Monday, October 25, 2010

Tragic death of Fran Crippen

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A day after U.S. national team swimmer Fran Crippen died during an open-water race in the United Arab Emirates, the winner of the event said the water and air temperatures were too high to hold a competition.

Thomas Lurz of Germany criticized both swimming's governing body and race organizers Sunday, saying conditions were too hot for racing, that FINA's schedule was too grueling and that organizers should have done more to ensure swimmers' safety in the Open Water 10-kilometer World Cup held at Fujairah, east of Dubai, on Saturday.

American open-water swimmer Fran Crippen, 26, died during an event Saturday near Dubai.
The 26-year-old Crippen, from a family of prominent swimmers in suburban Philadelphia, failed to finish and was found in the water two hours later, about 400 meters from the finish, organizers said.

FINA's president said Sunday that "overexertion" led to Crippen's death and FINA had launched an investigation into the tragedy.

"What we know initially is that he exerted himself more than he could, that's what we know," said FINA president Julio Maglione of Uruguay, attending an International Olympic Committee conference in Acapulco, Mexico. Maglione said he was told that after eight kilometers Crippen informed his coach that he wasn't feeling well.

Race officials said a medical report and autopsy on Crippen had been completed, but declined to release their full details to the media.

Swimmers complained of the warm water temperatures, but Ayman Saad, executive director of the UAE swimming association, played down heat as a factor, saying that the water temperature was 84 degrees at the start of the race, which was held in the ocean on a triangular 2-kilometer course behind a breakwater.

All safety measures were in place including lifeguards, boats and divers, Saad said, adding that FINA had signed off on everything before the race started.

Usually at open-water races, a boat follows the last swimmer on the course.

"What I think happened is that the swimmers were in various groups. This is what I heard," FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu told The AP. "On the last feeding station the coach was talking to him. But I really don't know. We have to wait for the investigation and then we will come up with our position on this. Otherwise it's only speculation."

Lurz insisted temperatures must have been above 86 degrees and that several swimmers suffered due to the heat. He said he talked to many swimmers who complained of swollen fingers and toes, water loss, and he saw several who had become confused following their race.

"The water was amazingly hot," Lurz said. "Nobody thought such things like yesterday could happen. ... It shows it was really just too hot. It was not just one swimmer. There were many swimmers who had serious problems in the water."

FINA's rules place no limit on how warm water can be to hold a race.

Besides Crippen, three other swimmers -- two U.S. women and one Brazilian -- were taken to the hospital. All were to be released by Monday. Their names had not been officially released, but included Brazilian Allan Do Carmo and American Eva Fabian.

Maglione maintained that organizers followed FINA's rules.

"Apart from the investigation, we are awaiting a report from our technical director, who says that everything was normal according to the regulations," Maglione said. "They told me ... the medical report said it was huge overexertion, that's what they told me."

Gunnar Werner of Sweden, a member of FINA's legal commission and a former FINA honorary member, will lead the investigation and was to arrive at the race site late Sunday.

"When he finishes his inquiry we'll put out our position," Marculescu said. "We understand that they have the medical report in Arabic and they will translate it to English and send it to us. Probably tomorrow we will have it in the office.

"This is a swimmer with a lot of experience. He was a fantastic guy and he came from a big swimming family. We've never had something like that happen in our sport before. I'm sorry for him and his family."

Crippen was the silver medalist in the 10K at the Pan Pacific championships in August, earned a bronze medal in the 10K at the 2009 world championships, was national champion in the 5K in 2009, and won a gold medal in the 10K at the 2007 Pan American Games.

Crippen finished fourth in the 10K and fifth in the 5K at this year's world championships.

Lurz, a nine-time open water champion, said Crippen's death highlighted the need for changes within the World Cup circuit, including setting a maximum temperature and easing rules that require a swimmer to finish the final race to gain points crucial to moving up the rankings and earning prize money.

Lurz speculated it was probably Crippen's desire to finish the race that cost him his life.

"I'm sure he tried everything because he is a sportsman ..." Lurz said. "He would never give up."

Swimmers were the first to respond when Crippen failed to arrive at the finish. Several returned to the water to search for him and were soon followed by police and coast guard divers. Crippen's body was found just before the last buoy on the course, race organizers said.

Crippen was rushed to shore and transported to Fujairah Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

"It was unacceptable that swimmers were searching for another swimmer. That is horrible. This can't be," Lurz said. "Swimmers go under water in seconds. There need to be more boats, jet skis, canoes who can take care of every swimmer."

