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:

Across Cape Cod Bay:
Across Cape Cod Bay: Plymouth to Provincetown

Sunday, 27 March 2016

South Island

  We have been touring the South Island.
  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

Local newspaper article about my swim


Marilyn's story

  My word for this swim is "gruesome". That was because I could not zone out, the cold continually pressed at me to swim fast. I managed to stay ahead of the shivering while swimming most of the time.The sprint at the end was horrible after swimming fast for the whole swim.
  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

So close but because of black  night can only see glow sticks on Zodiac and  on Marilyns  swim cap. She has touched shore in 11:34 hours.

Tide Part 3

Still fighting with every ounce of strength.   Closing the gap to less than
 0.5km, dark now with many rocks.

Thursday, 17 March 2016


At 7pm she is swimming strong but tide is pushing her sideways when she is only 2.6 km from shore of North Island finish. Her core temperature is slighty cooler at 36 but no signs of hypotherthermia.

Marilyn keeps going!

Sorry for the absence due to zodiac obligations, feeding and applying vaseline mixed with lanolin that Marilyn developed. She has had amazing speed 7km in 3hrs. Could be due to even colder water now at 15C. Marilyn is 8 km from shore. Let's hope there are no strong currents. But tide continues to move across her path.

Beware the Tides of March!

Marilyn has been swimming in 5 knot current that has been pushing her sideways and not in the intended course. This tide is slackening and she is swimming strong.  Hopefully she will put more of the Strait behind her.

Weather changes!

Amazing transformation to sunny and calm. Not only has cold South wind stopped but sun is shining and seas have calmed. This is just like Calgary weather,if you don't like it wait 5 minutes and it will change! However water temp is bone chilling 15C

Every marathon starts with first stroke

Marilyn was greased and taken to an isolated  beach 3 nautical miles North of Perano Head on Arapawi South Island at 9:29 am unofficial local time. The crossing by cabin cruiser was rough with 1-2 m waves.Water temp was 16 C. With clouds, no sun and winds. This will be tough to complete.

And we are off!

Left Mana Sailing club at 7:06 abord Tangaroa 45ft yacht heading for South Island where swim will begin. Captain Chris McCallum and Navigator Byron are crew and Philip Rush is the official and is driving zodiac. Colleen Shields accompanied us from Canada. She will be feeding and coaching Marilyn.

Backup tracker link


The swim is on!

  The swim is on! We are meeting at the docks at 5:15 a.m. tomorrow. That will be around a 7 a. m. start from the south shore. That will be around 2 pm in Ontario on Thursday.
  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

  It "sprinkled" and out right rained on and off all day. The wind was gusty, making the windchill 9 deg. C. Not a fine summer day. Colleen and I braved the water for half an hour; the water was warmer than the air.
  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

   I did an interview for the 6 pm CHCH TV news today. The link is on the Sashbear website. www.sashbear.org.
  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

  Well the news is that we are not swimming tomorrow. The day after doesn't look calm, either. Water temp. continues to vary from 16 to 19 deg C, depending on which beach you are at.
  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

  Philip called this evening. The winds are too high for a swim tomorrow. Maybe the day after.
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.

Getting ready

  Today was a sunny and less windy day. We went for a short swim. There were a half dozen jelly fish, one of which stung me a little. I could see dozens of star fish on the bottom.
  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

   Colleen and I swam in Wellington Harbour. There was a chilly 32 knot wind blowing from the south (ie. the Antarctic) that made the 18.5 deg. C water seem warm. But we had fun.
   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

  After a very long and winding drive, we are safely moved into our condo in Wellington. We can see the Cook Strait out the window. We meet with Philip Rush tomorrow.
  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

We had a gorgeous day for my last long swim, 7 km. Then we drove around the spectacular Coromandel peninsula. We saw giant 600 year old kauri trees, many gorgeous beaches, scenic cliffs and lots of old volcano hills. We head to Wellington, our swim base camp, tomorrow.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Greetings from Whangamata

We drove on windy spectacular roads to get to Whangamata, a cute beach town. Colleen and I went for a 1 1/2 hour swim today. The beach is beautiful white warm sand and the water is an azure blue. I'm looking forward to a long swim tomorrow.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Greetings from New Zealand

Our flight was great. We went to a really cool aquarium with a giant shark tank. The beach in Piha is beautiful but the surfing waves were too big for serious swimming.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Heading to New Zealand today

  All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...
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

Mike Menu (Sasha's father) and I will be on the Scott Thompson show on Friday at 2:35 on 900 CHML radio.
Only 2 more pool workouts!