Welcome to my 2016 swim website. For those of you who don't know me, I swam Lake Ontario the easy way in 1983 and the hard way in 1984. I “came out of retirement" to swim the English Channel (oldest Canadian woman) in 2011. In 2013, I was the oldest Canadian to swim the Catalina strait in California. After swimming around Manhattan Island (oldest Canadian) in 2014, I became the first Canadian to complete the Triple Crown of open water swimming (English Channel, Catalina Strait and Manhattan.) Last year I was the first to swim between three provinces: from Nova Scotia north to New Brunswick and across the Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island (34 kms). This year on March 18, I became the first Canadian and the oldest woman ever to swim the icy and turbulent Cook Strait between the south and north islands in New Zealand. (See links below for more detail.)
On August 11, 2016, I hope to become the first Canadian to swim from Plymouth to Provincetown, Massachusetts, across Cape Cod Bay. This “P2P” swim has only been accomplished by 6 people (all American), although the swim has been attempted numerous times since 1915. The swim from Manomet Beach in Plymouth to Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown is about 32 kilometers. The biggest challenge is the current which circulates in a counter-clockwise direction around the relatively shallow bay. The water temperature is expected to be between 16 and 21 degrees Celsius. The swim is officiated by the Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association (MOWSA), whose rules are based on the English Channel rules. https://massopenwaterswimming.com/
I am pleased to be able to use this opportunity to raise money for Sashbear, an organization founded by Lynn Courey, whose daughter, Sasha, a swimmer with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), died by suicide in 2011. Sashbear funds education programs for therapists, families and in schools. I have dedicated my psychiatric career to the treatment and research of BPD, which has a suicide rate of 10%. More treatment programs and support for families are desperately needed in Canada. Please support my swim by donating to Sashbear. Thank you. http://sashbear.org/en/
Friday, 12 August 2016
As soon as we got aboard the 39 foot flybridge Flyin Finn boat, we started greasing me up to look like a snake. Evidently sharks are scared of snakes. We put white and black bands of zinc oxide on my arms and legs and lanolin on my core for warmth. I jumped off the boat in the dark into a cool 17.5 degrees C water. I swam in to White Horse beach to where Marilyn Bell Dilascio and her daughter stood holding flashlights. After photos, kisses, and "Godspeed", I stepped into the beam of the boat's searchlight, lowered my raised hand and started swimming at 4:54 a.m.
There was a heartwarming moment after the swim when Marilyn and I thanked each other for a moment we will always treasure. I am so grateful she was able to come down for the most wonderful send off I have ever had in 14 swims.
By the time I started swimming it was not all that dark and the sun came up an hour later. The water was calm for the first 5 hours so I tried to make good time because I knew the wind and waves would pick up in the second half. Thank God the dreaded fog did not materialize. The water warmed up to a quite pleasant 18.5 within an hour. For some reason I had been nauseated for 12 hours before the swim. But after I threw up my entire breakfast on the 5th feed, my stomach felt great and I had no more problems.
The crew saw a pilot whale breaching and another one blowing. I saw a duck and seagulls and zillions if moon jelly fish. I only got a dozen small stings.
The wind picked up after 5 hours and the waves were coming from every direction but mainly at me. There were 2 segments of about half an hour where I couldn't get my stroke rhythm and my shoulder started to hurt. I was praying that the waves would improve or else I would be in for a long painful slog of a second half as the winds increased. My prayers were answered and both their direction shifted to pushing me from the right flank and they got longer and smoother and I got my rhythm back. Again I tried to make good time and I focused on my stroke to minimize the shoulder and neck pain. I kept praying that this could continue until the end. Soon I could see the finish at Herring Cove beach and I knew that I would make it, although it still looked like it was 10 km away.
The closer we got to Provincetown, the bigger the waves became. The water temp was 21 degrees C at that point. All my years of swimming in big waves were key in succeeding at the last 10 k. The waves were about 2 to 3 feet high. I instinctively knew when to attempt a breath and when not, I didn't panic if I had to wait a few more strokes, I used the wave direction to orient myself, I ruddered with my legs, and I lengthened my stroke to ride the wave on my glide. I even got into a rhythm with the Flyin Finn which was constantly drifting. I could tell when they were speeding up to get back on course and I adjusted my heading to match theirs. Of course, my husband and son, who took turns paddling, did an awesome job staying beside me in the waves and keeping the shark shield beside me. It did zap me once, which was a bit startling, but not painful. Of course, the second shark shield ran out of juice 1 km from shore. This was the most critical time because we ourselves had seen the seals that frequent that area and attract sharks. Fortunately we had brought my shark shield and got it up and running.
As we crossed over the shelf where the bottom went from 153 feet to 13 feet, about 800m from shore, the waves became massive. I was so grateful we had put the effort into finding a spray skirt to cover the kayak. Waves were building on top of each other making 5 to 8 foot mountains. The tour boat that went by and made a 10 foot tsunami wake didn't help. My son had a blast surfing that wave. He's a whitewater paddler and he was in his element. His antics kept me entertained. Other than the pain in all my muscles from feet to fingers, we both had fun in the waves, especially since the water was 22 degrees C. Not all the people in Flyin Finn watching were as confident as we felt. With all our experience in the surf in California, we had no trouble making the the white sand landing at 6 pm to the amazement of the people on the beach. Total time for the swim was 13:06. This was a little faster than I expected, thanks to the wind that pushed me.
THEN, I had to swim 250 m back to the boat against the waves. I had to dive under a couple of them to get through the surfzone. The boat had been blown so close to shore they threw me a life ring and towed me 100m before plucking me out of the ocean. Freed from having to accompany me, my son had a terrific time surfing back to the boat.
I would like to thank Greg O'Connor, president of MOWSA, for his good natured help and advice. Captains Tom and John did a terrific job navigating. They had a deep understanding of the bay and it's weather patterns that was immensely helpful. Thank you to my crew. Finally, thank you to Marilyn and her daughter for the send off and meeting us upon our return.
I am the 9th person this complete this swim that takes the same route as the Mayflower pilgrims (in reverse). Most importantly, I am the first Canadian and the oldest woman.
Don't forget that it isn't too late to support my swims by donating to Sashbear. Www.sashbear.org