For the second time in as many years, the West Neck Pod (along with the rest of the eastern seaboard) is anxiously anticipating the arrival of a major hurricane. Last year’s Category 4 "Hurricane Earl" turned out to be a major non-event, bringing Long Island none of the threatened heavy rains and dangerously high winds, and cheating Pod members out of not even one good open-water swimming day as it passed harmlessly north and east of us (http://thewater-blog.blogspot.com/2010/09/hurricane-schmurricane.html) ....The story is likely to be different with "Hurricane Irene" – indeed, as I write this, the television news is reporting that already six people have died as Irene lurches her way northward along the coast. But early this morning, Irene – and those deaths – were still far to our south. With Irene’s arrival seemingly inevitable and imminent, and the immediate future of open-water swimming in its aftermath being something of a cipher, it was perhaps no surprise that a total of 16 somewhat trepidatious swimmers showed up at West Neck Beach for this morning’s swim – to see what Irene might have been stirring up and to get in one last swim before "Armageddon." (Regrettably, the Tobay Triathlon and Tri-Relay must be denoted another of Irene’s victims, having been cancelled early this morning – though Don Bond still managed to claim his commemorative shirt, if not a trophy!) Even Frank Fiore, now fully recovered from his horrific biking accident, rejoined the Pod for his first open-water swim of the season!
To the great surprise of all of us, Cold Spring Harbor showed no overt signs of Irene’s approach, other than the overhanging clouds. The water was eerily flat and calm, an effect that was exaggerated by the expansive vista of the harbor, now virtually devoid of boats and floating docks -- all moved to safer water in anticipation of the storm. Despite its surface calm, though, there was much stirring below, as we watched wave after wave of snappers leaping from the water in a desperate flight to escape the bigger fish hunting them below. Huge underwater swells, invisible on the still only lightly rippled surface as we began our swim to the Sailboat’s now-empty mooring, swept and lifted us, and in the strength of the incoming tide we felt Irene’s power for the first time. The return trip, though, was no less onerous, with an inexplicable outgoing current holding us as if in place. But despite the challenge, we felt privileged, swimming as a body in the vast, uninterrupted expanse of open water that touched the sky at the horizon. The swim was awesome, in the truest sense of the word – inspiring awe as we contemplated the majesty of Nature, her beauty, and her enormous and sometimes terrible power...
It’s evening now, the air is dense and thick, and a steady rain is falling, signaling Irene’s relentless approach. I’ve done all the preparing I can, I’ve had my "last swim," and, like most of my fellow Long Islanders – swimmers and otherwise – I am waiting....Be safe everyone!...I’ll see you in the Salt! (but probably not tomorrow!)
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!