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, July 31, 2011

Big Weekend for a "Big Swim"

The West Neck Pod bid a fond farewell to July this weekend, commemorating this glorious month’s-end with two "Big" open-water swims. Saturday, as guests of the Greenlawn Beach and Swim Club, and joined by the Huntington Tri-Masters Swimmers, the Pod enjoyed the peaceful, natural beauty of Makamah Beach and reveled in the crystal-clear "big" water of Long Island Sound, which lulled us with an effortless eastward swim on a calm, flat incoming tide, then churned and slapped us from side to side as the wind picked up on the westward return. Despite the waves and chop, the bottom was clearly visible throughout the swim and seemingly close enough to touch even in ten-foot depths, its apparent proximity an illusion induced by the astonishing cleanliness and clarity of the water.

On Sunday, July 31st, the Pod returned to West Neck Beach for the long-awaited day of the "Big Swim," the season’s first organized collective effort to increase our swim distance and push beyond our usual boundaries. Scores of Aquafit swimmers also heeded the call to adventure and joined the throng of Pod swimmers headed "to the Sailboat and beyond." Though an unusually strong incoming tide and a disconcerting jellyfish insurgence dimmed the group’s enthusiasm for a 3-mile jaunt, a substantial number voted "yes" for 2 miles and continued north to Fort Hill Beach. After the obligatory stopover at the floating dock where Sal Romanello demonstrated his "cannonball" technique and others followed suit, the still-rapidly-incoming tide all but flung us down the Causeway and back to the beach....and the beginning of a new swimming month. See you in the Salt – in August!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Carol Moore's "Swim Across America"

On Saturday, August 13th, I will be participating in the "Swim Across America" in a 5K (3.1 mile) open-water swim from Long Island Sound to Morgan Park in Glen Cove to raise money for cancer research. If, like so many other families, you and yours have been touched by this plague, please consider making a donation to help support my effort and this cause. You can make a donation online via the attached link: http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/NassauSuffolk?px=1057120&pg=personal&fr_id=1186, and I promise to swim my heart out!  Thanks for your support! -- Carol

  "The cure for anything is salt water -- sweat, tears, or the sea." -- Isak Dinesen   

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Dry Run" for "The Big Swim"

Anticipating next weekend's "Big Swim," a dozen Pod members took a preview this morning, swimming northward past our usual "Sailboat" destination to Fort Hill Beach for a two-mile roundtrip (Margot Edlin, Evelyn Cruise, Gae Polisner, Annmarie Kearney-Woods, Nancy Reycraft, Sue Robinson and I), or all the way to the dock before the point for a three-mile roundtrip (Cathy Kabat, Rob Ripp, Rob Todd, Todd Rowley and Mark). Yesterday's blistering heat had abated somewhat by the time we entered the water, and conditions were perfect for a long swim. The water was clean and clear and relatively calm despite a steady northerly breeze, and its coolness was a welcome antidote to the sun still baking the beach. Approaching the mouth of the harbor, the water felt distinctly cooler, and big underwater swells rolled and lifted us, auguring the “big water” just beyond the point where the harbor meets the Sound (next season’s “Bigger Swim”?).

Reconnoitering at the Fort Hill Beach floating dock, we caught our breath and chatted, then set off in the direction of the Sailboat for the l-o-n-g swim back to West Neck Beach, swimming hard against the outgoing tide that had propelled us northward. Happily (and not by accident), next Sunday’s “Big Swim” will be on an incoming tide, for a tidal assist on the return trip! (For details about the “Big Swim,” see the West Neck Pod Facebook page at  http://www.facebook.com/pages/West-Neck-Pod/128827940504281#!/event.php?eid=231555000200139. ) As for tomorrow’s swim, we’ll see you in the Salt at 8:00! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sunday, July 10th Open-Water Swim at West Neck Beach

Here are photos and videos from Sunday's swim:

More pictures (by Mike Engel) are posted on the Huntington Masters Swimmers ("HUMS") blog at http://hums.blogspot.com/2011/07/some-pictures-from-sunday-july-10-2011.html! (Don't forget to join HUMS and "Swim for the Home Team"!)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Boobs to the Buoy": Bonnie's Back!

