat that we were off. The low level of atmospheric light appeared to be magnified under the waters surface, and the features were quite clear as Scott and I pass through the narrow channel which (see figure 1) is very shallow, and separates the first detached rock from the island proper. Turn right…. Continue.

We hold a steady course at what feels to me like a quarter mile from shore on my right; Scott kayaking steadily along at my ten ‘clock; Clare and Ron in the boat… A 22 foot center console inboard-outboard with a t- top canopy. The bottom remains clearly visible in water that I guess ranges from 15 to 30 feet deep. The features alternate between clean sandy bottom, sea grasses, and coral heads. I see turtles, lobsters, tube sponges, sea fans, sting rays, friendly little colorful reef fish, etc. It’s a moving picture show I’ve become familiar with, so… Nothing really distracting, and no strong urges to interrupt the swim for a free dive to the bottom for a closer inspection. Onward. Before my 3 hour feed I notice the sea grassed bent acutely towards us. The ebb has begun a bit earlier than I guessed it would… But it was purely a guess, as the tide data locations are each more than thirty miles away, one on the east of the island, and one on the west of the island. From east to west there is about a 2 hour difference, so the theory is to calculate the distance from one of those points and take your best guess. Example…. Midway between the two: add an hour from the east or subtract an hour from the west. Yes, it’s crude, but since we are heading in a westerly direction, I expect the ebb to be longer than 6 hours. Still gives us plenty of time to finish with a flood.


Hour 4, and like clockwork, the transfer boat arrives with Charlie and Rachel. For a couple of minutes I swim ahead while Scott and Rachel switch out on kayak, but soon, Rachel paddles up to my left, Charlie and Clare keeping watch from “Dave and Di”, and Ron and Scott are heading back to the dock where I’m sure other duties await them.

I’m only marginally familiar with the distances and landmarks along the course on this stretch and I ask Rachel if we are approaching Bannerman Town. She lets me know that we are coming up on Davis Marina… Bannerman Town was way back. Davis Marina is 10.8 miles from where we started… half way at 6hrs 40mins. Two miles beyond Davis is Plum Creek. I vaguely remember swimming to a small wreck during a previous Total Immersion Swim Camp visit to Plum Creek, and Rachel confirms… We will be going right over it. Plum Creek is at about 13 miles from Lighthouse… Another mile and a half and we are passing Deep Creek. This is the last settlement we pass from Rock Sound until we arrive at the Island School. A few faculty members live here, and there are a couple of favorite establishments at the crossroad… Friendly Bob’s bar and liqueur store and Sharil’s Restaurant…No Swearing: No Hustling. http://www.discover-eleuthera-bahamas.com/sharils.html

I’m not sure where we were when the next team change occurred, but I do remember that Jai was kayaking and Rob had taken over at the wheel while the ebb was still going strong. I recognized Diel Point by the monument standing tall. Things were starting to look familiar now as we were approaching the stretch favored for our early morning ” coach’s swims” from camps past. From Diel Point it was easy to see the Chub Point rock pile memorial. Up to this point, we have been moving through shallow water… Less than 40 feet, but now, Jai and I were at the edge of the canyon. To my left was the abyss and we traveled the knife edge for a bit before going deep. The sun was now pretty low in the sky, and the synchronized change in atmospheric light and my view to black was intense. Three silver trigger fish bumbled by… From a distance, i thought they were sunfish. I stopped to watch them pass. Large groups of pink moon jelly fish were bubbling up from the deep. Occasionally bumping into me and then tumbling away.

We passed Chub Point wide, and it felt like things were flooding now, but without a visual lock on the seagrass, I really had no point of reference. The shoreline here is very familiar and soon we would pass High Rock and Fourth Hole Beach. That iconic photo; fisheye lens of Terry Laughlin and me was taken right at High Rock. This one is at Fourth Hole: http://www.totalimmersion.net/open-water-camps

Scott and Rachel were heading out from Fourth Hole to join us for the home stretch… Scott swimming, and Rachel kayaking. I didn’t see Scott until he was right next to me, but I was able to anticipate their arrival as Jai was waving and raising his paddle as they approached. The green lights that I attached to the deck lines of the kayak were again visible to me, and I assumed that the green strobe on my goggle strap was equally visible. Night had fallen, but the bottom was again visible. It was hard to differentiate between the streetlights, marina lights and headlights. A large welcoming crew was waiting for our landing, and two of the school vans had driven close to the beach with their headlights lighting the finish. The flood was ripping around the point. We shot past the intended finish by about a hundred yards.

13 hours 41 minutes 55 seconds… A beautiful journey!
My exit through the rocky strip was surprisingly graceful… I had warned everyone not to be alarmed by what would almost certainly be a spastic-stumble-crawl to the beach. Better to prepare for the worst.
Rather than swim back to the boat, I opt for a van ride thinking I could probably be showered, dried off ,and dressed before the boat docks and unloads. Ron gives me the shirt off his back and the hat off his head for the ride. Karen delivers food… some delicious wahoo and pasta. I’m too tired to eat, but wake up early the next day and devour it all.

