DISCLAIMER: Open-water swimming is inherently dangerous. Open-water swimmers risk drowning, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heart attacks, panic attacks, cramping, jelly fish stings, fish bites, boat or jet-ski collisions, collisions with floating or submerged objects (including other swimmers), and other calamities that can be injurious, disabling or fatal! The "West Neck Pod" is an informal association of open-water swimmers who swim "outside the lines" with no lifeguard protection, it has no formal membership, organizational structure or legal identity, and its participants, including the author of this blog, make no representations and assume no liability with respect to its group open-water swims. All swimmers who participate in West Neck Pod group open-water swims do so at their own risk. Be careful out there!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

West Neck Pod News

THIS JUST IN: Lider Raynor! — whose ten-minute immersion in the 41° water of Cold Spring Harbor today confirmed him  as the winner of the until-now-nascent "First-In" competition for the 2018 Open Water Swim season! Fortuitously there at West Neck Beach to bear witness to Lider’s feat was long-ago Pod member Annmarie Bishoffberger, who announced her plans to re-join us in the Salt this year if (*ugh*) wearing a wetsuit helps her avoid the allergic reaction to unseen sea critters that has kept her pool-bound for lo these many years! (Fingers crossed, Annmarie!)
Still to come, the "Last-Out" competition – and, as not-quite-Polar Pod-member EJ Voss urges (perhaps sensing a competitive advantage), the "Last-In" award as well!

Looking forward to seeing some of you in the Salt very, very soon, and the rest of you, well...I guess I’ll see you when I see you!

Happy Spring, and Welcome Back, West Neck Pod!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sea Changes

Dear West Neck Pod: I wish you all (and apologize for) a very belated "welcome" to the 2017 open-water swimming season. As you know the season got off to a slow start when, first, Mother Nature pelted our area with a seemingly endless series of torrential-and-potentially-toxic-runoff-generating Springtime rainstorms and, second, the Town of Huntington suddenly altered its long-standing practice of early-morning beach openings, and swimmers arriving at West Neck Beach for their morning swims inexplicably found the gates still lowered and locked. Numerous emails, phone calls, and in-person visits to Town Hall by distraught and angry Pod members were successful in turning the tide, and, thanks to your efforts, the gates to West Neck Beach are now open every morning at 6:00! (and the resultant flurry of ticketing of cars without Town of Huntington beach parking permits before the beach "officially" opens appears to have abated).

But Town enforcement policies and practices aside, I’m sure you all have noted some subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the West Neck Pod. One such obvious change is in the Pod’s leadership, which, informal though it is, has been largely informed and coordinated by the emails, Facebook posts, and "Water-Blog" blogposts of my alter ego, the "Fairy Pod-Mother." Recent sea changes in my personal life have compelled me to shift my attention and energy in other directions, and you may have noticed that my blogposts have become almost nonexistent, and my emails and Facebook posts less frequent. This season, my physical presence for West Neck Pod group swims has been sporadic, in part because I have found a new heart-home upstate where I have been spending most of my weekends, and to which I hope to retire someday – although "Chatham" is maddeningly land-locked. Until then, I am still swimming with my fellow Pod members on weekday mornings and one weekend a month, and you will see me in the Salt as often as I am able get myself there! I am confident that our Pod-elders will swim up to fill any void created by the absence of the Fairy Pod-Mother and to ensure that open-water swimming is as safe and accessible as we have made it for each other for all the years that the West Neck Pod has plied the waters of Cold Spring Harbor and Long Island Sound (and here I tip my swim cap to our founding Pod-father, Rob Martell!).

Indeed, our West Neck Pod adventures in the Salt have made West Neck Beach synonymous with open-water swimming, and our home beach has become a mecca for "newbies" to the open water, as well as for recreational swimmers, competitive swimmers and triathletes from both near and far, all of whom have embraced and been embraced by our inclusive membership requirement, which is, simply, if you swim with the Pod, you’re a member of the Pod! There are no dues, no fees, no requirements other than that you listen to the acquired wisdom of the Pod elders, who are knowledgeable about water conditions, tides, wind speed and direction, boat traffic, swim courses, "floaty bags" and other factors that affect our safety and well-being "out there."

