The Upper Hudson

Clare and I attended a wedding in the Adirondacks last weekend. A beautiful remote camp near Minerva with beautiful panoramic mountain views, and a bunch of ponds to fish and swim in. We were offered a guided hike to the Hudson River which we were told would take about 50 minutes each way. I have to admit, I was rather surprised that we were that close to the Hudson, but then again, I have never really given much thought to the path the river takes from its source, Lake Tear of the Clouds, to the Troy Dam.

We hiked down a primitive trail, maintained just enough to provide the occasional emergency evacuation of a rafter or kayaker. I never imagined that rafting was an activity anywhere on the Hudson. The trail came to parallel a rocky stream, Mink Outlet, with a 10’ waterfall a few dozen meters from the river bank.

We arrived at a small pebbly beach where a few rafters were having lunch. The water was flat and fast-moving… yes I went for a swim. I waded out to my waist and dove upstream, swimming in place careful not to drift out into the heavy flow. The water was crystal clear and sweet. I started to grill our guide, Peter, about the nature of the river ad rating of the rapids that were beyond our view. As with all rivers, the answer is not so simple and conditions vary with the flow… which is somewhat regulated by scheduled releases upstream.

Rafters seem to schedule their trips accordingly… or maybe it is the rafting schedule that prompts the releases? You can see I’ve got a bit more research to do. I think it would be prudent to take a trip with one of the river guides first to determine whether it might be navigable in a speedo, then…. who knows?


8 Bridges 2012

Its water that connects us.

Having just spent 4 days in or on the Hudson, and covering over 50 miles, its impossible not to look south at the river as it winds through the highlands and widens out (and will again narrow before we reach the NY Harbor) and not imagine the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Pass Breezy Point, NY on the port; ditto Sandy Hook, NJ on the starboard… hang a right, and a week or so you can be somewhere between Florida and Cuba. Penny Palfrey won’t wait that long. She is already well under way to Florida, with Cuba fading in the distance behind her.

Stage 5 of 8 Bridges is tomorrow. I am swimming! …so is Rondi Davies, Grace Van der Byl, and Elias Falcon… thats it, just the four of us.

Neither Rondi nor I finished this stage last year; Rondi, deciding to take an easy day got out after 4 hours; I (intent on completing every stage) resigned after 9 hrs 30 minutes… battling the flood for three and a half hours and getting stopped dead less than 200 yards from the Tappan Zee Bridge. In the world of open water, this is commonly known as unfinished business.

I will attempt to take care of business tomorrow. There will be some dark moments…. it is expected to be in the 90’s, and water temps will be in the low 80’s for a good stretch, thanks to the Indian Point nuclear power plant… sucking our energy while generating energy.

I’ll be channeling Penny when things get rough, and draw some inspiration knowing that we are swimming simultaneously separated by a mere 1286.24 miles of water.

2 Bridges – 5k and 2.5k Swim Under the Walkway


It was a few short months ago I was introduced to Gunter Spilhaus and was asked if I would like to put together an open water event as part of an outdoor adventure multi-sport expo in Poughkeepsie. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to plan another swim in the Hudson River, threw together a rough outline after laying out a theoretical course on google earth and enlisted Rondi Davies to co-direct the event with me. Time was short, as we were already past the 135 day deadline for marine event application submittals to the Coast Guard, so I made a few phone calls to see if the application would even be considered. I wasn’t told no… which is as good as I could expect, so… CG application, Safety Plan, USMS sanction application, CIBBOWS BOD approval, Entry Form submission, etc etc… full speed ahead. Fortunately much of the legwork and equipment would be provided by the Expo including tents and tables, t-shirts, food, P.A. system, land based permits, etc.


I drove to Long Island to gather equipment that has been in storage all winter… kayaks, buoys, anchors, rescue equipment, marine radios; drove it upstate and took inventory. I decided to try and refine the buoy anchoring system a little so purchased some shackles, carabiners, and 1000′ of anchor line. SInce the average depth of the course is 55′, the anchor lines used at Coney Island would be too short. I supplemented the rescue equipment with rescue rings and a spinal board. Banners were ordered for my boat as well.


Rondi is certainly the brains of our operation and excels at things like creating forms, and spreadsheets and calculating current speeds from tide charts… all the things that make my brain hurt. I’m good at things like moving heavy objects. Since the date for this swim was already set by the Expo, We (Rondi) calculated that an 11:30 start for the 5k would be optimal. The 2.5k would start 30 minutes later. A test swim a few weeks prior to the event on a similar tide confirmed Rondi’s predictions. I was happy that Hannah and Janet were able to participate in our test swim since they would both be in Iceland for the IGLA games during the event.


Both events would take place on the same course… a rectangularish course that would wrap around the eastern stanchions of the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Walkway Over the Hudson Bridge. Both roadways are over 120′ above the river, so it is quite an experience to pass through the shadow and then look up at the bridges under bellies. The course would require 7 buoys. One each 100 yards beyond the stanchions… south of the Mid-Hudson, and north of the Walkway. One at 25 yards east of each of the stanchions, one at 25 yards west of each of the stanchions. Finally, one buoy at 100 yards from the start. There is a 25 yard security zone around each of these stanchions, and we wanted to respect that. There are also a few cables running across the river bed, so care had to be taken when anchoring the buoys.