Swimming officials in the UAE canceled the 15km open-water event that was scheduled to be held Wednesday at the same location.

The 10K race is the only open-water discipline that is an Olympic event, having made its debut at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Swimmers and officials gathered at the race site Sunday and held an impromptu memorial service. Many had tears in their eyes and some veterans such as Angela Maurer of Germany openly wept in the arms of her husband.

"It was our way of saying goodbye to a friend and fellow competitor," Lurz said.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

People often ask me, as I toy with the idea of swimming the English Channel, what do you get? Money? Prizes? Trophy?

Better. You earn the right put your name on the White Horse Tavern wall of fame...

Jordan rocks for adding CIBBOWS.....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Congratulations to Gilles and Jordan

Both completed their English Channel crossing!
Gilles Challandon just finished a few hours ago, 14 hours, 31 minutes.
Jordan Waxman finished earlier in the day, 14:06
Way to represent CIBBOWS, y'all!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bonne Chance!

Jordan is cruising in the S-W shipping lane!
Gilles is slated to join him in the English Channel in just a few hours!


Diana Nyad, you go girl!

Around the age of 12, I became visually driven. After photography school, I moved to NYC in the 80's. Wandering around the Village, in a tiny postcard shop full of iconic images, I came across this image of Diana Nyad swimming around Manhattan.

It burned into my visual cortex, taking up residence. It was the spark for my NY love affair with open water.

Now at the age of 60, Diana Nyad will attempt her 108 mile Florida to Cuba swim once more.
I wish her luck.

From her blog:
On July 11, 2010, at 60 years of age, Diana Nyad successfully completed her triumphant return to long-distance swimming with a consecutive 24-hour swim through the Gulf Stream’s open-water off the coast of Key West, Florida, without a shark cage. While the 24-hour swim is an enormous challenge, it’s merely the beginning for Nyad. Any day now, she will attempt to achieve her life-long dream to be the first person to swim the 103 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

The Story of Matthew Webb

As Gilles and Jordan prepare to face the English Channel, my thoughts turn towards the pioneer who got us all started...

Matthew Webb, a 27-year-old merchant navy captain, becomes the first known person to successfully swim the English Channel. Captain Webb accomplished the grueling 21-mile crossing, which really entailed 39 miles of swimming because of tidal currents, in 21 hours and 45 minutes. During the overnight crossing from Dover, England, to Calais, France, Captain Webb drank brandy, coffee, and beef tea to keep his strength and heat up. He was hailed as a national hero upon his return to England, and a triumphal arch was erected in his honor in his hometown in Shropshire. The Daily Telegraph proclaimed, "At this moment the Captain is probably the best-known and most popular man in the world."

One of 12 children, Webb learned to swim in the Severn River below Ironbridge. At age 12, he joined the mercantile training ship Conway. He was not remembered as a fast swimmer, but his fellow cadets noted his endurance. While traveling the world with the merchant navy, Webb made his mark with several brave and dangerous swims. Endurance swimming was popular in the 1870s, and Webb decided to swim the English Channel after reading in a newspaper about an unsuccessful attempt. He trained along England's south coast, swimming distances of 10 to 20 miles and becoming acclimatized to the cold water. In August 1875, his first attempt to swim the Channel ended in failure, but he decided to give it another try.

On August 24, 1875, smeared in porpoise fat for insulation and wearing a red swimming costume made of silk, he dove off Dover's Admiralty Pier into the chilly waters of the Channel. He began the race in the late evening because of the tides and kept up a slow and steady pace in the dark, using the breaststroke. Accompanying boats handed him beef tea, brandy, and other liquids to sustain him, and Webb braved stinging jellyfish and patches of seaweed as he plodded on. Seven miles from the French coast, the tide changed, and he appeared to be driven backward, but just after 10 a.m. he approached the French shore. The crew of the outgoing mail ship The Maid of Kent serenaded him with "Rule Britannia," and shortly before 11 a.m. Webb waded ashore.

After sleeping 12 hours in France, Webb returned to England by boat, saying, "the sensation in my limbs is similar to that after the first day of the cricket season." He was honored at a welcoming banquet in Dover, where the mayor proclaimed, "In the future history of the world, I don't believe that any such feat will be performed by anyone else." The London Stock Exchange set up a testimonial fund for him. He toured the country, lecturing and swimming.

For rest of story, go here

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Penguins have a special place in my heart....

Swimming Emperor Penguins-Antartica
Credit: Twosixteen at flickr

Sea snot? Really?