One consequence of this increased visibility and recognition of the West Neck Pod is that the need and impetus for group swims seems to have diminished somewhat, as more and more little Podlets form whose members cherry-pick the dates, times and buddies for their swims, so that now, virtually anytime you come down to West Neck Beach you will see open-water swimmers "out there" beyond the swim lines. I think this evolution is a good thing – and a reflection of what occurs in nature, among the whales and dolphins whose extended "pod" families gave our open-water swimming group its name so many years ago.

Official group swims continue, though – with posted group-swim times on Friday/Saturday/Sunday mornings at 8:00 (and I am advised that the newly reconstituted "Pokey-Pod" has been swimming regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:45 a.m. if that’s more your speed). As for other dates and times, rely on your fellow Pod-members to post their swims on the West Neck Pod Facebook page, and please welcome others to join your own "Podlet" swims.

One of the things that has suffered as I transit between upstate and downstate is my role as Captain of "Team West Neck Pod’s" Swim Across America. For the first time in my many years of participating in this event, to date I have done no recruiting for the Team, and no fundraising – although the Swim is less than a week away. Ironically, it was the death of my dear friend Karin Ralph from lung cancer earlier this year that stunned and immobilized me – and it was not until her July 8th memorial service on the day of what would have been her 72nd birthday that I reconnected with my commitment to the fight against cancer. And so I will be swimming on Saturday, August 5th, with my amazing teammates Lider Raynor (who is swimming his first 10K!), and cancer survivor Bonnie Millen, and whoever else reading this is inspired to join us, last-minute though it may be. Our staunch teammate Merry Lewin, alas, is down for the count with a torn meniscus and will not be in swimming shape by August 5th, and I have been plagued with back problems that make my usual 5K unthinkable now, so I will be swimming the one-mile event this year. I know that I will be joined in spirit by Karin, who introduced me to beautiful Makamah Beach on Long Island Sound, and with whom I swam there, side by side, more times than I can count. I swim, also, in honor and in memory of the (too) many cancer survivors and victims whose names adorn my pink "floaty-bag," and whose courage and spirits will again carry me through my "Swim Across America."

To join Team West Neck Pod (I hope you will), or to support my swim (or that of your fellow Pod-mates), follow this link: http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/NassauSuffolk?team_id=18972&pg=team&fr_id=4365

And if you’re not able to participate in this year’s Swim Across America, Pod-member Evelyn Cruise, Volunteer Coordinator for the "West Neck Swim," is looking for additional volunteers to help with this year’s swim, which is scheduled to be held at West Neck Beach on Sunday, August 6th. If you can help, please reach out to Evelyn at evelyn.cruise@gmail.com or westneckswimvolunteers@gmail.com.

It has been an unutterable joy to help weave the threads that collected this motley crew of swimmers into the beautiful fabric that is the West Neck Pod. I love all of you, and what we have created together. Please take care of it, and each other. See you in the Salt.

Love, Carol (Fairy Pod-Mother Emeritus)

P.S.: I’m attaching a link to a blogpost I wrote seven years ago about my love for open-water swimming, which some of may remember and others may never have seen. It is all still true for me. See you in church. http://thewater-blog.blogspot.com/2010/08/open-water-swimming-love-story_09.html

Monday, November 7, 2016

I Vote We Go In !!

There was a lot of head-shaking going on at West Neck Beach yesterday morning, as one by one we would-be November swimmers arrived for our planned 10:45 "in-the-water" swim....It was a gloriously sunny day, the air temperature a moderate 53 degrees, but an 18 mph northwesterly wind was pushing up two-foot whitecapped waves that washed chillingly over our feet as we dithered at the water’s edge about what to do...what to do? We weren’t worried so much about the water temperature (52 degrees? 53?) as about what that wind would feel like on the back end of our swim when/if....