I got a bit burned. Perhaps the sunscreen was a bit past its best by date. Clare wants to go for a swim, and a little cool down swim sounds like a good idea. We do a few laps around the reef balls outside of the dining area and then swim north toward the CEI dorms. We swim into a group of 12 spotted eagle rays in four feet of water. They divide and swim around us… one bumps Clare and they swim onward. It’s a lazy day for us that goes by quickly, and a celebratory dinner at Sharil’s was the perfect way to gather all those who made the swim possible and talk about future plans to introduce this amazing place to more swimmers.

So many thanks to an amazing crew!
Team coordinator: Karen Knight
Pilots: Ron Knight, Charlie Sandor, Rob Lloyd
Kayakers: Scott Aland, Rachel Shapiro, Jai Leal
Mixologist, observer, better half: Clare
…and to those responsible for introducing me to the amazing swimming world of South Eleuthera: Terry Laughlin, Justin Dimmell, Andrew Farrell, and Chris Maxey

Eleuthera update

Eleuthera update:

We had a meeting yesterday afternoon to firm up a few details and address concerns.


The wind has been howling at nearly 20 knots. It is slowing down, and the forecast is still good for Thursday with 10 -12 knot winds from the north and wave heights less than 2 meters.


Support will be divided in shifts. Clare and I will meet up with Ron and Rachel at the Island School boathouse at 5 AM. We will motor some 24 miles to Lighthouse Beach for a 6:30 splash. Sunrise is at 7:10, so we will start the swim with a few of the standard green flashing lights on my person and along the kayak deck lines. Rachel will be paddling. Ron will be setting the course.

At approximately 10:30, Charlie will motor out to meet us with Scott. Scott will take over kayaking, Charlie at the helm, Ron and Rachel will head back to the Island School. The third and final shift change will take place around 2:30, with Ron back, and Jai kayaking. Scott might stay on and join me in the water.


There is currently a lot of bullshark activity in the marina at Powell Point. Clare and I went over there yesterday afternoon to check ’em out, and there were a few swimming around. The final mile of the swim will pass through a couple of their hangout spots, so, Clare and I thought it might be a good idea to create a larger presence for the home stretch. There will be an additional kayak at Sunrise Beach for someone to paddle out and meet us.

The Cape Eleuthera Institute is planning to tag a few of the bulls in the marina this afternoon, so hopefully we will be able to watch the process. I’m excited about that…. The only other thing I have to do today is rest and stretch and keep hydrated!

Eleuthera – the plan

The seed was planted sometime in 2006 during the first Total Immersion Open Water Swim Camp. We were the guests of the Island School www.islandschool.org at an ideal location… Cape Eleuthera; surrounded be water. Every one of the staff has a strong relationship with the ocean, and it was Justin Dimmell who first proposed the swim as “wouldn’t it be awesome to….”

I’ve had the opportunity to explore a bunch of spots along the route during several OW camps and extended visits… the last in 2009, and though it has always been in the back of my mind, this swim has taken a back seat for a few years. The planets have finally aligned, and Clare and I are back at the Island School ready to give it the old college try.


I think it is best if a Marathon Swim is defined by certain geographical features, and this one easily complies. The southern coast line of Eleuthera terminates at Powell Point on the west and East End on the east. The swim will begin and end on land beyond these two points. 22 miles. The start will be just north of the eastern most contiguous point of south Eleuthera. There are a few detached rocks beyond, and it will likely be necessary for the boat and kayak to take the long way around, but I plan to thread the needle. The coastline runs parallel to the Exuma Valley where ocean depths exceed 5000′, and in one area, affectionately referred to as “shark alley”, the Valley closes in to less than a quarter mile of the shoreline. From here, it will be another 3 miles west to round Powell Point and land on Sunrise Beach.


Though this is still a work in progress, I think we have most of the details sorted out. The winds have been from the south for the past few days, which has created a good amount of chop along the coast…not great, but the good news is that the forecast is for a 180 degree shift for the next few days, and it looks like Thursday, march 27 will be ideal with some overcast and air temperatures in the 70’s. Daylight is good, so the plan is to splash just pre-dawn and , hopefully finish before sunset. We will meet up at the boathouse at 5 AM. Clare will be handling my feeds and keeping stats. The remainder of the crew will be working shifts… Scott, Rachel, Jai on kayak, Ron and ? Driving the boat. Personnel will be transferred to location from the Island School dock by another of their fleet.

La Traversee

Mental imagery…. I did much to prepare myself for this swim in Quebec by focusing… on details… yet unknown. Quiet time (too little in my life) meant: eyes closed; slow rhythmic breathing; details. One at a time.

