2017 English Channel swim

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Swimming between Oahu and Molokai in Hawaii was an adventure of a lifetime.  It was not an easy swim.  I found that Molokai Channel was my most difficult swim of the Ocean's Seven Challenge.  Molokai was my 6th swim of the challenge.  The difficulty was not the distance of 26 miles but the currents.   They are strong and powerful.  Many times I felt like I was swimming in place and I was.   I did have a few encounters with marine life.  I was stung at least ten times by jellyfish.  These jellyfish left painful red marks on my skin and welts.  During the 8th hour I was bumped in my leg.  I told the kayaker and he notified the main boat.  They quickly scanned the water looking for a shark.  But none was found, they presumed it was a dolphin.  After that, I stayed within a foot of the Shark Shield (electronic device to deter sharks).    A pod of pilot whales decided to visit.  My kayaker Michael Scott  was able to  take video with his drone of them and said they were about two feet from my feet.   He was able to capture a video of them spouting rainbows from their blowhole.   Incredible footage!!  ( As soon as I receive his footage, I will post it. ).  The after effects from a marathon swim varies but typically includes a very sore tongue due to prolong salt water exposure.  My tongue is very painful and has a thick white coating.  It was difficult to speak in the first few hours due to swelling.  At the end of my marathon swim, I crawled on my hands and knees onto the beach.  It's very common to have "sea legs" causing unsteadyness. I didn't want to stand immediately and then fall and break something.  So I sat on the beach for a couple of minutes.  When I stood, I was expectedly unsteady.   My unsteady gait lasted for a few hours after my swim.  Again, it is common for many marathon swimmer to have temporary effects from a long distance ocean swim.  My skin exposure to the sun took its toll....I got a very bad sunburn.  I have yet to find a sun screen product that last for several hours while swimming.  Due to several jellyfish stings, I have several red marks and open areas on my skin. My worse sting was on my lips which caused painful swelling.  I am currently treating all wounds....some with an antibiotic ointment others with special wound bandages.  I'm treating my bad sunburn with aloe.  And  yes , it was worth the pain to have a successful swim.  The pain will last only a couple of days but the joy of a successful swim will last a lifetime.   Now to get back to my Molokai swim adventure.  During my eighth hour of swimming, I felt like throwing in the towel and quitting my swim.  I was getting sick and tired of being stung by jellyfish.  Also I was having problems with motion sickness causing several episodes of vomiting.   During these episodes of vomiting, my left leg was starting to have legs spasms.  I turned to my young kayaker and mentioned that I was thinking of quitting.  He encouraged me to continue.  He said, "you will feel so much better when the sun comes up."   He was right. I felt stronger at daybreak.
   I reached the finish line of Sandy Beach, Oahu in a time of 23 hours and 54 minutes. I became the 52nd person in their history to successfully swim across the channel and set a world record for the oldest woman.  Age 66 years 107 days old.
My crew consisted of my brother David and sister-in-law Jeannie, my brother Bill and sister-in-law Jean.   They did an incredible job.  Crewing is a very exhausting and difficult job.  I can't thank them enough.
My boat Pilot Mike Twigg-Smith was amazing.  He was able to find the correct course through the very strong currents.  My tracker was on his boat because it's not waterproof.  He would speed ahead about 400 yards and assess currents.  Then he would steer his boat back toward me.  That is why some people thought I was swimming fast and was puzzled that I was backtracking.  I had three kayakers taking two hour stints to direct me through the currents.  I would highly recommend him as a pilot for any future channel swimmers
   The Ka'iwi Channel Association swim coordinator Steve Haumschild did a fantastic job organizing all the logistics.  I would highly recommend his organization, too.
 My stay-at-home crew were amazing, too.   My daughter Sarah and son Tom posted on Facebook updates of my progress.   I can't thank them enough.   Also, my husband Jim has been a tremendous support.
   Also I want to thank Matt Goldstein and Paul Barrieau who greeted me at the finish line.  They were a tremendous help.
  I would like to thank everyone who sent emails, text messages, and phone calls.  Your heartfelt comments were greatly appreciated.


Leftmaine said...

I don't know what keeps you going through the vomiting and concern of sharks or whatever's in the water! I would think your arms woukd fall off! I'm glad your kayakerd can hear you so you've got company in the dark. I've been telling everyone about your trip this weekend. Thank you for writing these words to share with us.
You are an admirable woman. This morning in church we were to hold a hand out as someone prayed over the graduating seniors. My arm hurt and I wanted to switch arms, but thought of your arms and what you endured and held my arm out longer. I tried to endure a couple more times and I did finally switch, but realized you push through tons of obstacles and I'm just trying to hold an arm out! Such a lousy comparison, but you have opened my eyes to goals and determination and perseverance.
Wicked proud of you and your accomplishment!

tara gallant said...

SO VERY PROUD of my Aunt!! You are so strong and positive! Never Give Up!! I love this post!! You are a world record holder- so impressive!! You did a great job!! I loved following you along with this swim!!! You inspire me to reach for my goals and I know I can do it!!!

Gail Turner said...

Amazing Pat. Congratulations ....You are a source of unending inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Amazing as ever Pat...your such an inspiration to all women...I totally admire of your strength and determination...

Jean said...

Pat the marine life alone would scare anyone into quitting, but I can read from your words, YOU ARE NOT JUST ANYONE. Your pit crews sound fantastic and as a bystander/spectator cheering you from the comfort of my own home I too thank them for their contribution to your success. It sounds like a team effort. Here's hoping you heal fully and quickly.

Michael Twigg-Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Twigg-Smith said...

Congratulations Pat! Your swim was especially challenging because the current moving to the SW would not let up. It wasn't a particularly strong current but it was very persistent. As soon as we hit deeper water leaving Molokai it started pushing you south. We had you swimming towards Makapu'u lighthouse for 16 hours but your (bearing) progress was for Portlock point!! Luckily about 5 miles off sandy beach the current subsided a little and you were able to make progress directly toward Sandy Beach.
Again, congratulations on the age record, it takes an especially strong and talented person to finish this course and you did it in your golden years!

Warmest Aloha!
Mike Twigg-Smith, Pilot

Joneser said...

You rock Pat! I have a popular podcast and would love to interview you for a series I'm doing on elite older athletes. Do you have 30-60 minutes we could share to make this happen? Thanks. Jonah Larkin

pat said...

Jonah, Please send information about your podcast to my email address: patgallant.charette@gmail.com Thank you for your interest in my swim.