The official blogsite for Marilyn's 2016 Swims: Cook Strait, Lake of Bays and Cape Cod
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/
Across Cape Cod Bay:
Thursday, 18 August 2016
Article about the P2P swim
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
Thursday, 11 August 2016
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
Swim is on for tomorrow
The weather isn't the greatest. A thunderstorm is ending at midnight. Then the winds are dying down to 5 to 10 knots from the Southwest. Southwest is going to push me. Waves will be 1 to 4 feet, building as we get close to the end. The tide will hopefully also push me in to shore. The last kilometer will be the toughest right into shore, with the tide speeding up there. The biggest weather issue will be the fog. If it is too thick, the swim will have to be called off due to boat traffic.
Massachusetts Open Water Swimming Association, MOWSA, will be providing 2 shark shields to give me continuous protection. I am honoured to have Greg O'Connor, the president of MOWSA as my official observer.
The best news of all is that Marilyn Bell Dilascio drove down especially to see me off. We had a lovely dinner this evening. She will also be waiting to see me come in. "I want to see your glowstick leaving the beach instead if watching the tracker from my couch".
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
Here are the tracker links to follow.
The swim is scheduled to start at 4;30 am from White Horse Beach, Plymouth on Thursday morning, weather permitting.
Day in Provincetown
We went to the beach I will be finishing the swim at, Herring Cove beach. The water was so clean and there were little crabs crawling along the bottom. We had fun just floating and watching them. The water was warm, 21 or 22 degrees C.
Then we went to the beach on the other side of Race Point that I might end up at if I miss the point. The current was stronger there. We saw whales off in the distance blowing their air 20 feet into the sky.
Monday, 8 August 2016
Trip to Plymouth
Sunday, 7 August 2016
First ocean swim
In the afternoon, we drove to the Cape Cod canal of the intracoastal waterway. We could look at the ocean, the cabin cruisers in the canal and the giant silver bridge over the canal.
Saturday, 6 August 2016
Greetings from Cape Cod
Friday, 5 August 2016
Leaving for Massachusetts tomorrow
I have a small crew for this swim, just my family. My crew are all great at doing 3 or 4 different jobs so I don't need many people.
It is so nice to be able to drive to the swim. No deadlines, no suitcases, no luggage restrictions, and I can take everything I need. Less stress.
It is also nice to be in the same time zone and to have service on my own cell phone.
Sunday, 26 June 2016
Lake of Bays - Marilyn's story
We rented a gorgeous pontoon boat from Baysville Marina.
I started at 8:23 am from the government dock in Baysville. This is located in a bay at the very southernmost point of the Lake of Bays. The water was calm and flat. The first 2.5 k were against a slight current. Then it was a joy to zip across the largest open space of the lake without a wave or boat traffic. Around noon, a ripple began. Over the next 2 hours it built to about 4 inches and the boat traffic made some waves. The winds were primarily from the west to west south-west, but since we were going north north-east, the waves were primarily at my left flank. Once we got into the northern half of the lake, the boats disappeared and the waves settled down to 2 to 3 inches. As we kept rounding points and entering new bays, I understood where the name, Lake of Bays, came from. When the Lake narrowed and I could see the landmarks and the wind was still pushing me, I knew I would make it to Dwight without a problem. However, the water temperature at 22 deg. C, was too hot to sprint, so I just enjoyed the scenery and focused on making my stroke strong. I finished at the beach next to the boat ramp at 6:13 pm. Official time 9:49:51.
I feel ready for Cape Cod Bay!
Don't forget that I am swimming for Sashbear. www.sashbear.org
Saturday, 25 June 2016
Saturday, 11 June 2016
Lake of Bays swim in 2 weeks
Friday, 15 April 2016
Thank you for your prayers
1. Philip picked the day with the best weather during the low tide window for my swim. It turned out to be the day of the lowest tide. This minimized the tidal currents for me.
2. The weather turned out to be better than predicted. At the start, Philip said it was "marginal", but it turned out that there were less waves and more sun than predicted.
3. The most miraculous of all - Philip was expecting a current out in the middle that would swing me back towards the start, but it never materialized! The captain and navigator both said that they had never seen this in their 30 years of accompanying swimmers!
Thank you for your prayers!
Wednesday, 6 April 2016
Hamilton News article
We are home now and it is snowing.