Imagine: the water… color/clarity/temperature/taste/feel/movement the weather… wind/clouds the scenery… shoreline features/boats etc. When one arrives in a new place, there is always a comparison…. one by one real details displace the imagined.


It is a 10.5 hour drive without traffic/ without rest stops/ without customs and immigration checks, and we left High Falls at 4 PM Thursday afternoon… you do the math. The sun was setting by the time we hit Montreal. The roads soon narrowed to two lanes and there was very little evidence of civilization for hours and hours. No lights, no cars, nothing. The few signs of life looked like camp sites so… I imagined that we were driving through a vast wilderness of lakes and forests. There was very little change in elevation. At about 3 AM Friday morning, we arrived in Roberval. A couple of motels, a hardware store, some fast food joints, and there… our hotel on the left. It was obvious that the lake was across the road; no lights, no reflection, but one could sense the water. There was a little confusion at the desk… check in for the 20th starts at 4PM. OK, check us in for the 19th we need to hit the sack. It took a little juggling, but 10 minutes later we were asleep.


The highway forks onto a “main street”. La Traversee posters on the light posts mark the way. We pass the hospital, a few restaurants, banks, shops, offices… then a park, and just past that, an impressive complex that include a small cove with grandstand seating below an array of international flags. There is a triangular swim course set up… 500 meters per loop I am told; a blue floating dock with a touch pad bridge; another permanent dock with some workers attaching ramps. Behind that a couple of large white tents, and then… the Traversee offices. I enter the offices and am quickly met my Marie and Caroline and Roger.

Roger takes us on a quick tour of the facility and gives us a little history of the event. Marie presents me with a copy of the local paper and tells me that a local news station will be coming by to chat in a little while… but until then the tour continues. On the dock, I meet The International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Coach, Gilles Potvin. Monsieur Potvin has competed in La Traversee du Lac St Jean and a bunch of other professional marathon races that took place in the rivers that we drove past last night in the dark. We board his boat for a short tour of the finish and to take a few temperature readings. When we return to the dock, I have a brief interview. I find some of these questions difficult to answer… especially the whys. I think the “why do you want to do this?” question is more easily answered in the past tense.


I am anxious to get in the water, so I goggle up and jump in for a few loops around the triangle. It feels good. Cool 70ish degrees. The water is hard and translucent brown from the iron content (as per M. Potvin) but clear. I fall into a comfortable pace and suddenly there is a swimmer passing me. I match a few strokes and then quickly stop myself as another and another swimmer flies by. They were part of a group of swimmers attending a training camp in Roberval. Many would be participating in one of the races (1k, 2k, 5k) on saturday and are (or will be) national team members. Another of the swimmers that flew by washttp://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?…_van_der_Hulst ….crazy fast! Ian is swimming the pro 32k next week.

A couple of loops quickly turned into 3k… time to get out, dry off, eat, sleep, arrive back here at 4:50 AM to board the van to Peribonka for a 7 AM splash time.


I assembled a few bags of feed (5 scoops perpetuem/ 4 scoops endurolytes) and explained the system to Clare. Each baggie was to be mixed in a 1/2 gallon container (the motherlode). This mix consumed at a rate of 12oz/30min. Each 12oz mix would have an additional 2oz water added to it. I would get 2.5 hours out of each motherlode. Other feed items available by request.

I lay out my pre swim clothes, pack my post swim clothes, set the alarm and go to sleep.


We wake up, load the car, grab some coffee and head for the office parking lot. Everyone is there already and to my surprise, the van is filled up with women to see us off! Marie is our tour guide for the 90 minute drive and gives a bit of local history as we pass through a few rural villages, and over white water rivers. Its really beautiful and still.

We arrive at the marina in Peribonka a little early and the boats are being checked over and loaded up. My escort would be a small armada consisting of a 16 foot skiff with an 8.8 hp motor. Clare would be feeding me from this boat. There was a spare 16 footer with an extra motor on board. Also, a 25′ cabin cruiser with an EMT and a 17′ army zodiac complete with a rescue diver on board.

They gave me some instructions…. 3 buoys in Peribonka keep them on your right, right, and left. A countdown in french… I didn’t know where we were until they got to trois… and splash time! The start is actually up river to a buoy, turn 90 degrees to another buoy, 90 degrees and………

There is a small triangular island not too far from the start. I’m guessing its formation has something to do with where the rivers converge, and after that… there is nothing to see for a long time. The water was dead flat at the start which created quite a contrast with a minor chop that would accompany me for hours and hours. I tried to find a good stroke rate to accompany it, but sadly, it always felt just a bit awkward. The 16 footer Clare was in seemed to bob quite a bit. I could see her hanging on… not for dear life, but enough to try and stabilize. I started with a stroke rate of 68 for a couple of hours and then settled into 62. I did try to bring it up a bit several times, but it felt sloppy and since the water was a comfortable temperature, there wasn’t the need to try and generate extra heat.

So it went for hours and hours, feeding every 30 minutes on delicious strawberry-vanilla Perpetuem and plugging away toward Roberval.


