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!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September....Going, going, gone....?

After the heavy rain and generally dismal weather of the last several days put the kibosh on open-water swimming, I awoke this morning in the early-morning darkness heartened to find the stars shining through the remnants of the departing storm’s clouds...Carole and I happily made our way to the beach where the gradually lightening sky revealed windless conditions and a glasslike surface to the water..... Joined a short while later by Ken (Gae having oversleptfor which she will undoubtedly kick herself from here to Tuesday), we made a langorous swim out to the buoy, enjoying a kaleidoscopic medley of pink- and blue-tinged sky-views along the way as the sun began to burn its way through the remaining clouds and mist.

Carole brought up the rear as Ken backstroked alongside me while I played the role of border collie, nipping at his flanks to keep him in line and on course. After the de rigueur but thoroughly enjoyable “buoy chat,” we headed back to the beach, aided by an outgoing tide. Toward the end of the return trip, I flipped over for a few minutes of backstroking alongside the Master...That fortuitous “Ken’s-eye-view” enabled us both to see the extraordinary sight of the just-risen sun emerging through a rainbow-haloed hole in the clouds...Of course by the time I swam to shore and dashed up the beach for my camera the rainbow had faded, but through some inexplicable quirk of the lens, my camera subsequently captured an image of a rainbow that none of us ever saw!

The window of sunshine that opened for us today is expected to close again tomorrow, with heavy rain likely through Thursday and perhaps into Friday, making today’s gift of a swim all the more precious. But the weekend is expected to be sunny, and with the water temperature still in the high 60's, this open-water season is still going strong....See you in the Salt – in October!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

End-of-Summer "Pod-Party"

Sunday afternoon the Pod convened at Carol and Carole's in Huntington for the second annual end-of-season swimmers' gathering. The gathering provided a rare opportunity for Pod members to see one another with clothes on, to meet one anothers' spouses/significant others and children, to talk about something other than swimming (well, we did a little bit!), and to see aspects of one another not usually seen in the pool or in the open water! (also to have one's photo taken in the maw of a lemon-shark...)

Nancy Lipira (whose homemade linzer tarts were a big hit!) summed the afternoon up best: "GREAT WEATHER, GREAT FOOD, GREAT FRIENDS = AWESOME DAY!" Those who couldn't make the party were missed, but there's always next year!

Tonight (11:13 p.m.!) marks the Equinox, the official end of Summer and beginning of Fall, but the open-water season continues...Yesterday's swim was indescribably perfect, and although the southwesterly wind quashed this morning's planned swim, we're hoping for a return to perfection for the First Swim of Autumn 2010 tomorrow at 6:30! See you in the Salt!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Perfect Day for a "Big Swim"!

There’s still nearly a week until the Equinox and the official beginning of Fall, but the swim lines, boats and moorings are already gone, there’s a distinct chill in the morning air, the water is noticeably cooler, and – as of yesterday -- the showers are turned off (sorry, Ken!). The end of the 2010 open-water-swimming season seems imminent – and perhaps that’s why eight of this morning’s group of 15 swimmers decided to continue northward from the sailboat mooring to Fort Hill Beach for an impromptu “Big Swim” – the first ever for Annmarie, Evelyn, Carole, and Tim! Most commemorated the event by jumping off the floating dock (which, like the sailboat mooring, is still there to give us a target to swim towards!) before starting the long swim back (approximately 2.1 miles round trip, by my reckoning). The return trip on an outgoing tide was grueling, making the accomplishment for the first-timers all the more impressive! Conditions were perfect, though – the early clouds finally gave way to sunshine, and the water already has the crystal clarity of early autumn....Though the season is winding down, there are still plenty of swims left, and the next one will be tomorrow at 8:00! See you in the Salt!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Touch of Glass....

The seemingly intractable west wind finally relented today, allowing the morning’s crew of six swimmers (Carole, Gae, Evelyn and I and, later, Bonnie and Joan) to watch a glorious sunrise and enjoy a delicious buoy-to-buoy swim in calm, clear, glass-like conditions. The air temperature had cooled considerably since the weekend, the thermometer registering a chilly 48 degrees when we arrived at the beach at 6:15 this morning, but by the time we got into the water it had crept up to above the 50-degree mark. The water temperature remains relatively warm, probably somewhere in the high 60's.

The swim lines are gone since the weekend, along with most of the boats and moorings, so the seascape is vastly more open and expansive than it’s been all season – somehow the buoys look further apart and farther away than they did with all the paraphernalia in the water! Happily, the showers are still on, and with little or no wind, we didn’t mind taking advantage of them despite the cool air...We’re hoping to swim again tomorrow, weather permitting. There’s interest in an 8:00 start for those with flexible schedules; for the regular working folk, see you in the Salt at 6:30!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whither the Wind?

Windy conditions at West Neck continued into the weekend, with the nearly 20 swimmers that showed up for the 8:00 Saturday morning swim muscling their way through a vigorous chop. Conditions were otherwise quite pleasant, with the water still a comfortable temperature, and the sun shining brightly in a cloudless blue sky that was eerily reminiscent of a never-to-be-forgotten day exactly nine years before....

I am still getting acquainted with my new digital camera swim mask, and practiced shooting videos with Tommy Capobianco as my swimming model....

By Sunday the wind had died down substantially and the water was virtually unruffled, although the temperature had dropped several degrees overnight, making for a chilly experience for those not wearing wetsuits. The overcast sky meant a smaller turn-out for the "Big Swim III," but Tommy Capobianco, Rob Martell, Gae Polisner and Cathy Kabat went the distance to Fort Hill Beach, while Margot and I cut it short at the sailboat mooring, returning to West Neck on an incoming tide. Rob Ripp, Rob Todd, Helen, Ken and Colleen had taken the southern route, swimming between the buoys. The harbor was thickly populated with an unusually large number of fishing boats, which fortunately kept their distance from the swimmers, but their presence left me wondering if those weren't just "moon jellies" I kept bumping into!!

Monday was a day off for all, and Tuesday's solo swimmer, Ken Longo, reported a relaxing swim in glass-like conditions. On Wednesday the northwesterly wind was back with a vengeance, blowing away plans for an early morning swim, as Gae, Evelyn, Carole and I again huddled in the parking lot watching the flag whip madly in the breeze and the few remaining boats rock like broncos at their moorings.

The early morning chill felt even chillier in the wind as we stood there trying to decide whether what was sure to be a grueling swim was worth the effort. In the end, we decided not... I headed to the Y, for only the third time this season, to reacquaint myself with "closed-water" swimming and the smell and taste of chlorine rather than sea salt. The pool was virtually empty and I had my own lane for nearly an hour, but the 83-degree water temperature felt unpleasantly warm, and I swam like a bloated slug. Pool swimming is going to take some getting used to....but hopefully not for a while yet!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back in the Swim...

It was still pretty breezy down at West Neck Beach this morning, with a north wind kicking up a sizeable chop, but it was nothing compared to yesterday's mega-bluster. My new digital camera swim mask captured a goggle-eye view of the wind-tossed harbor, but both the 7:00 (Carole, Margot, Don, Nancy Lipira and I) and 8:00 (Joye, Gae and Evelyn) Pod-lets found its bark worse than its bite!

Weather and wind permitting, we'll be back in the Salt tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. With the tide dead-low at 7:54 a.m., a Causeway swim should give us a lovely ride back on an incoming tide....Same for Sunday, when an 8:44 dead-low tide will make conditions virtually perfect for an 8:00 "Big Swim III" for anyone interested in storing up some mileage for the upcoming long winter!

I note as I write this that tomorrow is September 11th...so may tomorrow's swim be a particularly mindful remembrance of the sacrifices of those lost, and of the gifts and graces we enjoy... God Bless America!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Swim That Wasn't....

Huddled together in the West Neck Beach parking lot, a chilly and disconsolate group of seven would-be early morning swimmers contemplated the wildly rocking sailboats and madly fluttering flag before conceding that swimming in the maelstrom created by a rip-roaring northwesterly wind would be crazy!

After e-mailing a “heads-up” to the 7:30 crowd, we (Carole, Gae, Evelyn, the-other-Ken, two AquaFit guys and I) went our separate ways. Carole and I consoled ourselves with bagels and coffee at the marina at Huntington Harbor, which we found to be virtually windless and unruffled.

Curious to know if our early mass-exodus from the parking lot was a case of “premature evacuation,” we headed back to West Neck Beach, where we found three more Pod-ites – stubborn remnants of the 7:30 crop who had to “see for themselves.” One look at the still-dancing sailboats was all it took to convince Sue, Kaitlyn and Joye that tomorrow might be a better day to swim....And so we will! The consensus seems to be for a somewhat later start, so there’s a group swimming at 7:00 – See you in the Salt!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over!

Labor Day has come and gone, marking the unofficial end of Summer...For Pod members, Labor Day also marked the end of the ferocious westerly wind that for two days had turned the harbor into a tempest and the Causeway swim into a carnival ride. Anticipating yet another day of pitching and yawing, we'd cancelled the planned Labor Day "Big Swim II" and opted for the difficult-but-survivable beach-to-sailboat sortie.

Confounded yet again by Mother Nature (thanks, Mom!), 16 Pod swimmers converged on Monday morning on a sunlit, windless, waveless beach, which made our swim out to the sailboat mooring a seemingly effortless delight! So delightful was it, in fact, that most of us opted to continue onward past the second sailboat to Fort Hill Beach, where we lingered for a while, enjoying each other's company and the exquisite beauty of the morning, before setting out on the still-incoming tide for the return trip to West Neck Beach.

Late arrivals Gae and Joye were apparently not challenged enough by the 2.25-mile round-trip and continued northward to the farthest dock before finally turning around. The tide having begun to turn in the meantime, the "Moxie-Pod" had the added challenge of swimming against an outgoing tide the whole way back -- which they did in good spirits if not in good time!

There are at least several weeks more of open-water swimming on the horizon (I hope!), but this 2010 open-water season so far has been memorably bracketed by the Memorial Day weekend which inaugurated it and the Labor Day weekend which we commemorated with our second Pod-wide "Big Swim"! When the OWS season finally does end, there will certainly be much to remember and reflect on over the winter months until we are able to hit the Salt again...

But until then, it's back in the Salt tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 6:15!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hurricane, schmurricane....?

Hurricane Earl came and went seemingly without so much as lifting a ripple on the surface of the water of Cold Spring Harbor...The most threatening thing we'd encountered this week as the Category 4 storm made its way up the coast was a pair of angry swans who, unprovoked, chased us up the beach and around the bathhouse Thursday morning! On Friday morning -- when Long Island was expected to begin to feel the storm's effects -- the water at West Neck was its usual calm, unruffled self, and throughout the day the expected wind and rain never materialized. By Saturday morning, with Hurricane Earl now reduced to a Category 1 storm and already making its way past Massachusetts, there seemed no reason to expect that the conditions at West Neck would be any different.

So the 16 swimmers who arrived at West Neck Beach this morning for an 8:00 swim (including a number of displaced "poolies" from the closed-for-Labor-Day-weekend "Y") were surprised to find the harbor a white-capped, oceanic tempest! A fierce westerly wind was whipping across the harbor and driving huge, rolling waves onto the beach.

Undaunted (well, maybe a little daunted), we set out along the Causeway, heading for the sailboat mooring (the sailboat itself having left for calmer waters). The going was very rough, and we were battered mercilessly by the crashing waves, which repeatedly hurled us to the crest then dropped us down into the trough below. Sighting was all but impossible, and fellow swimmers were visible to one another only in the rare moments when both were atop the crest of a wave. Despite the punishment, it was thrilling and exhilarating -- though not so much that this swimmer felt the need to endure it all the way out to the mooring! Joined by a handful of like-minded Pod-ites, we stopped at the halfway point, where, finding floating in the maelstrom much easier than swimming, we bobbed around like corks, schmoozing with one another and Tommy Capobianco, who stopped his car and hailed us from the Causeway! The hardier (foolhardier?) of the lot continued on to the mooring and back, but even "The Pod-Father" Rob Martell conceded that he is feeling a little sore and beat up by the experience!

Returning to the beach, we found ourselves reluctant to leave the still-roiling water...Like the roller coaster, just because it makes us scream doesn't mean we don't want to ride it again!

Plans are afoot for another "Big Swim," possibly for tomorrow and/or Monday (Labor Day). Details will be posted on the Blog and "The Water-Log" e-mail list....See you in the Salt!