Sunday, 3 April 2016
Donations to Sashbear are far short of my goal.
We are flying home tomorrow.
Sunday, 27 March 2016
Unfortunately the phone service is very spotty and this is the first hotel where my computer will log onto the wifi.
We have had lots of fun rafting whitewater on the Buller River, sea kayaking in the Okarito lagoon, hiking up to Mount Luxmore on the Kepler track and Key Summit on the Routeburn track, kayaking and doing the overnight cruise in Milford Sound and watching the penguins come in to their burrows for the night. Last but not least, I swam in the South Ocean today.
Only two more nights left in New Zealand.
Friday, 18 March 2016
I started at 9:30 am touching a rock at Arapawa Island on the South Island. The water was cold at 61 degrees F (16 C). I sprinted for 2 hours to stay warm until the sun got higher in the sky. Unbeknownst to me, the current was sweeping me along the shore for the first 3 hours, and I only made 1 km progress toward the other side. Then all of a sudden the water got flat and warm (17.5 deg.). I knew there were big waves in the middle of the strait so I focused on stroking long and strong to get across as much of the strait as possible. That continued for about 3 hours and then it got choppy, but not as bad as predicted. After 2 hours of fighting the waves. the wind changed to push me from the left flank. I was able to swim long and strong again and surprised everyone with how far I got before it got choppy again. It was down to 15 degrees C in the water again (and probably stayed at that temperature until the end) so it felt good to work hard with the sun on my back. After about 8 hours of swimming (this time I succeeded at counting my feedings). Philip told me that I had 8 km left. The North Island was starting to loom above me right in front of me. I was starting to think that I could actually do this.
As the sun was setting (at 7:34 pm), it got choppy again. Whenever I tried to breathe from the left I got a mouthful of water so I gave up and breathed only on the right. Philip said I had only about 2.5 km left and told me to sprint. They kept screaming at me for an hour. I had to dig deep and deeper and deeper still. I knew the tide was going to push me out to sea if I couldn't punch through it. I could see the land rushing past. In all the chaos of hitting the strong tidal current, I didn't get a chance to change out of my dark goggles into my clear goggles and we skipped a feeding. After that was taken care of quickly, I was able to attack the current with renewed vigour and I finally made it to shore. At that point, we were in a very rocky zone with surf pounding the shore. Philip thought it too dangerous to land and we ended at the rocks. Total time 11 hour 34 minutes.
Evidently the lowest my core temp got was 35.99 deg C. But I sure felt a lot colder than that. I have never shivered so violently in my life. But I knew that shivering meant that I was not severely hypothermic and although, unpleasant, I would soon be OK.
Big thanks to Colleen, my husband, Captain Chris, navigator Byron and most especially Philip Rush who made it possible and made me believe that I could do it. After almost 30 years of doing this, he poured his heart into my swim.
Finish in sight although it's pitch black
Tide Part 3
0.5km, dark now with many rocks.
Thursday, 17 March 2016
Marilyn keeps going!
Beware the Tides of March!
Every marathon starts with first stroke
And we are off!
Backup tracker link
The swim is on!
We will be swimming from the South Island east to the North Island.
Winds are light and variable. There will be intermittent sunshine with a high of 20 deg C.
The SPOT tracker link is
Please donate to Sashbear if you find my swim inspirational.
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Wet, cool and windy
Today we went to the New Zealand Parliament for the tour. Their system of government makes lots of sense to us. No Upper House and citizens get 2 votes - one for their local representative and one for the party they want in government. We went to see the Dreamworks exhibit about the creation of animated movies like Shrek, Madagascar and Kung Fu Panda.
No swim tomorrow. We are packing for a Friday a.m. departure (Thursday noon at home) and hoping Philip gives us the go ahead tomorrow night. All my bags are packed, including my angel.
Monday, 14 March 2016
CHCH TV tonight
After the interview I went for an hour swim in 15 deg C water in Owhiro Bay. I think the Cook Strait temperature is going to be somewhere in between the 19 degrees of Oriental Bay downtown and Owhiro Bay, which is almost on the Strait. The winds have stirred up the near shore waters.