Finally, newly minted Polar-Podders Lider Raynor and Pedro Xavier Palacios – already in their wetsuits – announced that they were going in anyway, while Gae Polisner, Annmarie Kearney-Woods and I had quietly tumbled into the "NOT!" column as we stood there shivering in the wind....And then Gae made that crack about how "Hillary Clinton would be ashamed of us," which got me tugging off my sweatpants and t-shirt and pulling on my wetsuit...Not for Hillary herself (although I will be voting for her tomorrow), but for the recognition of what it has taken for a woman – finally– to be actually on the brink of possibly becoming the next president of the United States of America; and for the remembrance that every season, it is we women of the West Neck Pod who are always the first in and the last out, and if November 6th wound up being the last swim of this 2016 season, that would be the end of that tradition! So ultimately there were five of us Polar Podders (with our wounded sister Joye Brown on the beach taking pictures) who edged our way into the breathtakingly chilly water yesterday morning, and who emerged an exhilarating half hour later, smiling and happy and ineffably proud of ourselves and each other. Thank you, Lider, Pedro, Gae, Annmarie, and Joye (and Eleanor Roosevelt) for always encouraging and enabling me to do the thing I think I cannot do.

Please go out and vote tomorrow. See you in the Salt...

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What the...??? or, Apocalyptic Swim...

For nearly a week, an unrelenting wind had been whipping across the Island, bending tree limbs and rustling leaves and whipping up whitecaps across the water everywhere....Saturday was relatively calm, but by Sunday the blustery wind had returned, and midway through our 8:00 morning swim it changed direction and intensified, forcing the handful of stubborn stay-ins to stick close to shore to avoid head-on collisions with unseen mooring balls or other swimmers. Conditions were much the same for the Tuesday morning 6:30 swim, as Margot Edlin and I fought our way to the North Buoy against the northwesterly wind and then fought our way back against what we’d thought would be an incoming tide but felt awfully outgoing....

So when Gae Polisner and I arrived at West Neck Beach for the Wednesday morning 6:30 swim, we were relieved to find the flag hanging limply against the flagpole and the water flat and still, though the air was chilly at 55 degrees. As we pulled our wetsuits on in the parking lot, deeming the water still too cold for bathing-suit-only swimming, we discussed our options for the swim. According to my iPhone’s tide app, as confirmed by Gae’s, the tide was still incoming, with high tide not until 8:57.  So, taking into account our years of observed wisdom that the tide actually turns about an hour earlier in Cold Spring Harbor than the tide table reflects, we figured we still had a good hour’s worth of swimming on an incoming tide before it turned, so our first "Sailboat swim" of the season was our objective.

As we headed to the water, though, our attention was caught by a long, breaking wave out in the middle of the harbor directly in front of the beach. The wave kept breaking in place, curling over itself, and we could hear the sound of the water moving long before a series of rolling waves washed over the beach. Other than a few stationary clamboats dotting the harbor, there was no boat traffic, though, and we wondered, somewhat anxiously, what was out there causing the water to move like that...Fish...?? Big fish...?? How big...?? And how many...??

Gae pointed out that the swim lines were bowing, despite the lack of wind --but not in the direction we would have expected with a still-incoming tide. Once we waded in (we were there to swim, after all, and the water was so clear and clean and calm and lovely despite the unknown force "out there"), we realized that our bodies were moving, too, just like the swim lines, and we were being pushed northward, as if on an outgoing tide. It made no sense – high tide was still at least an hour and a half away, but there was no doubt that the water was moving northward towards the Sound, and pretty forcefully, too, and we were moving with it.

We quickly readjusted our swim plan: To the South Buoy against the apparently though inexplicably outgoing tide, then to the North Buoy and then in, for a mile-plus swim. Off we went, but both with a sense of uneasiness, a feeling that something is off, that things are not what they’re supposed to be....

We had been talking on the beach, of course, as I imagine people all across the country and even the world have been, about the deliberate and merciless slaughter of my gay brothers and sisters in Orlando and the apparent ease with which this latest mass-murderer (who I believe was more of a crazy person than a Muslim terrorist) obtained the assault weapon that made killing each of them and so many of them so easy...so easy.... 

In Orlando...and before that San Bernardino, and before that Charleston, and before that Newtown, and before that Aurora, and before that Columbine...and so many more in between -- all of those innocents, taken so easily from their families and their friends and their futures....

It is no wonder that the winds are raging, that the tides are unpredictable, that the earth is erupting, that our human hearts are breaking along with that of our Mother the Earth...and that Gae and I felt so vulnerable swimming in the face of all this to the South Buoy and then to the North Buoy and then in....

Like Isak Dinesen (or because of her), I believe that "the cure for anything is salt water"....But this is going to take a lot of swimming...a lot of swimming....

See you in the Salt...and be mindful of the shifting tides....