I asked Clare to alert me when we were 3 miles to the finish. I really had no idea of how far we had come or how far there was still to go. Gilles Potvin pointed out a water treatment plant and warned me, “you will be looking at that for a long time, but as soon as you pass it, the finish comes quickly”.

I tried to avoid looking at it and started to breathe on my left so to eliminate the temptation. I switched to feeding on chocolate GU for the last 2.5 hours. After 10 hours of milky bland Perpetuem, the sweetness of the chocolate was intense, but in a good way. I didn’t want to dilute it with water, and since the sprinkler system was working well, I felt adequately hydrated enough to forego additional H2O.

An additional support boat had come out. I assumed this meant we were close. Still breathing on my left, I was suddenly startled when I noticed a bunch of boulders a foot or two beneath me… I stopped… looked right… I was nearly on top of the breakwater that protects the little cove… one last buoy, and head for the touch pad.


There were a good number of people waiting for me on the dock, including press, medical personnel, officials, and a bunch of young swimmers who I imagine swam one of the races earlier in the day. Many thanks to Gilles Potvin for bringing his swimmers to greet me! I took a long minute before walking up the stairs to the dock… making sure that I had “good legs” for a dignified exit. I was tired of course but felt good otherwise. A blue terrycloth robe was places on my shoulders, and I was handed a bouquet of flowers, and (as Clare and I were told is tradition) a most delicious square of fudge. Kisses, handshakes, high fives, congratulations… and we were off to the event hospital for a quick check up. Blood pressure; temperature; blood sugar…good, good, good. Off to a quick shower and then a sit down with the press for a few q’s and a’s.


The hospital and showers are all contained in the same building that the Traversee offices are in, and all within 50 paces of the finish. The efficiency of this organization is inspiring… the Gold Standard that I as an event director can’t possibly duplicate, but will do whatever I can to move toward. I’m not entirely surprised by this as I met Eric Juneau at the USMS sponsored Open Water Safety Conference and was quite impressed by his presentation.

I can’t recommend this event enough. It is a rare opportunity that an amateur swimmer can experience the professional atmosphere that La Traversee has created. I think every race director could benefit from a pilgrimage to Roberval.


…gotta go now, off to Finland and Sweden! more thoughts later

Maho Bay 2012

This is the 6th year I have worked open water swim camps with Terry and Total Immersion, and every year, the roster expands, and the experience is more rewarding. Celeste St Piere directed this camp as well as an all women’s camp the week before bringing together more than 80 swimmers in one of the most beautiful and accessible places in the world to swim in.


The Maho Bay eco-tent Village functioned as our home base. A large majority of campers and coaches also took residence here, so during swim breaks, there were opportunities to chat with swimmers in some of the other groups over a beer or a meal… at the dining pavilion or just under the shady canopy of a few trees (beware of falling iguana poop)


St John is sparsely populated, as a great majority of the island is national park. A network of hiking trails lead to ruins of sugar plantations and beautiful panoramic views. I broke a toe on the second day, so with a pass on hiking, got to log more aquatic time.

The Schedule

With nearly 50 swimmers ranging from OW beginners to well seasoned, we divided into small groups spending our morning sessions working on OW specific skills and afternoons applying those skills to longer group swims. There was an informal early morning “coaches swim” for those of us looking for a little extra credit. Terry circulated among all the groups and offered us some challenging focal points to carry with us as we explored Maho and the nearby bays.

Willie Miller and I had the honor of working with a rather ambitious group of swimmers, and our afternoon swims were consistently between 5 and 10k. I’ll describe a couple:

Maho to Waterlemon round trip

We started at Little Maho Bay and followed the buoy line through Francis Bay to Mary’s Point. Things were always a little bumpy here, and tarpon and eagle ray sightings are common. We continued into the wind east, and then south-east to Waterlemon Cay where we met up with a group of swimmers that hiked out to Waterlemon. after a brief chat, we swam into the beach at Leinster Bay where we fueled up with a snack and some water before swimming back to Maho. Six of us swam to Leinster Bay, two would hike back, but we picked up another so the five of us set out for the swim back. At Mary’s Point a school of 5 to 6 foot megalops atlanticus paraded by. Since we seemed to be making good time now with a tail wind, we decided to take a detour around Whistling Cay… counter-clockwise and then head straight back…. 12k. We swam much of this in sync.

Maho to Trunk Bay and back – Again, the start was at Little Maho with a heading south west to America’s Point. We continued along the buoy line staying on the outside of Cinnamon Cay and hugged the shore line around the point between Cinnamon Bay and Trunk Bay making a bee line to the small sandy beach at the west end of Trunk Bay. Water break and back this time taking the inside tracks around Trunk Cay and Cinnamon Cay…. 7k.