2.5k swimmers would enter the water at the Poughkeepsie boat launch, swim 100 yards to the turn buoy, turn 90 degrees south, swim around the Mid -Hudson Bridge stanchion and head north, swim around the Walkway Bridge stanchion and head south again until they reach the turn buoy again, then head east 100 yards to the finish. 5k swimmers would do 2 loops.


The forecast for event day worsened every day of the week prior, so much so that on 2 Bridges Eve, I was receiving lots of emails requesting race status. I hate the idea of canceling or postponing an event, and my standard reply was “unless there is sustained electrical storm activity, the event is on!” It rained on and off all night… I got less than 2 hours sleep listening to the rain and checking the radar weather maps every few minutes. I memorized Riverkeeper’s water quality testing charts with all the data for the Poughkeepsie area… how long after how much rain does the water quality deteriorate to a point where it would not be advisable to swim in????? Fortunately, this storm brought us no where near what I would consider questionable… I even put my wife Clare in the water! Rain continued into the morning and we were quite drenched setting the course. Swimmers began to arrive by car and by train. Four agencies provide us with marine patrol… Ulster County Sheriff’s Dept, Dutchess County Sherrif’s Dept, Poughkeepsie Fire Dept, and the Coast Guard. Additionally, we had my boat, a jet ski, and 13 kayakers on a course that is really easy to navigate.
The rain trickled off, and the sun even poked through shortly after the 5k began.

72 swimmers total… a good number for a “first time event”. It was thrilling to have so many aquatic friends come together in one of my favorite bodies of water. I think all the Hudson River newbys were pleasantly surprised by the water quality and the beauty of the Mid-Hudson region. It shouldn’t be hard to convince them to return!

Thank you to everyone who made this event a great success! So many helped with set up, course marking, check-in, timing, safety, operations, break-down, awards/prizes, etc!

Rondi and I couldn’t have done it without you!

Photos here.

Little Red

NYC Swim’s Little Red Lighthouse has long been one of my perennial favorites. The course continues to evolve, but today’s 10k swims very much like the 7.8 mile swim of a decade ago… that is to say; fast. Little Red has gone from a “butt slide” entry on smooth rocks to a familiar leap off of a NY Water Taxi. Last year’s swim started from the 79th Street Boat Basin north to the Inwood Canoe Club…. crossing under the George Washington Bridge. This was going to be a tough event to top, but today’s event did… and by a large margin. The check-in/finish area had convenient and plentiful free parking available; the park is just across the street from an excellent supermarket so last minute provisions are readily available; plenty of grass to relax and stretch out on; easy boarding of the Water Taxi and exiting onto the dock; and a course that started about 4 miles north of the GWB. Scenic highlights were passing by Spuytin Duyvel and under the GWB (2nd time this week for me). The course was well marked and patrolled by kayaks and motor boats, and the generous timeline allowed plenty of time to socialize… and with over 300 registered swimmers, a good opportunity to meet and greet out of town swimmers, many who traveled from afar specifically for this event.

I was happy to see a good number of younger swimmers present. Their absence in USMS sanctioned events is an unfortunate technicality that I would like to see change. I took the swim out hard, and had the good fortune of meeting up with a few friends along the way. I swam with (behind) Rondi for five or ten minutes, and then came up next to Janet. We synched up for a bit, including a perfect synchro transition into backstroke under the GWB without missing a beat! Then Emma came by and I swam with her for a bit… we swam a good stretch of this event together last year. Kayaker Teddy came by to say hello and point the way to the next buoy, and Capt John gave the final direction of “start heading in” to the finish.

I hope this LRLH course is a keeper!

Thank you to all the staff and volunteers at NYC SWIM for making this an awesome event!

Stage 5

What a week it has been so far! We have had perfect weather… hot and sunny mostly as summers in NY typically are. All the swimmers and kayakers and boat crews have exceeded my expectations and I’m so honored by their enthusiastic support of the 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim!

For many of the swimmers, the stages they participated in were the longest swims they have ever done… and all against the clock as the unforgiving afternoon flood tide waits patiently for the chance to battle and thwart our progress.

I knew stage 5 (Bear Mt Bridge to Tappan Zee) would likely be the biggest challenge of the week… this statement is possibly premature, as there are still 2 stages to go. Rondi, Janet and I did a test run of this stage with Captain Greg Porteus, and Mates Wayne and Ritchie a few weeks ago, and we fell a bit short… 3 miles of the Tappan Zee. The data gained was useful, and we were able to adjust our plan to give us the best chance for success yesterday.