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Our official season opener on Saturday morning saw a dozen swimmers hit the still-chilly but deliciously invigorating waters of Cold Spring Harbor, in a somewhat aimless swim southward, the yellow racing buoys we’ve affectionately dubbed the "South Buoy" and "North Buoy" being still conspicuously absent (as detailed in my blogpost from that date at http://thewater-blog.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-2016-ows-season-begins.html)....

Margot Edlin
By Sunday morning, though, the buoys were miraculously restored, and an even larger cadre of swimmers happily plied their way from buoy to buoy in water that to my bare arms may even have been a teensy bit warmer than the day before. Back in the Salt on Sunday for the first time this season were, among others, Margot Edlin, whose Facebook pictures I’ve purloined to post here, having forgotten my otherwise ubiquitous camera – an omission probably habituated by my more recent Polar Pod excursions where cold-numbed, gloved fingers were useless for operating the camera’s tiny buttons.

Joanna Grossman
Also back – for what it turns out may be one of her last swims with the West Neck Pod – was Joanna Grossman, who announced that she and her husband and fellow law professor Grant will shortly be relocating with their family to Dallas, where fabulous new teaching jobs await them, but Salt water will be in short supply. I’m so sad to see Joanna leave – and not only because she’s been an integral and longstanding member of "Team West Neck Pod" for our annual cancer-fighting "Sound-to-Cove" Swim Across America! We’ll miss you, Joanna, and wish you and your family much happiness in the Big D.

Joanna may be leaving, but back in the Salt for the start of her fourth season with the West Neck Pod, and now signed up for her second stint as a member of Swim Across America’s "Team West Neck Pod," was Merry Lewin – who started her training on Sunday for her first 5K swim with the Team!

Welcome back, too, to Polar Podders Annmarie Kearney-Wood (who will soon have her daughter Missy married off and can then return to compulsive open-water swimming if we can overcome her recent Cross-Fit obsession) and Tony Alizzi (whose chiseled Roman good looks seem only to have been enhanced by his recent faceplant on a Manhattan street), as well as to Rob Todd, Marc Leahy, Joan Addabbo, Gary Baker, Denise Tirino and everyone else who was there whose name or face I can’t quite conjure up now. (Oh, and a hearty Pod-welcome to Denise’s gutsy friend "Josee," an open-water newbie whose caring and concern for Denise – who was temporarily hung up and struggling to make headway "out there" against the outgoing tide -- managed to overshadow her own fear and anxiety...That’s what makes us a Pod...Just sayin’...).

Julia, Connor and Gabby
Though I’d optimistically planned to fete the Memorial Day swimmers with bagels and coffee, the weather forecast for Monday turned out to be accurate, and the rain that fell periodically throughout the night was still soaking Huntington by the time I posted on Facebook that the day’s swim was cancelled. Even though I'd officially cancelled the swim because of the then-pelting rain, I couldn't resist heading down to the beach anyway, because even though I wasn't planning to swim, I still like to look and see what I’m missing....I wasn't expecting to find any swimmers there, so I decided to bring bagels and coffee for the lifeguards instead, who have been so patient with us swimmers and so tolerant of our annoying habit of thronging the beach- house and overhang and taking over every inch of bench space every weekend morning...The lifeguards were there (Julia, Connor and Gabby), and, to my great surprise, so were Marc Leahy, Stephen Leung and Pete Ventura, already suited up and ready to get into the water (with Pete’s wife Vicki watching from the bench)! The rain, of course, had stopped completely by then, so Daisy-Mae and I walked the beach as Pete, Marc and Stephen swam first to the North Buoy and then made their way towards the South Buoy. Midway through their swim the sun started to peek through the clouds, and I felt a twinge of regret – I wonder if this is what it’s like to be a meteorologist! Daisy and I left before they returned, but I hope the lifeguards shared some coffee and bagels with them!
Daisy Mae
This week of spiking summer-like temperatures holds the promise of much warmer water this coming weekend, when I hope that I’ll see the rest of you back in the Salt for the first group swims of June!

Scheduled weekday morning group swims will begin next week, most likely on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 6:30 and Friday mornings at 8:00 – but please feel free to share your swim plans with your fellow swimmers by email or on Facebook:   (https://www.facebook.com/WestNeckPod/?fref=nf).

Summer’s coming! See you in the Salt!