Sea Life

The shallows of Maho Bay abound with schools of tiny anchovy-like fish under constant assault from schools of palm sized fish from below, and dive-bombing pelicans from above. At times the attacks are so coordinated that many of these little guys beached themselves to escape the head on assault… the next wave bringing them back to the brine, disoriented, they now fall easy prey to the opportunistic juvenile tarpon cruising by. This is our daily show. We become familiar with the preferred territory of the turtles and sting rays (Big Maho) and giant red starfish also abound. A visiting manta ray with a 7′ wingspan cruised with coach Dave Cameron one afternoon, and barracudas would pop up anywhere.


I purchased an inflatable stand-up-paddleboard for this week, http://www.seaeagle.com/LongBoard.aspx , I spent almost as much time on the board as I did in the water, and rigged up a towing belt for some of the longer swim when we wanted to take along food, drink, cameras, etc… I also kept a phone and marine radio on board. The advantages of a board over a kayak are many; in the chop, standing is more visible to boaters than a kayaker, in heavy wind, the board remained easy to tow while swimming, in an emergency situation, it would be easy to put a swimmer on the board, on a long one way swim, the board could be folded up for the shuttle ride back to the camp.

I tried to find a pilot that would escort a small group of swimmers to Jost Van Dyke (BVI) 10k…but due to customs technicalities, couldn’t convince anyone to do it. Instead, on the day after the camp ended, Lennart Larson and I decided to swim to Cruz Bay. Much of the route was already familiar to us, but we would be going past Hawksnest, Caneel Bay and finally into the very busy Cruz Bay. We loaded up the SUP with a few gels and sports drinks and set off at 12:07. We had a bit of a tail wind for the first half and seemed to be making good time. This came to an abrupt end as we came around Hawksnest Point. At Turtle Bay, a strong rip was moving us northeast… into the narrow channel between the point and Henley Cay. This was not good, as many boats use this short cut to get to Cruz Bay. I told Lennart that the only chance I thought we had was to head into Turtle Bay and hug the shoreline into Caneel Bay. We took a hard left turn and swam around the point in very shallow water, our bodies just inches above the reef. It was easy to see that we were making steady but painfully slow progress… each stroke gaining only a few inches. We did persevere, and finally we were past the rip and back to a cruising speed. One more point to swim around and Cruz Bay was in sight. We swam from moored sailboat to sailboat looking both ways and timing things carefully to avoid any “conflict” and as we approached the beach on the north side of the ferry dock we could see Clare, Celeste, Andy, and Todd waiting for us… Dry clothes! It was 2:47. Lunch and a shuttle back to Maho. Tomorrow back to the snow in NY.



Every marathon swimmer knows that each splash is a learning experience… an opportunity to grow wiser and more deeply connected to the bodies of water we immerse ourselves in. A circumnavigation of Manhattan offers three “rivers” to commune with; each with unique characteristics that are affected by its sister “rivers’, the Long Island sound, the New York Harbor, and countless atmospheric possibilities. Add to this equation the human element, and its easy to see that putting together an event like MIMS is a daunting task, and a multiple circumnavigation…. mind boggling. With months of planning in the bank, the arrival of two tropical storms to the region created a period of increased flow to the Hudson River; knocking aside the predicted ebb and flood schedules for a few weeks.

Additionally, much of the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains were released from their heights to begin a journey to the sea in the form of reddish brown silt and mud. The “red cloud” was the cause of the recent cancellation of a favorite NYCSWIM event, the two-mile swim around Governors Island just a week ago. Though visible in satellite images the discoloration was hardly noticeable to a swimmer, and the Harlem River indeed looks quite inviting from a few feet above. Of course, directing a swim event around Manhattan is like going to bat against two Cy Young award winners at the same time, and Morty Berger has an excellent batting average. Even as a few curveballs were hurled at us (in the form of East River closures due to U.N. security protocol), just days before our scheduled splash, he kept the inning alive as we scrambled to come up with a “Plan B”. Of course this meant rescheduling, readjusting, reconfirming, and in a few cases, coming up with last minute substitutions. That this came together at all is a great testimony to the incredible support that the open water community can count on in New York. I am deeply indebted to the kayakers, and boat crews for their reliability and attention to safety details. The kayak schedule involved 5 paddlers working in shifts of 3, and linking up from three different locations.