Christine Dell'Amore
National Geographic News
Published September 23, 2010

Deciphering the unseen, underwater effects of the Gulf oil spill.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked an explosion of sticky clumps of organic matter that scientists call sea snot, according to ongoing research.

The boom likely precipitated a sea-snot "blizzard" in Gulf (map) waters, researchers say. And as the clumps sank, they may have temporarily wiped out the base of the food chain in the spill region by scouring all small life from the water column.

In the weeks after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, scientists surveying the surface near the drill site spotted relatively huge particles—several centimeters across—of sea snot.

These particularly slimy flakes of "marine snow" are made up of tiny dead and living organic matter, according to Uta Passow, a biological oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tiny plants in the ocean called phytoplankton produce a mucus-like substance when stressed, and it's possible that exposure to the Deepwater Horizon oil caused them to pump out more of the sticky stuff than usual.

This abundance of "mucus" made the naturally occurring marine-snow particles—usually about a few millimeters wide—even stickier.

"Everything they collide with in their path they collect and take with them," said project leader Passow, who's currently tracking marine snow aboard the research vessel Oceanus.

(Related: why the Gulf oil spill isn't going away.)

Read rest of article here

Friday, September 24, 2010

Can't believe another summer has passed without Grimmi

you will always be in my heart
.....xoxo Patricia

thanks for sending us this photo, Eli....

Bermuda Round the Sound Swim 2010

There's still time to get in on a great swim in sunny Bermuda! Swim a 10k or a 2k, or something in between. Wonderful swim in one of the world's most beautiful islands. Flights are still pretty cheap from NYC--I just got mine for $300!

Photos from 2009
Photos from 2008
Photos from 2007

Sign up today!

English Channel 14hrs 27mins

written by David Barra
photos by Fiona Laughlin

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. http://www.dailynewsofopenwaterswimm...rown-club.html
I had the pleasure of swimming with him at MIMS and Tampa Bay this year.

...... up next; La Sirene, the Serp, the Thames, etc

Saturday, September 4, 2010

English Channel

by Jim Meier

One must appreciate that the Channel always calls the shots. This is part of its allure. Swimmers hope for calm waters or, even better, rolling waves with a tale wind to help push you toward France, and are tortured by the possibility that you won't get a chance to "go out" – the reality for perhaps two dozen swimmers in the tide before mine. There are days that are unswimmable, a few days that are perfect, and everything in between.

From my start yesterday at 3:00 am (Thursday), I had washing machine conditions, very tough. I swam for a little over 11.5 hours into the southern shipping lane when I called it quits. My crew had informed me at my prior feeding (feedings every 30 minutes) that I had been fighting currents and had made no progress for the half hour preceding. I had tried to pick up the pace and, regardless of whether I succeeded, had been pushed backward during that last 30 minutes. The day before two friends – Dave Barra and Nick Levine – had been stuck in place for about 4 hours but, both much faster swimmers than I am (and with calmer conditions for the early part of their swims), were within two miles of the coast and both finished in under 15 hours. I have no regrets. I got what I came for. I later learned that of the 5 people swimming on Thursday, only one made it to France.

My crew of five including my kids, Jacob and Joslyn, and friends Nir, Bernard and Ken were fabulous. I could write pages about the unique and collective contributions each one made to the experience.

One learns a lot about many aspects of one self in the months of preparing for this endeavor. Yesterday, after the swim, I saw things I would do differently the next time in my training, prep, etc. A very large percentage of swimmers (I know at least a dozen) who did not succeed the first time come back for a second try. This magical pull is another aspect of the Channel's allure.

I came here with the clear realization and conviction that this would be my first and last attempt; the intensity of training and mental focus over the past year and a half have been consuming, and my age is an immutable limiting factor. So I will not be making another attempt ….I think.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Catalina Part III

by David Barra

Since I had planned to have little feedback and conversation while swimming, I was completely in the dark as to how much longer I might be in the water. I had read many accounts of English Channel swimmers spending three/four/five/six hours fighting the last half mile only to surrender unsuccessfully... close enough to smell the croissants baking, but this isn't the EC. It isn't supposed to be like this! With no visual reference, I didn't know if I was gaining toward the mainland at all, and I wondered if I would be pulled for lack of progress. No matter, I was going to swim until I hit land, got pulled, or my arms fell off.

As it turns out, I was making progress. The Outrider was on auto-pilot and we were creeping slowly toward my rocky exit. As the current swept northwest, we turned southeast to face it, and so, inched sideways toward the California coast which was mostly blocked from my view by the boat on my left.

