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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Memorial Swim for July 4th Drowning Victims

All of us felt a deep sense of grief when three young children drowned in Cold Spring Harbor on the night of July 4th -- trapped in the cabin of a boat that capsized and sank in 60 feet of water. Though most of us in the West Neck Pod did not know Victoria Gaines, Harlie Treanor or David Aureliano, this tragedy nonetheless felt deeply personal for having happened in our own home harbor....within sight of our beloved West Neck Beach and our daily swimming routes. On Saturday, August 4th, the West Neck Pod will commemorate the one-month anniversary of this horrific tragedy with a Memorial Swim from Fort Hill Beach westward to the massive channel marker in the center of the Harbor -- near the site where the doomed boat sank. There we will place a memorial wreath in solemn remembrance of the lost children and in loving solidarity with their grieving families and friends.... Those wishing to participate in the Memorial Swim (or to kayak alongside us) should assemble at the West Neck Beach parking lot at 6:30 on Saturday morning, and we will then carpool to Fort Hill Beach for the 7:00 swim out to the channel marker. After the ceremony, we will return to West Neck Beach for our regular 8:00 group swim.... Please email us at westneckpod@verizon.net if you plan to participate in the Memorial Swim (swimming or kayaking). See you in the Salt...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"There's no sun up in the sky....Stormy weather..."

This past week's swims were notable for a couple of reasons: The large number of swimmers showing up for even our weekday early-morning swims (as many as 20 last Tuesday); and Rob Martell's introduction of "Cross-Training On the Beach," with a handful (so far) of game West Neck Pod members grunting and gasping through sets of situps, burpee pushups, jump-over burpees,  sprints, weighted squats, step-ups, and conditioning rope exercises before we stumbled into the water for our morning group swims.  As I write this post I am so sore it hurts to smile (ow...) but the soreness is a good indicator of  how not-in-shape I am, despite almost daily swims of 1 to 2 miles. So I'll keep showing up for the cross-training sessions, which will likely be scheduled on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:30, before the 8:00 group swims.  Now there's even talk of pre-swim yoga on the beach on weekday mornings....Stay tuned for more news about that!

Saturday morning's post-cross-training swim (ow...) drew a big crowd of 20-plus swimmers, including not only the long-absent Paul Coster, who usually eschews swimming in favor of his first -- I mean, second  -- love, soccer (sorry, Elisa!); and the-never-before-seen-in-the-open-water-when-the-YMCA-is-not-closed-for-a-national-holiday Paul Nugent, a devout "Poolie" whose schedule allowed only a quick West Neck swim as he was enroute to a family function.  (See you on Labor Day, Paul!)  Also joining us -- or re-joining us -- were a number of alumni of our recent West Neck Swim, as well as a number of newbies.  We swam to "New Beach" and back, but this once-novel swim, which by now has become almost de rigueur, gleaned an asterisk as Joye Brown, Annmarie Kearney-Woods, Paul Coster and I left the main pack on the beach while we swam out and around the jetty to survey the route for the Pod's next "Expotition" (thanks, Christopher Robin).  Just 'round the corner is another little beach with a shack-like structure on it ("Shack Beach"?), and beyond that, a long stretch of open water with no apparent places to make landfall -- but not many boats, either! Late arrivals Carole and Kathy Wickham, who came slicing across the waves "like twin goddesses" (as Paul said) on their stand-up paddleboards (now re-christened "Pod-dle boards"), met us as we approached the south buoy on the return trip, and continued the exploration south almost to Cold Spring Harbor Village. We'll plan to retrace that route sometime in the near future -- even as we continue to make plans for the big 5-Mile Swim north around Lloyd's Point towards Caumsett on August 25th! 

Cloudy skies and the threat of thunderstorms did nothing to deter the even bigger throng of 30-odd swimmers who headed into the water Sunday morning, even as a gentle rain began falling. Some of our returning West Neck Swim veterans were joined in Sunday's swim by our Meet Directors, Rob Ripp and Colleen Driscoll (who will both be part of a relay team swimming around Manhattan on Saturday, August 4th!).  "Pod-dle" boarders Cammy DeRosa and Kathy Wickham, armed with whistles to warn us of the onset of thunder or lightning, accompanied the main pack as it raced from the north to the south buoy then on to New Beach, trying to stay ahead of the seemingly imminent cloudburst. The skies darkened, lightened, then darkened again as the sun ducked in and out of the clouds, and a thin fog drifted in from the south and settled over the harbor.  As the swimmers began making their way back to West Neck Beach, the rain again began falling, but by the time everyone was showered and dressed, the sun was out again...But by late afternoon, the threatened thunderstorms arrived with a vengeance. Tommy Capobianco and his wife Laurie were there at West Neck Beach to capture these amazing photos of the gathering thunderclouds and a dramatic lightning strike directly on the water....a sizzling reminder of why we GET OUT OF THE WATER AT THE FIRST SOUND OF THUNDER!!

The thunderstorms over, and any runoff issues remediated by the several intervening tides, we'll be swimming again this week at 6:30 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings, and at 8:00 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings....See you in the Salt!

Friday, July 6, 2012

A solemn, somber swim...

It was a solemn group that gathered on the beach at West Neck this morning, our 8:00 swim overshadowed by the overwhelming sadness of the news that three young children, ages 12, 11 and 8, had drowned in the dark waters off Lloyd Neck Wednesday night when their overcrowded boat capsized as it was leaving the harbor after the Dolans' annual Fourth of July fireworks display off  Cove Neck. Thankfully, 24 people were saved, plucked from the water by other boaters who rushed to the scene, and by the firefighters, police and divers who responded from all of the local emergency agencies and departments, but their lives will be forever changed by this tragedy...and even to me, that channel marker in the middle of our harbor will now always seem a headstone to the three children trapped in the boat's cabin, whose lives ended there in our beloved harbor, within sight of the route that we traverse routinely in our daily swims.  As we stood this morning on the beach looking northward, we could see the two police boats still anchored over the area where the boat came to rest on the bottom, in 70 feet of water, and before we entered the water for a healing Sailboat swim, we stood together on the sand for a long moment, heads bowed, offering silent thoughts and prayers for the lost children, their friends and families, and the would-be rescuers who were unable to save them....See you in the Salt. Amen.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The "5K in the Bay" is BACK!

After a one-year hiatus, the "5K in the Bay" (Huntington Bay) is back...and on-track to resuming its former status as THE most exciting and challenging 5K open-water-swimming event on Long Island! Long-time race organizer Bea Hartigan, now joined by organizers of the highly successful "West Neck Swim" at West Neck Beach, is pleased to announce that on Sunday, July 15th, long-distance swimmers will once again ply the spectacularly beautiful waters of Huntington Bay -- and face its maddeningly challenging currents -- on a newly reconfigured rectangular course just off "The Head of the Bay Club," which is once again hosting this historic race. Sanctioned by USA Swimming, this year's event will also, as it has in the past, include championship age-group events (1000M for 10 and under; 2000M for ages 11-12; and 3000M for ages 13-14).  This is a non-wetsuit competition, but wetsuit-lovers are welcome to come and test their mettle in a non-scoring capacity.  Registration forms and event information are available on the website at http://www.huntswim.org/, or contact Meet Director Bea Hartigan at bea10k@yahoo.com for further information.  The registration deadline is July 5th -- so don't delay!

Race-day volunteers, lifeguards and kayakers are also needed to help make this event a success -- contact Bea Hartigan at bea10k@yahoo.com or Carol Moore at westneckswim@verizon.net if you're able to help out -- and thanks for supporting open-water swimming on Long Island!

See you in the Bay!