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!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Another Horde Hits the Water...

Today's was another perfect weekend swim, with the "usual suspects" being joined this morning by a group of swimmers who call themselves "AquaFit," and who, knowing nothing about our group, just happened to show up at the suggestion of one of their members who lives in the area! So, like yesterday, when we were joined by Bob Miller's Tri-Masters Swimmers, we had a huge group setting out again this morning for a lovely Causeway swim...!

Rob Todd, who swam three miles of Rob Martell's earlier five-mile(!) swim, proclaimed conditions "spectacular," but warned about having seen two boats disturbingly close to our Causeway swim route -- one boat definitely within 300 feet of shore...So just another reminder to be careful out there!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

West Neck "Pod" Goes to "School"!

Two waves of Pod regulars went out early this morning, with worm-getters Rob and Ken still making their seemingly endless loops from beach to Causeway to buoy and back by the time Mike Engel (renowned blogographer of the Huntington Masters Swimmers group making his 2010 open-water debut!), Margot, Larry and a bunch of his tri-buddies, and I set out on a surprisingly quick (ya gotta love those slack tides!) run out to the Causeway and an even faster, tide-assisted run back. (Check out Mike's blog at http://www.HUMS.blogspot.com!)

We had just about reached the outer limit of the mooring field north of the beach when we were met by an oncoming horde of 30 or more outbound swimmers surging toward us and churning up the water like a bluefish run! What an incredible vision, seeing that multitude of brightly colored caps and flashing arms just filling the harbor and stretching back as far as one could see! WE OWNED THE WATER TODAY!! Thanks to Bob Miller and his Tri-Masters Swimmers Group for making this morning's swim a truly awesome and unforgettable experience! Let's do it again tomorrow! See you at 8:00!

(Sadly, I didn't get any pictures of the swimmers because I was still in the water and made a second round-trip with them, so all I got was these apres-swim photos...)

Friday, June 25, 2010

"TGIF" Morning Swim....

After yesterday afternoon's threats of thunderstorms, Friday morning dawned clear and beautiful, and ten early-risers (Rob Martell, Ken, Chris, Nancy, Don, Paul, Margot, Joye, Gae and I) took advantage of the perfect conditions for another long swim in balmy water (definitely bathing suit temperature!). The "Gang of Ten" (not counting Magda, who swims solo and was already in the water when we arrived) bore witness to yet another milestone for Pod member Joye who, having conquered the southern buoy on her 55th birthday several weeks ago, completed her maiden Causeway voyage all the way to the sailboat and back (she even touched it!), accompanied by now-veteran Causeway swimmer Gae, who, after her earlier struggles, made it look easy today! Rob Martell, Ken and Chris continued their swim to the southern buoy and back, with Rob setting a breakneck pace that bodes well for his performance in the upcoming 10K in the Bay, and Ken & Chris not far behind. I'm still having palpitations from my too-close-encounter with a powerboat this past weekend, and feel happiest swimming closer to shore, but plan to revisit the buoy as soon as my post-traumatic stress subsides....! Maybe tomorrow, when we're joined by Bob Miller and his Tri-Masters! Rob & his crew are going out early (6-ish), while the distance-seeking second wave will be hitting the water at 7, which will bring us back to the beach to reconnoiter with the rest of the Pod and Bob at 8! See you in the a.m.!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First Summer Swim of 2010!

Summer is finally officially here, and was officially welcomed by a contingent of ten Pod members who set out early this morning for a shore-hugging swim along the Causeway. Conditions were perfect for a long, languid swim, with no speeding powerboats to disturb the glass-like surface of the water -- or the tranquility of the swimmers! The water was the warmest it's been since we started the OW season, and is fast approaching bathing-suit comfortable (of course Rob Martell's been saying that for weeks, but he's crazy!). Gae, a "newbie" at the start of the season but now a seasoned Pod member, made her first round-trip to the house and back, and is now a tired but happy member of the elite "Causeway Club"! Ken and his cohort, of course, just continued swimming -- for all I know, they're still out there!