Then we went to the Otari-Wilton's Bush gardens of New Zealand plants. The giant ferns and towering trees were amazing. It was like being in a jungle. There was even a ariel walkway through the treetops. An interesting story - the rata tree starts out in the branches of the giant rimu tree and sends dozens of roots down to the ground that surround the rimu tree and eventually kill it. The roots join up and make a pseudotrunk.
No swim tomorrow. Thursday doesn't look too good either due to strong southerly winds but Friday here looks good.
Still windy in Wellington
Today we went to the Weta Cave, the studio that did the graphics and special effects for the Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, King Kong, Planet of the Apes, Narnia and Avatar, among others. Then we went to the Museum of Wellington, City & Sea. There was a great exhibit on the 250 shipwrecks in the Wellington area.
Saturday, 12 March 2016
Waiting for the wind to settle
We had fun going to the Te Papa museum of NZ civilization today.
It seems that there is a time change in Ontario tonight so there is now only a 17 hour difference between Ontario and New Zealand.
After we picked up all the last minute supplies, we drove out to the Mana Marina. This is where we will be getting on the boat in the middle of the night and we wanted to be sure we could find it. A short distance away, there was a lookout spot with a tremendous view across the Cook Strait of the South Island.
Friday, 11 March 2016
First full day in Wellington
Then we met with Philip Rush. His motto is "let common sense prevail", which we agree is a great attitude towards safety. We are very impressed with his 30 years of experience and wealth of knowledge. We feel we are in good hands.
The countdown starts Sunday evening. We find out at 8 pm whether we are going the following morning. So the first potential start for the swim in Ontario time would be noonish on March 13.
Thursday, 10 March 2016
Looking at the Cook Strait
The Cook Strait between the north and south islands in New Zealand - This 30 km swim is one of the toughest in the world, probably more difficult than the English Channel. Winds and waves from the Tasman Sea on the northwest and the South Pacific Ocean on the southeast funnel through the treacherous strait. The water temperature is a chilly 15–18 degrees Celsius. But the biggest challenge will be making progress against the immense tidal flow and avoiding the violent eddies. Tides are so unpredictable, they can flow in opposite directions in the strait simultaneously. Finally, about one in 10 swims see sharks. Since 1962, only 84 individuals have successfully crossed the Cook Strait.
Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Sunny day in the Coromandel peninsula
Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Greetings from Whangamata
Sunday, 6 March 2016
Greetings from New Zealand
Saturday, 5 March 2016
Heading to New Zealand today
We're leaving today. First a 5 hour flight to Vancouver and then a 14 hour flight to Auckland.
I had a wonderful chat with Marilyn Bell DiLascio yesterday. She is healing from her recent flare up of arthritis. She sends blessings for the swim.
Laura Young, who is the author of the book Solo, Yet Never Alone about Lake Ontario swimmers, wrote a lovely article about my upcoming swim in the Masters Swimming Canada news.
Talk to you next time from Kiwi land.
Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Scott Thompson show
Only 2 more pool workouts!
Wednesday, 24 February 2016
Article in Hamilton News
Like I said, we need more DBT services in Ontario, now more than ever!
Saturday, 20 February 2016
Our hotels and itinerary are confirmed. I'm starting to pack.
I've been swimming well.
Only 67 kilometers left to swim before we leave.
Monday, 15 February 2016
CBC in PEI radio interview
The interview can also be heard by clicking on the link on the Sashbear website
What I think about on a long swim - Part 2
The night time is my favourite part of the swim because there are no distracting stimuli to prevent me from zoning out. I sometimes "wake up and discover I am swimming".
My crew don't want to discourage me by telling me how far I've come and how long its been. I trust that my crew will give me good news when they find it strategic to share it. I count feedings for a while, but I usually lose count before I get to 10. I get into this state where I really am not thinking much and not caring much about how much further. I'm in it for the duration, no matter how long it takes. I'm usually not allowed to wear a watch so I watch the sun rise, cross the sky and slowly sink back into the water. If I really want to know how long I've been swimming, I can guess at the time by the sun position.
The other thing I've learned is that my body goes through "walls" every 3 or 4 hours. Marathon runners don't know how lucky they are to only go through one wall! Everything hurts, the arms feel like lead, and breathing feels tight. The urge to stop is overwhelming. However, I have learned the hard way that it is 10 times harder to start again if you stop, so I compromise and slow down for a bit. Pretty soon, I have swum through the wall, and I feel fairly good again.
