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!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Swimming in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene...

The ravages of Hurricane Irene, and the resultant Health Department "advisory" that closed 131 Long Island beaches – including West Neck Beach – had Pod members itching and twitching to get back in the Salt by mid-week. Mindful of the Health Department recommendation that "bathers" wait 48 hours and four tidal flushes after a heavy rainfall, by Wednesday morning five of us deemed the water "safe enough" for swimming, even though the health advisory had not yet been officially lifted at 6:30 a.m. (though it was later that day, much to our relief!). But as I pulled into the parking lot at West Neck Beach that morning -- for the first time since Irene swept over our Island -- and viewed the altered landscape, I felt oddly sad and disoriented. The parking lot – which had been underwater days before – was still filled with sand, the beach was littered with logs and branches and other debris, the concrete bench lay broken where the surging tide had dumped it, and the swim lines were cast up on the beach, along with the buoy that demarcated the "Swim Area." The empty boat moorings – too soon for the season -- amplified the sense of strangeness – and this place that was so familiar to me now felt vaguely foreign. As I waded into the water, I felt somewhat apprehensive, not knowing what hazards Hurricane Irene may have hidden there....
We set out towards the Sailboat mooring – Gae, Evelyn, Karen, Cathy Kabat and I – marveling at the comparative cleanliness of the water, even as we dodged the occasional tree branch or other floating remnant of the storm. It was wonderful to swim again – and by the time we reached the mooring, I was starting to feel "normal" again....On the return trip, Karen, Cathy and I were roughly pacing one another (Gae and Evelyn having turned back earlier), and I knew it was Cathy swimming to my left because I saw her orange flotation buoy trailing behind her. So when I stopped to sight midway to the dock, saw Karen to my right, but found that Cathy was nowhere in sight, I became alarmed – especially when I looked back toward the Sailboat mooring and saw an orange flotation buoy in the distance just off the mooring, but moving rapidly northward. My alarm turned to confusion, especially when I saw an unknown, lone swimmer (with no flotation buoy) heading north along the Causeway at a rapid pace. I consulted with Karen, who at first was equally confused, but we finally came to the realization that the orange buoy was Cathy’s, which had somehow become detached from her waist belt, and that she was chasing it down, hell-bent for leather!
Dara Torres certainly has nothing on our Cathy Kabat, who was skimming along the top of the water like l'Hydroptere in full sail, and who caught up with her buoy before it reached Fort Hill Beach! Karen and I swam back to meet her, and we all swam back together giddily, all the tension of the morning now lifted, and glad to be back home in the Salt for this last, wonderful swim of August 2011!

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