I tried to keep my pace steady and my stroke rate held in the mid 60's throughout. My neck was getting sore. I tweeked it a bit the day before my swim in a sneezing fit (of all things) and though I managed to keep it loose for a good 12 hours, it was time to quit alternate breathing and go to my old standby left only for the home stretch. I hoped my kayakers, paddling on my right side, would not be offended. I could see the hull of the kayak under water and follow easily.

Tobey jumped in again, and sensing that I was in need of some encouraging words said the perfect thing: "Hey, lets just go for a swim." We did. I felt a surge of energy and picked my stroke rate up a bit. The end didn't matter to me now and I was able to enjoy just moving through the water.... finally the Zen moment! I felt briefly that the coast would get in the way of my finding out just how long I could keep going and started to feel sorry for all those poor bastards whose swim is over after nine or ten hours.

A strange thing happens when one is engaged in a singular activity for hours on end, and its the exact opposite of what one would expect; time accelerates. The time between feeds passed so quickly now and loud cheering now accompanied each chug-a-lug like a frat party drinking contest. I can only assume we are getting closer to the beach and try to keep up the pace. Jim gives me a two fists in the air salute and holds it until I respond with a thumbs up. It feels good to have the officials so solidly in my corner.

I deliberately avoid looking forward but hope to see some kelp soon.... No kelp, but the end is near. John, Tobey and Harris were all in the water to escort me the last 200 yards to the rocky beach. The surf was slight, but I lacked the balance to deal with it, so I crawled slowly on all fours until I could find some footing. There were a few people sitting nearby in some beach chairs; they looked pretty relaxed.

After a very brief respite, we swim back to the Outrider.

Back aboard the Outrider, hot chocolate, mini snickers, degrease, and a hot shower... yes a hot shower! Everyone was exhausted and I'm sure looking forward to terra firma followed by a soft bed... as was I. The boat ride back to the dock wasn't long enough to fully express my appreciation to everyone on board. Before the swim, I had thought it would be fun to buy everyone a few rounds at some dockside bar and grill, but we were deep into double overtime, and I could sense that everyone was anxious to get on with the rest of their lives. Feet dragging but spirits high, we cleared our gear from the deck of the Outrider and made our way to our vehicles that waited patiently for us, parked across the road in a newly paved lot. It is unlikely that we, as a group, will ever find ourselves in the same place at the same time again, though John, Ian and Roz will be in Dover with me shortly.

I know that I'll be back to Catalina sometime soon to swim or crew with some friends......

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Saturday, November 6th 2010, 11:30am, the Veterans Day 5K, 1Mile, 2Mile

8-Foot Shark Caught in Potomac River

Willy Dean has an incredible fish tale to tell. On Tuesday, he caught a shark while on the Potomac River in St. Mary's County, Md.
Don't believe him? He has the pictures to prove it.
Dean put out a net Monday at Cornfield Harbor in the Potomac three miles north of Point Lookout with hopes of catching cow-nosed rays for a Solomons Island Marina biologist. When he checked Monday night everything seemed normal. But when he checked again Tuesday morning, he made a startling discovery.
In the net was an 8-foot-long shark. He said it was a bull shark. According to National Geographic, experts consider them to be "the most dangerous sharks in the world."

Willy Dean, right, shows off his shark.
Whatever kind of shark it was, Dean knows two things: it had a heck of a lot of teeth, and it didn't go out easily.
"We had an interesting morning bringing it in," Dean said. "It was quite a fight."
Once the shark was captured, the next question was: What the heck do you do with it?
"I am probably going to have it mounted, maybe the head," Dean said. "Right now, the shark's in the freezer."
Which means there's no chance that this fish tale ends with the big one getting away...

David Barra has achieved the Triple Crown!

Congrats, David, on your successful crossing of the English Channel today!
14hours, 27mins
What a year of swimming you're having!
Maui Channel-March
Tampa Bay-April
Catalina-July (you owe us Part III!)
Big Ditch-August (I confess, I don't know this one)
English Channel-September
and we'll be cheering for you in October during Ederle!

November--Turkey Dip then put your feet up for the season?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Catalina Part II

by David Barra

The clock started at 10 minutes past midnight, July 20th. The water temperature was a comfortable cool 64 degrees. There was no evidence of the ¾ moon as the cloud cover presented us with a low ceiling…. I thought it was always sunny in LA. To my right was kayaker Peter Phillips. His kayak lit up with a few green glow sticks. To my left was Tobey Ann Saracino… to her left was the mighty Outrider; a 50’ fishing charter boat and one of 2 certified escorts for the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation (CCSF). The cabin was well lit up, and they had a light shining on us also. It was hard to identify the people watching us from the side, as they were back-lit by the boat’s lighting but silhouettes were always visible. I could see Tobey better through the water than above, likewise the kayak to my right. I felt good; breathing every 3 strokes and though I was looking for sea life, there was little to be seen except for a few jellyfish and some chains of phytoplankton. Tobey and I were getting stung frequently, but I assumed that there were lots of renegade tentacles floating around… nothing like the lion’s-mane-wrap-around stings like we’ve been hit with back east, and the discomfort of these little “hits” would fade quickly.