Splash time was a little before 6 PM near the footbridge at 103st. Kayakers Gary, Margaret and Brad quickly fell into formation… Gary as point man, Margaret to my left and Brad to my right. I imagined how cool this would be from a bird’s eye view. We had a smaller boat leading, with crew members Janet, Willie and Gilles, and the mother ship stayed mostly behind with Morty, Rondi, John and Sharoz on board. They were responsible for mixing my feeds and getting them to Brad. Rondi was busy keeping stats of the swim as well. It was dark before we made it to the Hudson, The glow of the city at night had little warming effect, especially as the paddlers dropped back one at a time to don more layers to fend off the evening chill; still, the light reflecting off the water continued to build as we approached each bridge then… brief shadow, and light again. Janet was in the water near me, and with the added light, I could see the familiar smile on her face as we crossed under the Broadway Bridge, the Henry Hudson Bridge, and through Spuytin Duyvel (the bridge was open) into the Hudson. The “slightly briney” Harlem gave way to a noticeably fresher taste and colder temperature rather abruptly at the Henry Hudson Bridge. Was this an affirmation that the Hudson was still draining Irene from the Catskills? Perhaps. There was also a noticeable difference in temperature at a depth of about 18 inches…. Fresh cold water sitting on top of warmer brackish? By this time, the tight hamstring that I was babying by not kicking too much was cramping a bit, and to survive I stopped kicking all together. I guess this combined with the decreased buoyant effect of fresher water meant that my legs were dropping and creating some increased drag. I was telling myself that if I could hold out through the night, the sunrise would give me the boost I needed to finish strong, but unlike some other marathon swims I’ve done, you can’t just tough it out around Manhattan. There are deadlines to meet, miss one by too large a margin; and its over. I was falling off pace.

Hannah was now kayaking on my right, and after Gilles, and Willie each joined me in the water… Gilles for 90 minutes and Willie for 2 hours, Janet was back.

The temperature seemed to hold steady until we got near the battery where I felt another drop. Little bioluminescent creatures were now greeting us as we disturbed them with nearly every stroke.

We headed north in the east river. The Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges passed slowly….nothing like the rapid fire succession like during MIMS. Again, I focused on getting to daybreak to evaluate how I was doing, but was informed that we were now about an hour behind schedule, and it was inevitable that the tide would turn against us before lap 2. Teddy never got his chance to paddle for me though I was happy to see him out there, even if we didn’t have a chance to chat.

There is a lot of data to sort through, and a bit of time to start planning another go around. All in all, it was an incredible night in the water. I am fortunate to have been able to share it with so many good friends.

The Ederle Recap

Gertrude Ederle bio.

The day was amazing. Clare and I spent the night in Bklyn. I woke up early to mix my feeds and fill up a few thermoses with hot water, checked the website for any last minute changes…. none, and loaded up the car. We were treated to a beautiful full moon (cosmo’s moon?) still shining bright in the morning sky. There was little traffic on the BQE to the Bklyn Bridge to the FDR north to Houston St. We arrived to pick up Sharoz… knocked down a strong cup of coffee and a bagel (its not morning in NY without a bagel) and drove to north cove. Kayaker Michael Hayes was already there, and we unloaded all of our things parked the cars and greeted the other early arrivers.

Steve Munatones was there to crew for Michael Miller (the Hawaiian!) and we had a little chat while the crowd continued to gather.

We all met up with our assigned observers, were given a pre-race briefing, sang happy birthday to Gertrude and sadly learned of Fran Crippen’s tragic death in Dubai. The only time I ever got to see Fran swim was at Governor’s Island last year for the NY Pro Swim 10k. He was gracious, and was the only swimmer to approach the rocks where we were watching to thank everyone for coming. We would be swimming around the other side of Gov’s Island, the Bklyn side called Buttermilk Channel (no one knows why).

We boarded our boat met Captain Al White and left the dock at North Cove…. heading slowly to the Battery for the start. Michael paddled away and was waiting for us when we got there. Lots of CIBBOWS friends were cheering from the sea wall. The start was staggered in 4 waves. Lance Ogren and I were the last to splash.

I drank a pre-race cocktail of EFS and 1st endurance Pre-Race…. quite the same as I had been doing all season, but in retrospect, I didn’t hydrate enough. It would be easy to blame the chilly morning, but really, I just f’d up. I began my regular 20 minute feed cycle of alternating EFS and ginger tea with agave nectar, but had trouble urinating and digesting the high calorie mix. My left hamstring cramped up and I took a couple of minutes to squeeze it out and settle into a no-kick stroke. By the Verrazano Bridge, I started giving back my feeds to the sea immediately after drinking them down, and shortly after that pretty much emptied my stomach. My stroke rate that started at about 70 , now dropped to the low 60’s. I would get it back up to 70 again after the next 2 warm water only “feeds”. I took nothing for the last hour. I have to make sure to hydrate to the point of “free-flowing” before these swims. I was able to manage things this time, but would have had a hard time on a longer swim.

Sandy Hook lies pretty low, so when I was able to see the beach from the water, I knew I had less than 2 miles to go and Michael confirmed this. There was some disagreement about whether to send more feeds my way for the final push… I knew I could finish this on my reserves and would have turned away the bottle… throat quite sore from puking and not wanting to tempt an encore performance.

The Ambrose Channel was busy with ships both anchored and underway. From the water, it is impossible to know which are moving and which are stationary. My boat kept pretty far to my left, with the kayak between. As the wind was coming from the west, things were a little bumpy at times… not big, but hard for me to fall into sync with. I breathed to my left (east) almost exclusively for this one.