We'll have an incoming morning tide all week, so most of us will be doing a repeat of the Causeway swim tomorrow (Wednesday) and Friday (Thursday swimmers, find each other via e-mail!).

Saturday morning (June 26th) Bob Miller's Tri-Master's group will be joining us at West Neck Beach at 8:00....should be a big turnout for that! -- and maybe we'll have some new converts for the Sunday 8:00 a.m. swim!

See you in the Salt!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Forgive me if, unlike my usual blogs, I do not simply recount the highlights of today's swim, although I will eventually if you have the patience to read to the end...

Today is Father's Day, so Happy Father's Day to those of you who are fathers or who are lucky enough to still have fathers -- my own father having passed away 30 years ago when I was 25. Because it is Father's Day, whether or not you still have one, family issues are very much in the forefront, particularly so in my family because today is the three-month anniversary of my younger brother's tragic death.

Some of you may have read last week about the dramatic "rescue" by Pod members of a man whose car had run off the road and overturned in the woods near West Neck Beach, and who lay bleeding for five or six hours before we found him. My brother, who had fallen and hit his head, also lay bleeding for many hours before he was found, but by then he was almost dead, and he did in fact die some hours later but not, as might otherwise have been the case, alone.

Happily for the man in the car, and for his family, he is still alive this Father's Day.

None of this was in my mind, of course, this morning when I set out with an exuberant group of swimmers for what I hoped would be an easy, relaxed, casual swim after my marathon swim yesterday. We set out for the buoy, swimming against the current, to which Rob Ripp and his friend Damian were already enroute. As I, at the head of the well-spread-out pack, approached the buoy, driving hard to close the seemingly endless last hundred yards, I turned my head to the right and saw a powerboat approaching fast and heading straight toward me. I have not felt such terror since -- well, since I pulled open the door of that upside-down car last week not knowing what I would find inside. I knew -- as I was screaming at the top of my lungs for the boat to "STOP!!" -- that I didn't have time to get out of the way, or even to make that surface "pike-dive" I remember learning about in life-saving class some 20 years ago. I just watched in horror as this nightmare of every open-water swimmer was about to come true for me -- and my last, lovely open-water swim would end on a beautiful Sunday in June on Father's Day.

I don't know how or why the boat driver saw or heard me (or Rob and Damian screaming to him from the buoy) and at the last possible second cut the motor and swerved away so that all that hit me was the enormous wake of his boat, but I imagine it was the same kind of divine grace that let my ruined baby brother die with his mother, sister and loving friends attending him, that saved that man in the car from a terrible and lonely death, that spared my mother from the unimaginable anguish of having to bury two children in the space of three months, and that saved the driver of that boat from the pain of having killed someone else's child...on Father's Day.

When all had finally reconnoitered at the buoy, and I had recovered somewhat from my fright (and my annoyance at being chided by the unapologetic boat driver for "being out there" in the first place), we swam back to the beach, propelled by a fast current and, for me, exhilaration at being alive to make the return trip...Kara had thoughtfully provided us all with coffee and donut-holes, for which I, being in great need of "comfort food," was most grateful. I was grateful, too, as I always am, for this wonderful gift of open-water swimming, but acutely mindful that what we do out there is dangerous. So although it will take more than having been nearly julienned by an outboard motor to keep me from the open water, I intend to be more mindful, more careful, and, oh yes, ever so much more grateful in the future.

Be careful out there! And Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday's OWS

Early arrivals at West Neck Beach this morning were greeted by...even earlier arrivals, with the 6:30 early-early group just hitting the waves as the 7:00 group was suiting up! No traffic tie-ups though, as we swam out in opposite directions, the first group heading to the southern buoy and the second making for the Causeway first, intent on a long, 3-mile loop from house to buoy and back to the beach.

A strong outgoing tide and brisk southerly wind made for a choppy ride, especially for the Causeway group, which had to contend with the waves slapping our faces all the way back to the southern buoy -- a long, hard slog! Great practice, though, for the 5K/10K in the Bay!