Twenty minutes passes and its time for the first feed. The strobe that I hoped would be a clear signal proved to be useless with the bright lights behind, and a chorus of “FEED!... FEED!... FEED! “ would become the standard communication between all aboard the Outrider and yours truly for the foreseeable future.

Tobey dropped back; I made my way to the boat; bottles dropped; glug…glug… glug; swim onward. Repeat. The only variation being that on every hour, the flavor of my feed would change from EFS fruit punch to ginger tea sweetened with agave nectar. Tobey exited the water on my 5th feed… 1hour 40minutes of swimming. Any night time anxiety I may have had was gone, I was feeling good, and told myself that I was almost 20% through with my swim. Soon the sun would be rising.

Some time went by and John Humenik took the plunge to join me for a bit. John is a super-lean swimming machine and I was a bit concerned that he would catch a chill swimming at my pace. If he did, he kept it well hidden from me, and also kept his exposure to 20 minutes.

Somewhere between 4 and 6 hours, we had a kayak switch. The outrider pulled ahead to let Beth Barnes enter the water and as we made our way toward the boat, the change over was made. Daybreak was upon us now. The lights came on so gradually that it was hard to notice, and the heavy overcast added to this effect. The air was heavy with the smell of bacon and it made me happy to know that the crew would soon be enjoying breakfast. This was Beth’s first crossing and I have to say she was extremely focused and held a straight line and consistent distance the whole time…. Still, on the one occasion when I had to hurl, I was careful to do it while facing the other way.

I had warned everyone that I would not be conversing much during the swim, and indeed the only communications I had with the boat were to confirm that I was eliminating the surplus of my feeds regularly… a learned skill, and I think I am somewhat of an expert.
A quick thumbs up in response to “are you peeing?” …. No need for words.
There were a few other quick communications: once when my feed came to me too hot, and once when Jim requested that I consume some water as he thought the electrolyte content of my feeds was extremely high. He may be right. I cut my hourly intake by 1/3 for this swim and will probably cut it further for the English Channel.

About half way, there was a noticeable drop in temperature… down to 62 degree. With a long way still to go, I thought this would be a problem as I fully expected the temperature to keep dropping as we approached the mainland. This I believe is the norm, but not today. 62 would be the low, and it only lasted for a couple of hours.

Though I wasn’t keeping track of time, I knew that my hopeful goal between 9 and 10 hours had come and gone and still the mainland was nowhere in site, but I felt like I could keep on going so I never asked “how much longer?”, “where are we?”, or any other questions that I really didn’t want to know the answer to. Harris was keeping my FB page updated and told me later that he thought I should be a bit more conversational….. nonsense. There really isn’t much I want to say.

There were several wildlife viewing opportunities for those aboard the Outrider that included dozens of dolphins, a handful of sea lions, and a 10’ blue shark. I saw none of these, but knew of their presence. The dolphins were swimming close to me and I could hear their chattering squeaks and whistles. I saw Beth turn quickly to her right; it startled me and she said there was a sea lion, but the kayak was between it and me. The entire gang rushed to the back of the boat and there was pointing and they were looking with binoculars… Tobey was in the water with me on her second shift; and she noticed this as well though there were no words exchanged between us. My pre-swim address to my crew included a few “please, do nots”…. Please, do not let me see you eating/drinking/puking/shivering/praying/fishing/sleeping/crying/etc, but I failed to mention: Please do not all run to the back of the boat at once like there is a big shark following us. Though seriously, I was never worried and in the dark moment of self doubt I even thought that a nosey shark might be just the thing I need to be able to resign from this seemingly endless swim with dignity.

I was certainly feeling the burn in my mouth, sinus and throat now but was otherwise pain free. I had stopped trying to keep track of the time in my head, but knew I was somewhere between 11 and 13 hours. The currents were quite strong, I was covering less than a quarter mile between feeds, and when I stopped to feed, I was being swept to the back of the boat in those few seconds. As John retrieved my bottles, I asked (looking for some affirmation) “I’m not really going forward… am I?” John’s response was over the top and hysterical… “DON’T BE A PUSSY!” …. I nearly puked from laughing… 20 minutes to the next feed became my mantra.