We all gave it our best shot, and John (who swam yesterday as well) and Tobey (who will be swimming Catalina in a week) both powered their way to the finish. I resigned at about 9.5 hours with .2 miles to go… but my progress was slowed to a rate of <.1 miles/ 30 minutes. It became clear that I would have at least another hour if I was going to make it at all. Knowing that John finished, and Tobey was ever closer satisfied me... the stage was a success, even if my own efforts fell short, and I was able to resign a few hundred yards short of passing through the Tappan Zee's shadow. I will splash today, where I left off... adding a little bit extra to stage 6 and continue the attempt to complete the 120 miles. No Stage 5 ribbon for me, but I'm feeling good physically. We wind down to just 2 swimmers for the next 2 days. This will be much easier logistically, but I will miss the company and camaraderie. It had been a joyus week! I will write up a more detailed report of each stage once Rondi and I have a chance to review and debrief.

8 Bridges

Though my blog has been idle, don’t think that I haven’t been hard at work putting together another mid-life crisis swim season.

8 Bridges will be the first event of the season. I’ve wanted to do this swim for quite a few years, but to be honest, the planning is exhausting and I didn’t have enough knowledge about all the many factors until now. Still, the process of applying for a marine event permit is mysterious, and I’m learning that just filling in all the blanks on the applications is only enough to get in the door… not invited to the table. I did get said application in on time (135 days prior to event) but still need to follow up with a detailed safety plan and a more accurate timeline; especially for the last two stages where we will be swimming through a busy commercial zone.

Rondi has been incredibly helpful and enthusiastic, and we now have an all-star team coming together to provide support and information.
Salme, a grad student at The Stevens Institute, is working on the swim model. We are scheduling a couple of test stages in the spring to check our pace predictions. Most importantly, we need to know if we (mainly I) can cover the distance of each leg during the ebb or if I will have to start earlier and swim against the end of the flood for a couple of hours.

John Lipscomb, captain for Riverkeeper, just gave a talk on the water quality of the Hudson River. Rondi and I attended. I was pleased to learn that most of the problem spots are rather localized, and though is no way to guarantee that we won’t encounter areas of elevated pathogens, we can certainly make some evasive maneuvers that will give us the best odds of traveling through clean water.

I just had a long conversation with Captain Greg of Launch 5. It looks like we have a cracker jack pilot and safety boat! (huge sigh of relief!)

yeah, yeah, yeah…… been swimming too. I attended the OW safety conference in SF. A great event. I didn’t take any notes because they promised to post video of all the discussions on the USMS site, but it was great to see so many old friends and make a few new ones. I didn’t get banned from anything.

I was able (with the help of Leslie Thomas of Swim-Art) to put together a little 5k swim from the Golden Gate to Aquatic Park. Brisk 53 degree water and joined by forumites Robbie D, Chicken of the Sea, Ourswimmer, E=H2O and (non-forumites) Cristian, Nico, Charlotte, Willie + Julie on the boat and 4 kayaks and 2 zodiaks made for a nice pre conference splash.

……and I got to meet Ahelee too!

The Mighty Hudson

Its been very exciting to hear of hoards of swimmers hitting the open water this past week from Dover to Chicago and points beyond. In many areas, the temperatures are squeaking above 50 degrees, and the swimming is rather short. My first “local” OW swim of the season was last saturday in the Hudson River a couple of miles north of Beacon….. just north of a little town called Chelsea. We (Rondi, Willie and I) crossed the Metro North tracks and entered the river at a small rocky beach where there were a couple of men fishing. We swam north for 30 minutes, turned around, and swam back to our entry point. The trip back took 30 minutes as well but the pace was faster as we were now against a bit of current…. the Hudson flows both ways. The water temp was between 56 and 60, with few spots of the latter and many more of the former.

Yesterday, we decided to do a one way swim, and shoot for 2 hours. We recruited a couple of kayakers (Danielle and Mike) to escort our group of 4… same cast as last week with Terry joining us. We started at a small north facing cove at Denning Point which is about 5 miles south of our enty/exit point of last week and exit point for this swim as well. Terry and Willie started first and Danielle paddled alongside them while Rondi and I did our final prep and hit the water a couple of minutes later. This was my first swim with Mike and Danielle. They will be my Kayak escorts for MIMS so I was excited about getting some H2O time alongside them. The water temp was about the same as last week, but the air temp was approaching 80 and the sun was shinning which made it comfortable for me, but I think Rondi was catching a chill. Our two groups merged a little bit north of the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge and then split up again…. Willie and I changing places.

Both Mike and Danielle were excellent escorts giving us a larger presence among the recreational boat traffic, and they carried our clothes and hot drinks in the boats so they were handy at our exit. Rondi and Willie finished about 5 minutes before Terry and me and we were just a couple of minutes under the 2 hour goal.

The water this far north is fresh and there were very few twigs drifting since the weather was mostly clear last week.

We started the swim around 10:30, 40 minutes after low tide which means we were swimming with an increasingly favorable current. Sometime in the next 2-3 weeks I would like to do a bridge to bridge swim (Mid-Hudson to Newburgh-Beacon). This is about 13.5 miles. I think we could swim it in 4 – 4.5 hours if we get the tides right, though we will need a power boat to get to the start and scoop us up at the finish.

I’ve got a little planning to do!