Two down and one to go toward ocean water swimming’s Triple Crown. English Channel. Check. Catalina Channel. Check. Swim Around Manhattan in June 2010?
Together, those 3 swims constitute the unofficial Triple Crown. Also unofficially: fewer than 40 swimmers have completed all 3 swims in their lifetimes.
I crossed the Catalina Channel — from Doctor’s Cove to Point Vicente, Palos Verdes — in 9 hours and 33 minutes on the morning of September 24th. We started the swim right around midnight and swam through the night.
The most popular question: what was more difficult — English Channel or Catalina Channel?
The English Channel — where we battled 10 days of terrible weather, cold water, rain, choppy seas — takes the top honors. The Catalina Channel is no easy task, however. Two important challenges to overcome in crossing the Catalina Channel.
First, the swim is attempted at night. Why? Not sure exactly. But the normal answer given is that a) the wind and b) the chop. Currents are not as much of a factor in the Catalina Channel — at least according to the boat that navigates the swimmers across. What’s so bad about swimming at night? Lots. For starters, you can’t see anything. The kayak support boats are adorned in glow sticks but this matters little. I couldn’t tell which direction they were moving in and smashed my head, face, and mouth into them multiple times in the early hours.
Second, about 3 miles off of Palos Verdes the water temperature drops, in the case of my swim by 4-5 degrees. For a swim that started in 69-degree water at Catalina, a 5 degree drop may not see like much. But it is. The human body becomes acclimated to the near-70 degree temperature over the course of the first 8 hours of the swim making the dramatic fall in temperature difficult to absorb. I was shivering over the final mile.
The second most popular question: did you see any sharks?
The answer: no sharks, but I did see some very large fish. The boat captain said they were tuna. I also had a close encounter with a jelly fish and the jelly fish won. My left foot absorbed the pain and I kept on swimming.
We had a great team this time, which smoothed the process and made a tough swim a success. Once again leading the team was my brother. If open water swimming credited each swimmer listed on the “success” page with an assist, that assist would definitely go to him. In fact, I think he is more serious about conquering these swims than I am. At one point, in the middle of the night, I remarked on the visibility, the stars and the constellations, floating for a moment on my back after I stopped for a quick feeding break. His comment: “We are in the middle of a swim. Shut up and get going.”
To which I replied: “Is that Cassiopeia?”
And what better way to summarize a Catalina Channel swim? In the dark, 100 yards from the escort boat, floating on your back in the complete pitch-darkness that is the open ocean at night?
A moment that is without words.
One more to go…
Just keep swimming,