------- to be continued---------

Friday, July 23, 2010

David Barra's Catalina account....

Catalina 15:37:11

Posted July 22nd, 2010 at 08:34 AM by chaos
------------------------------------part 1, the start----------------------------------------

I really don't know where to start, so forgive me if it takes a few entries to put it all together. I will invite Tobey and John and any other crew members to add their thoughts as my perspective is only one of many, and I never felt the presence of so many others as being THE most important factor in having a successful swim before.

I'll start at the beginning:

This is going to be a popular year for Catalina Swimming. According to pilot John Pittman, he has never had so many bookings, the 3 swimmers in 3 days of which I had the final booking was unprecedented. I had been following reports for weeks and knew that the weather and sea temps and currents were not behaving as they usually do, so I was expecting a bit of adversity.... no big deal, so I thought.... but when Morgan, the first in our trio of attempts had her swim reversed for the start and would be swimming from the mainland to Catalina Island, I began to get a little nervous. There is a drop in temperature of a few degrees near the mainland and I always thought it would be easier to acclimate in the sunlight at the end of a swim than at midnight at the start. Since Morgan is from Berkely and I assume trains in the SF bay, I didn't think the temps would bother her, but I have been training in NY where the recent heat wave has every body of water at or approaching 80 degrees. I don't know if I could have handled this shock. Fortunately, I didn't have to find out. Morgan's attempt was cut short, but still over 4 hours of cold water and a chop that put her at odds with her feeds. The next evening (sunday, July 18th), The Outrider, with Capt John Pittman and crew would be accompanying swimmer Suzie Dods. The currents were still erratic and it it was decided that Suzie would also swim from the Mainland to Catalina though the water had warmed a couple of degrees. At this point, I fully expected that I too would be starting on the mainland as well, and was grasping at little optimistic, glass-half-full kind of affirmations: Craig Lenning suggested this one: "sounds good... get the cold water out of the way early". Some others: Catalina is teeming with aquatic life.... better to see it in the day time. You will get to sleep on the boat for 2 hours on the way back.... etc. Eventually, I accepted that either way there were pros and cons, and I would just go with the flow.

I followed Suzie's swim as best I could and spoke to John Pittman a couple of times during her swim. He said the currents were reversing and that it was still impossible to say which direction we would be starting in. He also said that the water had warmed up a bunch since Morgan's swim the day before and that Suzie was still swimming strong (GO SUZIE!)

On our end, Tobey's flight had issues in Chicago and would be delayed a few hours we packed our gear, tried to get some rest, picked up Tobey at Santa Ana airport and headed for the 22nd st landing. We actually had a bit of time to grab a bite and I called John Pittman one last time to make sure things were still on track. John was still out with Suzie and expected to docking around 7 PM... the same time that my whole gang was meeting there. At the landing, everyone showed up right on time including John Pittman and the Outrider with Suzie and crew aboard. As they filed off, we made introductions and shared our congratulations. Everyone looked exhausted but Suzie had the smile of victory.... 18 hrs 36 mins 28 secs. Clearly the conditions were difficult and the currents tricky, but they would be returning to normal now, or between now and my splash time in 5 hours... so I hoped.

The boat's crew was busy scrubbing away and loading provisions for the next trip. Capt John had gone home to check forecasts and would be returning in a couple of hours. He would then decide which direction I would swim.... C-M or M-C. We were able to start loading up our gear and went below and started choosing bunks. I left my feed bags above so that I might give one final presentation to everyone as to how I would like to see this all work.

I laid out my bottles and explained that I would be taking my feeds hot. This meant from the boat with bottles on a string. I identified the bottles marked with blue tape as the "main feed".... concentrated 1st Endurance EFS that would be diluted by 50% with hot water before being tossed to me. I would receive this tethered to another bottle with just plain H2O on 20 minute intervals. Every 3rd feed, for a little variety and to reduce the amount of electrolyte I would be consuming, my "mix bottle" would contain ginger tea with agave nectar, again served up hot. Both calculated to give me 90 - 95 calories per feed, or 270 - 285 cals/hr. On each 2 hour interval, I would have a Hammer Nutrition Tissue Rejuvenator added to the mix. I broke out two bundles of glow sticks.... one red and one green and a couple of small strobes that I thought would attach to the kayaks... my presentation was done.