Chris and I stopped at the beach on the way back and picked up the third wave of swimmers! for the leg out to the buoy and back. Cap-count total for the morning: 22! Tomorrow's forecast promises the same southerly wind, with an outgoing tide after 6:25 a.m., if you're up for a Father's Day Swim! See you in the Salt!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wednesday's OWS

True to Deputy Town Supervisor Laure Nolan’s word, the gates at West Neck Beach were open wide to welcome us at 6:00 this morning – an auspicious contrast to the dramatic and traumatic prelude to yesterday’s open-water swim.

This morning the weather welcomed us as well, with the sun poking through a cloud-mottled sky, and not even a ripple lifting the surface of the water (which has resumed its warming trend, I’m happy to report!).

Our Pod hero Joye, after much arm-twisting, reluctantly posed for us in front of the lifeguard stand (per Carole’s instructions), and then we all (nine of us!) plunged in for a long, delightful and uneventful swim!(except for Margot’s having forgotten her goggles and having to swim ocularly-impaired!).

Seems like Thursday will be a day of rest for most of us – anyone looking to swim tomorrow should reach out for your like-minded brethren and sisthren by e-mail – and we’ll see the rest of you on Friday.

Those of us who are training for the July 11th 5K/10K in the Bay are planning on starting at 6:00 to get in some extra distance – otherwise we’ll see you at 6:15!

Sighting for Open Water Swimming with swim-art.com

Tim thought this video might be of interest to the Pod...I think it's very well done and very helpful. Now I need a video on steering...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

OWS tomorrow...

Whew. What a day. Looking forward to a nice, peaceful, uneventful swim tomorrow -- I'm going to try to get there early (6:00 -- that's when the gates are predicted to miraculously open) and chase Ken out to the north buoy and back, and then join up with the later arrivals for a jog out to the south buoy....We'll see what the morning brings. Be safe, everyone.

Joye to the Rescue

Joye Brown, the ever-vigilant lifeguard, saved a life today before we even hit the water. Her sharp eyes caught a glimpse of what she thought might have been an overturned car in the woods on the side of West Neck Road as she approached the beach early this morning, so she, Carole and I went back to check it out. She was right! -- A car had left the road just at the curve and tore a path 40 feet into the woods where it landed on its roof. While Joye called 911 I pulled the car door open. To my vast relief the sole occupant was still alive, though obviously hurt. The Lloyd Harbor police and ambulance crews took over in short order, and we pray that the driver makes a swift recovery. We -- now joined by the rest of our buddies -- went on to the Beach for a mind-clearing swim, with a renewed sense of gratitude....See you tomorrow...

Monday, June 14, 2010

OWS This Week

For those of you who've been concerned that the water is still too cold for swimming, here's a little reminder of what February looked like! I bet the water feels warmer already, doesn't it! We'll be testing it out at West Neck Beach tomorrow (Tuesday) at 6:15 a.m. (it'll be an outgoing low tide, with the tide dead-low at 8:19 a.m.), and again on Wednesday and Friday (same time, same tide!). Saturday and Sunday we'll be swimming at 8:00 (unless you hook up with Rob's early group at 7:00) on an outgoing middle tide....

The "Saltines" Meet the "Chlorines" in Open Water...

Bob Miller has announced the 2010 summer schedule of open-water swims for his Tri-Masters Swimmers group, which features planned Saturday swims at a variety of North Shore and Ocean beaches. The West Neck Pod has traditionally joined up with the Tri-Masters Swimmers for these multi-venue swims, which give us a chance to experience a variety of water/wave/current conditions in different bodies of water (here are pictures of one of our past swims at Robert Moses Field #5 on Fire Island). It's also a lot of fun to swim with a HUGE group of what could be 30 or more swimmers!! For those who are swimming in the 2010 Fran Schnarr Memorial 5K/10K Swim in Huntington Bay on July 11th (check out the website at www.huntswim.org), the July 3rd swim at Crescent Beach is a perfect opportunity to "test the waters" -- and the notoriously strong currents -- in Huntington Bay ahead of time. This season's schedule is as follows:

June 26 - West Neck Beach, West Neck Road, Lloyd Harbor
July 3 - Crescent Beach, Crescent Beach Drive, Huntington Bay
July 10 - OWS clinic with Shelley Taylor Smith at Nathan Hale Beach, Huntington Bay
July 11 - Huntington Bay, Fran Schnarr 5K/10K in the Bay - The Bay Club, Bay Road, Huntington
July 17 - West Neck Beach
July 24 - Makamah Beach, Makamah Beach Road, Northport
July 31 - Crescent Beach
August 7 - Robert Moses State Park, Field #5, Fire Island
August 14 - Robert Moses Field #5
August 21 - Oyster Bay (Tobay course), Audrey Avenue, Oyster Bay
August 29 - Tobay race
September 5 - Long Beach, John Daly Ocean 1 mile race - Long Beach


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cold Spring Harbor must be caught in some kind of weird time warp, because despite the fast-approaching summer season the water just keeps getting colder instead of warmer! It felt colder today than yesterday, and yesterday was colder than the day before....By next week, we'll probably be seeing icefloes again! Still, we had a gorgeous swim out to the buoy, assisted by an incoming tide and occasional encouraging winks from the sun through an otherwise cloud-laden sky. It wasn't too cold for a langorous buoy-side floating coffee klatch (without the coffee, of course), before we all headed back to the beach to make plans to do it all again soon! It's rumored there's a group going out tomorrow (Monday), and (weather permitting) we can probably count on Wednesday and Friday swims as well (at least). Weekday swims are usually at 6:15 (we've been pretty successful at getting the gate opened early for us), and Saturday and Sunday we swim at 8:00, unless you like getting up early on weekends, in which case you can join Rob and his cohort at 7:00!

Friday, June 11, 2010

It Isn't Summer Yet...

This morning's swim -- under a cloud-covered sky -- was distinctly chillier than the last several have been (with Newsday pegging the water temperature at a mere 61 degrees. Brrrr. Still, we stalwart eight (Carole, Margot, Ken, Rob, Mike, Chris, Paul and I) plunged in to the glass-like water for what turned out to be a lovely and invigorating "Causeway" swim, with the more fully clad of us (those wearing full wetsuits) continuing on to the southern buoy and back (Margot and I, wearing sleeveless wetsuits, and Rob, wearing hardly anything at all, along with Carole and Paul, opted to retreat to the beach and our sweatshirts. Of course, we're doing it all again tomorrow, with Rob inviting guests to join him for an early ("in the water by 7:00 a.m.") swim, and the rest of us lazies taking the plunge at a more reasonable 8:00 (it is the weekend, after all!). Good news: The gate was open for us at 6:15 this morning; let's see what tomorrow brings! See you on the Beach!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

OWS 6/11-6/13

Hello, Saltines! Here's an auspicious sign for our open-water-swimming this weekend: a double rainbow over the LIE! The West Neck Pod will be swimming at West Neck Beach on Friday morning at 6:15 on an incoming tide (low = 5:08 a.m., high = 11:04 a.m.), and on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 8:00 (low tides at 5:55 and 6:42 a.m. and high tides at 11:51 and 12:38 p.m., respectively). Great conditions for a Causeway swim (which was just sublime on Wednesday!). See you in the a.m.!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Indescribably Delicious...."

Webster’s is going to have to come up with a better word than "awesome" to describe this morning’s swim out to the buoy on a fast incoming tide revved up by a brisk northerly wind, and back to the beach against the current and into the wind...It was a grand initiation to OWS for newbie Paul, and a rousing "welcome back" to Karen and Coriander (& pretty exciting for regulars Margot, Ken, Carol and me, too!). Swimming sage Ken wisely pronounced it "too rough" today to tackle the Causeway, but we can try for that tomorrow, when the wind will be from the southeast and the water may be a little calmer...See you at 6:15 in the a.m. (no parking tickets today, by the way!).