I heard that Lance and Liz Fry had quite a race to the finish, but we all landed pretty spread out across Sandy Hook; Eileen Burke was next to me. No time to chat though, so just a quick congrats and back to the boat to warm up. My capt was taking temperature readings from 55 – 56+ throughout the swim. I am certain it never hit 60, and I’m happy to say that this is the longest swim in the 50’s I’ve done to date.


Some pics from Tom McGann

…. and I’m happy to see about half of the field signed up for a victory lap at Coney Island on Nov 6th!!!!! (and so can you be too!)


The day is nearly upon us. The 17.5 mile (as the crow flies) event that was scheduled for the 16th of October had to be rescheduled due to atmospheric conditions that produced high winds and waves. Historically, this is not an uncommon occurrence for the middle of October in NY, and the NYC Swim Ederle event has seen a fair amount of adversity. To date, only 50% of those who have started the swim have touched Sandy Hook and the percentage of swimmers who have withdrawn before the start is quite high as well. There are many reasons for this, but the two most common are scheduling/rescheduling issues and unfavorable conditions.

I am happy to report that the rescheduling of this years swim has not been the cause for any withdrawals and all 10 of us will splash tomorrow morning, including Michael Miller who has traveled from Hawaii to swim in the not-so-tropical NY/NJ harbor.

The water temperatures continue to drop under the influence of cold nights and diminishing daylight and where we were seeing 64 degrees at the Battery last week, it is now reading below 60.

Clare and Sharoz will be on my boat, and Michael Hayes will be paddling alongside me.

The course will start at the Battery and head east through the Buttermilk Channel (between Governors Island and Bklyn); follow the Bklyn shore past the Gowanus Canal (insert Jimmy Hoffa joke here) and under the Verrazano Bridge before heading west to Sandy Hook.

Splash Time: 10:10 EST

track swimmers

or: twitter.com/dvdbarra

English Channel: 14hrs 27mins


The previous neap tide was a complete blow out, as was the following spring tide. I fell into a little funk as swimmers scheduled for this window came to the reality one by one that they would not have the opportunity to swim. With much training and treasure spent, obviously disappointed, they all left Dover with grace and the understanding that chance is still a large factor of any channel attempt. The best wishes from Jordan and Liz and Bryan before their departures strengthened my resolve to give it all I could if/when I got the call.

On Saturday, 9/28 six boats went out with relays competing in a London to Paris triathlon. The conditions were not ideal, but it was the first activity since my arrival a week ago and there was suddenly a buzz in the air. Word on the street was Monday or Tuesday were looking likely for solos in the #1 slot. Since my pilot, Paul Foreman, was able to get a few of his bookings in for their swims earlier in the season, I had been bumped up to #2… lucky me! I was now looking at a Wednesday morning start, though at 2 AM, it really felt like a Tuesday night.


Captain Paul took out a San Francisco swimmer, Joe Locke, at 1:00 AM Monday morning. Since Joe was also staying at Varne Ridge, I had the pleasure to chat with him a bit and compare notes on the schedule, etc. Joe had an excellent swim, and I imagine conditions were pretty good as at least 3 swimmers broke 10 hours this day. I got a call from Paul Foreman after Joe had landed, and though the connection was spotty, I understood the gist of it…. I’d be meeting him some time Tuesday night/ Wednesday morning for an early splash on Sept 1. There were 4 flags flying at Varne Ridge… UK, USA, Ireland and Australia. Four of my five neighbors were successful, and as far as i could tell from the forecasts; tomorrow was going to be even better.

As per the tide changes, starting times generally shift about an hour per day, so, on 8/31, Joe’s splash time was +/- 1 AM; 9/1, my splash time would be +/- 2 AM. Sharroz, John, and I met Fiona and Betsy at the marina at 1:30, loaded up the boat and were on our way to Shakespeare Beach which took no time at all.


I was anxious to get started, so stripped down, inserted ear plugs, applied a bit of channel grease to my pits, shoulders, jaw, neck, upper back, groin, etc. wiped my hands, put on my cap, turned on the green strobe that was attached to my goggle strap, clipped on a belt (and tucked it into my suit) with a couple of glow lights, and jumped in. It was only a short swim to the beach, and after just a few seconds, I was on my way to France. Though I’m a much stronger left breather, Paul requested that I swim on the left side of the boat. This was a position that made it easy for him to keep his eye on me, and I complied without complaint. My plan was to breathe every 3 strokes and keep my stroke rate between 65 and 70. The adrenaline kicked in, and I felt like I was moving at a good clip though kicking a bit too much. I wanted to get warm fast (though the 62 degree water never felt cold) and after 2.5 hours, got a major cramp in my left hamstring…. the same thing that forced my resignation from the 2006 MIMS. Four years wiser, I was able to massage out the cramp and continue along with minimal leg movement (for the next 12 hours). Dodged a bullet!