Next up, Jim Fitzpatrick, Observer. Jim listened with great attention during my presentation and examined my feed, my feed system, glow sticks and strobes. He explained that a blinking light on the kayaks might be disorienting after a while so we decided to use them to signal, 1 minute to feed time. He explained the details of how swimmers would exit and enter the water, how the kayak exchanges would be made, where the boat would be positioned during each of these activities, etc. He went over the rules of the swim: how it starts and finishes, where my companion swimmers should position themselves (between me and the boat), how they would fall back during feeds, etc.

Finally, Capt. Pittman gave the rules of the boat, how the head works, what not to flush, no wet clothes down below, keep the galley clear, life jackets, etc.

We would be starting from Catalina Island and it would be about a 2 hour ride.... last chance, rest up.

I drank a mix of 3 scoops Hammer Sustained Energy and 1 scoop of 1st Endurance Pre-Race.

I chose one of the larger bunks and while I can't say that I actually slept, I did fall into a well executed "savasana"
The ride was smooth and I felt relaxed and refreshed when I heard the engines winding down and I went upstairs to see what was happening. We were at Catalina Island. The boat was shining spotlights all around... rocky cliffs gave way to a small pebble beach, a white floating dock stood between us and that beach. There were lots of fish in the water... attracted by the lights... flying fish, squid, some strange phytoplankton links and a few larger fish below. Suit up, ear plugs, sunscreen (seemed silly at midnight) grease, glow sticks, cap and goggles. Tobey would be starting the swim with me, we would follow kayaker Peter Phillips to the beach, exit the water, turn toward the boat, raise one arm, pause..... lower the arm, shout "SWIMMING!", enter the water...... ready or not... California here I come.

--------------------------------------to be continued-----------------------------

Congrats David on your Catalina Swim!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


An oldie but a goodie....

Speaking of peeing my pants....

The first recorded appearance of Nemopilema nomurai was in Korea in 1814. It resides primarily in the northern East China Sea, Yellow Sea, and Bohai Sea, but it has been moving northward in large numbers into the Sea of Japan. It’s a truly massive creature, capable of growing to a bell diameter or body width of 6’6” (2 meters) and a weight of nearly 450 pounds (200 kilograms), making it one of the largest jellyfish in the world.

Jellyfish Stings 150 Swimmers At N.H. Beach

Jellyfish Stings 150 Swimmers At N.H. Beach - Photos - WMUR Manchester
RYE, N.H., July 22 (UPI) -- A large dead jellyfish caused panic at a New Hampshire beach when its still-potent tentacles stung up to 150 people, mostly children, officials said.

Lt. Charles Gallant of the Rye Fire Department said emergency officials were called Wednesday to Wallis Sands State Park and told that 125-150 people had been stung, the Boston Globe reported.

Earlier in the day, the jellyfish, roughly the size of a trash-can cover, had broken apart when park officials attempted to remove its carcass, and the floating pieces stung bathers in the water, said Gallant.

A jellyfish can keep its ability to sting for a short time after it has died, said Steve Spina, an assistant curator and jellyfish specialist at Boston's New England Aquarium.

"They do have an awful lot of tentacles. It can be fairly painful, especially if you're sensitive the way people are sensitive to other stings," Spina said.

Gallant said five children were taken to the hospital as a precaution pertaining to allergy concerns. They were later released. Lifeguards treated most of the children with vinegar and baking soda.

Spina said there have been reports of unraveled tentacles reaching up to 100 feet.

"I can imagine how a lot of people can get stung, with tentacles that long," he said.
as reported by UPI

Ok, I have a few opinions on this. First of all, I tend to think, what a bunch of wimps. Really? All 150 people were sensitive? I think it was more mass panic once they saw the size of that thing. They don't sting THAT badly. Bee sting hurts worse.
Second, was it really a good idea to drag that MF back to the shore? Seem to me they should have cleared the water first, or pulled it further out to sea, not toward the patrons.

I've seen red lion jellies this big. I'm not the only one. Yes, you pee your pants, but luckily you're in the ocean.
Here in Coney, we scream underwater and keep on swimmin'....

Monday, July 19, 2010

Congrats Cristian on your Channel Swim!


People all over the country have been staring at tiny little arrows that represent the swimmers and their boats all DAY!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Grimaldo's Mile VI 2010

Only a few days left to register!
Here's some of the highlights for this year:
Water temp--66-70F
Jelly free!
Great prizes, plus t-shirts and fun surprises in the goody bag!
Food and live music afterwards provided by Xavier Cardriche

Register online at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Humpback Whales

Explore data on location of marine animals and plants at:
Oceanic Biogeographic Information System (OBIS)

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Is tomorrow (Saturday) at 2pm!