The same is true for headache, nausea, and some joint pains. I have learned to ignore them and hope they go away, which they usually do in an hour or two.
I like to do a lot of research about my swims. I recognize the geographic features and I know what parts of the swim are critical. I spend a lot of time while I am swimming thinking about my strategy for the upcoming challenges. This way I don't need to stop and ask questions when we get to those challenges.
The final struggle is with wanting to stop and talk. I can spend the whole 45 minutes thinking about things I want to say at the next feeding!
Friday, 12 February 2016
What I think about on a long swim - part 1
17 more workouts before we leave for New Zealand...
Tuesday, 9 February 2016
Fortunately, my good friend and fellow marathon swimmer Colleen Shields was able to get the time off work. Between Colleen and my husband I don't need more crew. Colleen is able to do every job on the swim: swimming beside me (pacing), coaching my stroke, monitoring my feedings, measuring my core temperature with the CorTemp® monitor, minding the Spot Tracker, and cheer leading. She is also an official (Swim Master) and board member with Solo Swims of Ontario. She can also do a number of other jobs that are going to be Philip Rush's responsibility on this swim, such as driving the Zodiac, navigating, weather forecasting and being in charge of the safety of the swim . But rest assured that my husband and Colleen will be watching me with their experienced eyes and will make sure Philip doesn't miss anything important. My husband, of course, has been on all my swims and can do every job except swim fast.
I have been on 5 of Colleen's swims, including her successful 1990 crossing of Lake Ontario. Colleen is an amazing marathon swimmer. It has been my honour to do every job on her swims for her. Colleen has crossed Lake Ontario 3 times and has the record for oldest swimmer. She is also the only person to have swum from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island. Her bio is on the Solo Swims of Ontario website. www.soloswims.com
Sunday, 7 February 2016
Masters Swimming Canada's (MSC) mission statement is "to lead, develop, and support adult swimming in Canada."
"Masters Swimming encourages participation regardless of level of ability, supports setting and achieving goals, promotes health and wellness through swimming, fosters friendships and is fun."
The MSC website http://mymsc.ca/ lists over 300 clubs across Canada. Most clubs hold a swim meet and then there are provincial, national and world competitions, In fact the 2014 worlds were held in Montreal.
For me, the best part of Masters swimming is trying to keep up with my swimming buddies. I've been competing against Debbie for 45 years. She paced me across the Catalina strait, where she earned the name "shark sister". Yesterday we swam with our new swim buddy, Mary, who is faster than both of us and has helped me get faster. Masters helps with the boredom of doing endless laps in the pool. However, to do the mileage that I need to do for a marathon swim, I have to do long workouts on my own on the days between Masters workouts.
Masters Swimming Ontario has kindly posted my flyer on their website. http://www.
22 more workouts in the pool before we leave for New Zealand...
Friday, 5 February 2016
Philip has all the equipment and personnel organized, is an expert on the tides and weather, and says that all the swimmer has to do is show up. And he has selflessly organized and officiated 300 swims over about 30 years.
Since he only books 8 to 10 swimmers a year, I have had to wait since 2013 for my chance.
Yesterday he wrote to me that all I have to bring is "your swimming stuff like your food, togs (swimming outfit), goggles and caps". With regards to hypothermia and sharks, he says, "be assured we only have your best interests at heart."
He also writes, "we will give you our best shot to become the most mature female and the first Canadian."
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Back in the pool
133 km left to do in the pool before I leave for New Zealand.
Twenty eight more workouts.
Saturday, 30 January 2016
I did the math, I swam 47.5 km in the last 8 days in the ocean.
Heading home tomorrow after a successful training week. The most important thing about the training week was that I did OK in the cold water and my new stroke held up well in the waves.
Friday, 29 January 2016
Last long swim in the ocean
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
Why Long Beach for training?
Monday, 25 January 2016
Successful long swim
Saturday, 23 January 2016
Greetings from Long Beach, California
So that is why I am training in the ocean in California in January. Today, the water was 16 degrees C, the air was 15 degrees and the sky was cloudy. I swam fast and stayed warm, so the 1 1/2 hour swim was a great start to the training week!
The board of Sashbear is currently busy planning how to use my Cook Strait swim to raise awareness about BPD and suicide and to fundraise. Please support me and help Sashbear train more therapists and family members. http://sashbear.org/en