Just five weeks after a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery for breast cancer, West Neck Pod member Bonnie Millen returned to the Salt today for the first time since her surgery! Showing the indomitable spirit she has evinced since her devastating diagnosis (particularly poignant since Bonnie’s mother died of breast cancer at the age of 49) and throughout her amazingly swift recuperation from this major surgery, Bonnie swam all the way to the southern buoy! There she posed in triumph, as Pod members celebrated and enthusiastically welcomed her back to the Salt. No doubt Bonnie’s remarkable healing had something to do with those vegetarian meals lovingly cooked up and delivered every night for a month after Bonnie’s surgery by members of the West Neck Pod’s "Support BRA" – Bonnie’s Recovery Assistants! The BRA stands ready to continue to support Bonnie and her partner Tim when the final pathology reports come in and Bonnie’s treatment protocol is finalized. In the meantime, Bonnie’s glad to be back in the Swim, as her e-mail to the Pod, delicately captioned "Boobs to the Buoy," reflects:  "Swimmers: Wonderful to see you all in the Salt on my return to OWS! Thank you Joye for watching my back, swimming at my manatee-like pace, even with flippers. Anyone interested in a leisurely Tuesday morning swim, say at 7:30 or 8 a.m.? Next goal, Boobs to the Boat -- Bonnie"

Indeed... Welcome back, Bonnie!  See you in the Salt!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Safety First: "No-see-'ems" in the Water?

Despite the overnight rain showers and some naysayers' dire warnings of possible coliform-laden runoff, a baker's dozen of hard-core (and hopefully iron-stomached!) swimmers took to the West Neck Salt this morning in conditions that were macroscopically, even if not microscopically, perfect! A swift outgoing tide nosed up against a steady northerly wind to stir up just enough wave-chop and underwater movement to make the swim interesting and exciting, and the water, under a brilliant sun in a cloudless sky, was remarkably clean and clear, for all the fretting of the nautical nabobs of negativism...!

All of the fuss and flurry about the runoff issue reminded me that I used to be one of those cautious swimmers who would wait for two tidal "flushes" after a heavy rain, but after years of swimming in this harbor without any intestinal ill-effects, I've become satisfied that the close proximity of West Neck Beach to the wide-open mouth of Long Island Sound keeps this harbor cleaner than most on Long Island -- and unlike other local beaches, West Neck Beach has almost never been closed due to a high coliform count...So I've become willing to take my chances on the "no-see-'ems" in the water and not pass up an otherwise perfectly good swim...!

There's a difference, though, between risking those "no-see-'ems" in the water, and being one of those "no-see-'ems" in the water -- hence those brightly colored orange buoys you see floating along behind several of the swimmers in these pictures!  Having come "this close" to being hit by a speeding powerboat last Father's Day while swimming (see my blogpost at http://thewater-blog.blogspot.com/2010/06/happy-fathers-day.html), I'm acutely sensitive to how relatively invisible, and how vulnerable, we open-water swimmers are to the many boats that traverse this busy harbor -- a problem that's not adequately solved by our brightly-colored caps on our tiny little bobbing heads, which can barely be seen by other swimmers at the water's level, let alone by speeding boats in a heavy chop when their drivers are not expecting us to be there!  So when I first learned about the new swimmer safety device being promoted by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, I ordered one online and tried it out, then ordered a dozen more more for the Pod!  These inflatable floating dry bags enable swimmers to carry personal items with them (including medical supplies like asthma inhalers or Epi-pens, or the camera I took these pictures with!), provide flotation assistance if needed, create virtually no drag, and are highly visible to boaters and other watercraft. (They're apparently even visible to people on the shore -- Carole and Kathy said they saw our buoys way out in the harbor today as they were walking our dogs on the beach!)

These swimmer safety devices are a relatively easy and inexpensive way to enhance our safety and the safety of our fellow Pod members, as well as the peace of mind of our friends and family who love us, as we pursue our passion for this wonderful but dangerous sport of open-water swimming. I urge every Pod member, and every open-water swimmer, to get one -- and look forward to seeing a flotilla of bobbing orange buoys every time we hit the Salt this season! (For more information about the device, go to http://www.ishof.org/safety/faq.htm.)

As for the other "no-see-'ems" in the water today, dysentery may yet set in, but if it doesn't, most of this morning's crew will be doing it again tomorrow morning at 8:00 -- See you (safely) in the Salt!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend Photos

Here's a slideshow of photos from the Fourth of July Weekend swims at West Neck Beach:

Fourth of July Weekend -- 2011

It's hard to believe that this 2011 open-water swimming season is already more than a month old, and that another major holiday weekend -- the Fourth of July -- has come and gone since the season "officially" opened Memorial Day Weekend! It seems like only yesterday since – after the winter’s long, chlorinated confinement – I first tentatively edged myself into the still-chilly water of West Neck Beach, fully encased in a long-sleeved wetsuit, and struggled to make my way as far as the yellow sign, let alone the Sailboat (which I finally reached for the first time several weeks ago – broken ribs now well-healed, thank you very much!). The intervening First Annual Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor 1 & 2 Mile Swim at West Neck Beach, which took place on Sunday, June 26th, is undoubtedly responsible for much of this sense of being caught in an accelerated time-warp, as I and many of the other West Neck Pod members were busily engaged in helping to plan the event, which consumed much of our time and energy for the last several weeks and months. Those efforts paid off with a wonderfully successful first-time event in which 181 swimmers participated, and which introduced dozens of newcomers to the Cold Spring Harbor/West Neck Beach venue and to the Pod of open-water swimmers that habitually plies its waters! Many of the competitors came back to swim with us this Fourth of July weekend, some more than once, and the Pod is now enhanced by new members Sharon and Jason and David and Karen and Cristina and others whose names I didn’t get...

Jennifer Rocke, a marathon swimmer from Colorado who was on Long Island to visit relatives and found us on the internet through"The Water-Blog," swam with us Friday morning and again on the 4th of July, partaking in a casual "Sailboat chat" with the rest of the Pod before heading back to start her journey home (with a new, bright yellow "To the Sailboat and Beyond -- West Neck Pod" swim cap in her bag!). Jennifer, who swam the English Channel in a relay, and is training for a relay swim across Lake Tahoe ("only 11 miles"!), says she’ll be back next year – when she plans to swim in the Second Annual Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor swim!

Bob Miller’s Huntington Tri-Masters Swimmers also joined us on Saturday for their first open-water swim of the season, and will be back next Saturday morning for another stint in the Salt.

More and more newcomers – experienced open-water swimmers as well as "newbies" – have recently been seeking out opportunities to swim in the group open-water environment offered by the West Neck Pod, and more and more open-water prodigals have been returning to the Salt (Sal Romanello and Lynn Perzetsty, to name a few!). The Pod itself has grown from a handful of swimmers a few years ago to a cohesive community of several dozen swimmers (with an e-mail list of more than 80 names) – and this extraordinary growth coincides with an explosion of interest in open-water swimming in the larger athletic community. Joye Brown and I, who were fortunate to be able to attend portions of the 2011 Global Open Water Swimming Conference in NYC in June, met scores of open-water swimmers from around the world who are passionate about open-water swimming and about sharing their passion – and their knowledge – with others. (Read more about the conference on Steven Munatones’ blog, http://dailynewsofopenwaterswimming.com/.)  More and more people are taking to the open water – and falling in love with it, as I did so many years ago, and do again every time I swim!

I envision that by the time the next major holiday weekend rolls around (Labor Day weekend), the swimmers of the West Neck Pod will be as thick as moon jellies in the harbor – and that when we set out on our group swims, we’ll hear what Carole Wickham described when she lifeguarded for the June 26th 1 & 2 Mile Swim: "As the largest wave of swimmers approached, I heard a sound that was like a flock of swans flying low over the water, beating the surface with their wings...I could hear the swimmers coming before I could see them...It was an amazing sound....

Hope you all had a wonderful and safe 4th of July weekend....See you in the Salt!

(Follow this link for more pictures of the 4th of July Weekend at West Neck Beach: https://picasaweb.google.com/101213847005616295077/FourthOfJulyWeekend2011?authuser=0&feat=directlink)