Ambrose and Ederle, like peanut butter and jelly

NYT August 6, 1926

Historical piece on Gertrude Ederle

Tales from the Ambrose Channel

West Bank Lighthouse

Location: Ambrose Channel, New York

West Bank Lighthouse became active on New Year’s Day, 1901 and was raised to 70 feet in 1906 to align with the Staten Island Light. Two more stories were added in 1907. From Lighthouse Friends comes a tale of legendary lighthouse keeper, Ed Burge, the first keeper of the light, and his dog.

Burge brought a small fox terrier puppy with him when he arrived at the newly built West Bank Lighthouse. Like his owner, the lighthouse life quickly got into the dog’s blood, and he refused to live anywhere else. In a 1924 magazine interview, Burge talked about his dog:

“You couldn’t get that dog to live ashore. Sometimes when I took him with me after supplies, he’d run down to the edge of the water and look out toward the light, and whine. If the light dimmed at night, or the fog signals stopped, he’d bark and tear around. He recognized a lot of boats, too, and would bark to the tugs he knew. I used to tie a flag to his tail, and he’d run out onto the gallery and wave signals. He always slept outside on the gallery, no matter how stormy it was, and watched the light and the boats. He was a lot of company. When I was transferred to Elm Tree I brought him ashore with me, but he wouldn’t live here. He was homesick, so I had to take him out and give him to the new keeper on the West Bank. He lived on the offshore lights for eleven years. Then the keeper brought him ashore, and he died in three days.”

The lighthouse was also crashed into by a vessel being towed by a tug, just three days after Christmas in 1908. The Carrie Winslow ripped the railings off the lighthouse and broke the glass. The tugboat company was held liable for the damage, which was $1200. However, Burge was kind of put out into the nor’easter by the fact it was his bedroom that got destroyed.

“She tore out one side of the tower, ripped free and drifted on, leaving that gale pouring through my bedroom. Nope, I didn’t do anything heroic. A man can’t be much of a hero without his pants. I just saw that the pup was all right and the light burning, and that the barkentine hadn’t sunk, and hunted another room that wasn’t busted wide open.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fun with Butterfly

WSJ has a great article about swimming open water distance butterly

This is right up my alley....a few more months with Igor, and I think I'll be ready to tackle this!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time is running out

Sign up online for Grimaldo's Mile! Sunday, June 27th 2010, 7:30am

The race course is 1 mile straight line swim, parallel to shore. Start is at Coney Island at Stillwell Ave and finish is at Brighton Beach by the Shorefront Y at Coney Island Ave. Course will be marked by bouys. Water temperature is expected to be 62 ~ 67 F.

Download your form and mail it in today!

Sign up today

Take advantage of the early bird rate and sign up before May 31st for the Aquarium 1 mile and 5k! You can register either at active, or download the form at the CIBBOWS website.
It's really a good time! Mark your calendar:
Saturday, August 7th 2010, 7:00am

The 5K race runs parallel to shore with turn arounds at the Coney Island Pier and the end of Brighton Beach. The 1Mile race runs parallel to shore with a turn around at the Coney Island Pier. Both 5K and 1Mile races start and finish in front of the NY Aquarium in Coney Island.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I wonder if he pre-registered for the Brooklyn Bridge swim?

Over the past few days, dolphins have been photographed swimming in the polluted Newtown Creek and the East River. The Fire Department provided Gothamist with additional images of the aquatic mammals captured by Bill Hannon of FDNY Marine Company 6. Despite some scary police scanner dispatches about an "animal rescue" involving a dolphin near the Brooklyn Navy Yard yesterday afternoon, the Post reports the dolphin—which was last seen in the waters off of Kent Street—appears to be doing just fine. Rob DiGiovanni, director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, told the tabloid: "At this point right now, it seems the animal is free swimming and doesn't seem to be in need of assistance."

as reported by the Gothamist--By Ben Muessig in News on March 5, 2010 12:14 PM
photos:Bill Hannan of FDNY Marine Company 6

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


We did it! Cristian, Rachel & I managed to complete a double crossing of the Beagle Channel.
Check out the photos!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Thursday is the big day for los natadores to swim the Beagle Channel. We will be crossing from Chile to Argentina in the morning with the assistance of the Chilean and Argentine Armada. Patricia Sener, Cristian Vergara, and Rachel Golub will be attempting the swim in frigid 38F waters. We have established a clubhouse on a houseboat with a bar and wood stove--CIBBOWS south is training in style! Be sure to check out Rachel's blog about our swim at: