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:
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!