2017 English Channel swim

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Catalina Swim...What a day!

As we arrived at Catalina Island at midnight in total darkness, my boat captain lowered the anchor to prevent our boat from drifting. One of my Catalina Swim Officials came up to me and said not to worry about the marine life.  She said it was common to see flying fish, sea lions, and maybe a visiting pelican in the area.   As I prepared to jump from the boat into the water, my crew (Bill and Jean) and I joined hands and made this swim a tribute to my brother Johnny who died in a tragic accident at the age of 17.  My brother Robbie's name was on my swim cap as at tribute to him..he died at the age of 34 from a sudden and unexpected heart attack.  As soon as I was ready to jump off the boat, my boat captain shined a light on the 50 foot water pathway to the beach. I had to start my swim from dry land.  I got a shock of a lifetime.  In front of us were thousands of small flying fish (and they were flying out of the water), two sea lions were 20 feet from us and they were very curious of what was happening.  Then suddenly two pelicans landed on the water in front of us.  I turned to my crew and said, "What a welcoming!"  Then all of a sudden six dolphins joined the group.  It was an exciting moment to jump from the boat.  I had to swim through the thickest seaweed I've ever seen in my life. I could barely feel the water. The horn from the boat signaled the beginning of my swim. I had to swim through that bed of seaweed again,  It was awful.  Best to describe it "as trying to swim on a bed". I could barely feel any water.  The next 6 and 1/2 hours I was exposed to diesel fumes due to wind direction. I had the dry heaves and vomiting between 50 to 75 times.  Once the wind changed, I felt fine.  As my swim progressed, it was very foggy.  I didn't feel like I was making any headway but my crew said I was.  I trusted their judgement. Finally after 13 hours of swimming, I could finally see the rocky coast of California.  But suddenly, I had a very frightening experience. I saw a very large object 3 feet below me and it had a dorsal fin.  I yelled to my boat crew, who were monitoring my swim very closely, that "something" was below me.  They all shouted and laughed, "They're dolphins, you are being escorted by over 100 dolphins to the finish line". I looked around and they were everywhere.  What an experience! My official time was 14 hours and 11 minutes.  My brother Bill and my sister-in-law Jean did a fantastic job. They were constantly monitoring my swim. I can't thank them enough. Also, the Outrider boat crew did a fantastic job. My kayaker Kim Miller paddled next to me throughout the night. And, my two Catalina swim officials Marta Gaughen and Anne Cleveland did a superb job..thank you. At the end of my swim I broke the World Record for the Oldest Woman to swim Catalina Channel (aka San Pedro's Channel). Also, after my swim I spoke to several swimmers about "Swim for Your Heart..Feb14" a global swim event to bring an awareness of heart disease and prevention. A few people I would like to thank from back home....My training partner Yoko and her husband Dick...we've had great training swims at Pine Point Beach..thank you. The "Y" for their great programs especially their pool, thank you.  My husband Jim for his unrelenting support of my swimming, thank you.  My daughter Sarah for updating my blog during my swim and for her being my "rock", thank you.  And lastly, to my son Tom who inspired me 14 years ago to swim as a tribute to my brother Robbie, I will never forget his words, "You could, if you tried." Thank you.   And a special thank you to the rest of my family, friends, and fellow swimmers for their words of encouragement and support.


Paula said...

Sweet of you, Pat, to take time the day after your swim to write your swim story. We're so happy that you had a safe swim. Enjoy the California sun as there isn't such here.

Erin Grady said...

What an amazing journey. You certainly had the support and encouragement from your crew on land and in the sea. It must have been an incredible experience. Reading your blog made me think that you should do a childrens' book on your experience, I could picture the fish, the pelicans the dolphins and all cheering you along.
Congratulations again Pat, Job well done!!

Paula said...

Yes, a childrens' (and adult) book is in order, to tell your "swim story".

I am sort of a multi media person and could help if you like. I have shots of pelicans on the beach, a lovely stuffed pelican that would have illustration appeal, etc., etc.

Courage and determination.

Anonymous said...

We love you! You're a new hero for us all! Go, Swimmer Lady!