The first mate would blind me with a spotlight to indicate feed time. (should have worked out a better signal) I would be alternating between 1st Endurance EFS and ginger tea with agave nectar every 20 minutes. The feeds were coming to me warm; not as hot as I expected them to be but since the temperature of the water didn’t seem to be an issue, I didn’t request them to be any hotter. The string I packed for this trip was a thin lacing cord that tangled up terribly, sometimes causing my feed stops to be a bit awkward. Additionally, my sinus was a bit irritated from the salty irrigations of harbor water for the past 10 days, so breathing through my nose was not happening; this prevented me from chugging my 11 oz feeds as quickly as I would have liked to. Oh well, I wasn’t going to break any records anyway.


Swimming on the port side of the Pace Arrow gave me an unobstructed view of the horizon. I have never experienced a clear sunrise from a fish eye view before. It was nothing short of magnificent. I thought standing on french sand (or pebbles) would be the emotional climax, but tears of joy were filling up my goggles as the sky lit up red and orange. I saw Roz and Fiona had the cameras going but know that photographs could never convey this feeling of swimming through the darkness. The fresh morning suggested warmth, though I don’t think the temperature changed at all.


The channel is rather shallow <180 feet (compare to Catalina +/- 3000 ft!) and there aren’t a lot of things to look at except white cliffs at either coast and the passing ships and ferries. Now in the daylight, I could see the cliffs of Dover when I would roll on my back to feed though its impossible to gauge the distance covered. Still, I quickly remind myself not to look toward France. Though the shipping lanes are wide, the direction of traffic indicates when we are in English or French waters. I lost count of how many ships crossed our path, but it was more than a dozen. It surprised me that their wakes were barely perceivable although they seemed to pass quickly and closely.


I broke my first rule (DON’T LOOK TOWARD THE FINISH) and looked at France. It seemed so close…. for so long; the lighthouse atop Cap Gris Nez a welcome sight. At my next feed Fiona shouted a few words of encouragement “you’re almost there!”, which prompted me to ask “how many more feeds?”. This was not part of my communication plan and I think also qualifies as breaking rule #2… (JUST SHUT UP AND SWIM), but I wanted to know if I could start consuming fewer calories as we seemed to be in the home stretch. John was caught off guard by my inquiry; “two more” he shouted. So now in my mind, I’m thinking I’ve got another 40 minutes to an hour of swimming left. I could cruise in on what I’ve consumed so far and let the next two feeds go back to the boat after just a few sips. The hour has passed, and the view of the lighthouse hasn’t changed at all. There would be another ten feeds coming my way, and I went back to drinking it all down. During this futile siege I noticed Capt. Paul changing the position of the boat relative to the Cap… trying to find a break in the currents that would allow us passage. At one point, he pulled around to my left, and I saw for the first time the giant woven nylon parachute that he was dragging behind the boat. This was preventing the boat from turning into the wind and current.

We missed hitting the Cap, (I don’t think anyone hit it directly that day), and the wind was picking up. I thought of the possibility that I might have to hold this position for up to six hours and wait for the tide to change (based on stories of swims past) and laughed to myself as I watched the boat bouncing up and down in the six to eight foot swells… it must suck being on that boat… wasn’t I the lucky one!

Finally, we got through the currents and entered into a shallow cove just north of Cap Gris Nez. I saw John suiting up to escort me to the finish and in front of us, a street that ended in a boat ramp with a few houses on the right and, a restaurant (La Sirene) on the left. I kept sighting on the boat ramp, and was rewarded with a sandy/pebbly beach to walk up. There were a few people standing at the top of the ramp, and from their gestures, I thought they were inviting us to come have a drink…. John says this was purely my imagination, and anyway, Paul was already sounding the horn for us to swim the hundred or so yards back to the boat. We grabbed a few rocks and started swimming.


The Pace Arrow is one of the fastest boats of all the channel pilots, and Paul was in a hurry to get back. We were getting bounced around pretty good, but still, after a trip to the head and wiping the grease off me, I was out like a light. Sharoz and Fiona took lots of video and stills and along with John and Betsy were tremendous support. I’ve said it before, but it can’t be overstated: I could have never completed any of these swims without the enthusiastic support of so many friends and family. I am humbled in the presence of such love and generosity.


I’m not sure who came up with the Triple Crown, but it seems to have become a motivating force for marathon swimmers. Catalina has seen large increases in the number of swimmers scheduling attempts, MIMS fills up in an hour or so, and the EC is booked up for a couple of years in advance. I was inspired by Antonio Arguelles who I met at MIMS last year whose goal was to swim the three in one year. This seemed to make sense to me, and since I had aN EC booking, all I had to do was get into MIMS and find a Catalina date somewhere in the middle. It was 82 days from MIMS to my EC crossing. Steve Munatones did a nice write up… thanks Steve! Colorado swimmer Craig Lenning completed the TC in less than a year as well.

I had the pleasure of swimming with him at MIMS and Tampa Bay this year.