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, August 18, 2013

Farewell to "The Pod-Father"

Rob Martell, appropriately costumed for our harrowing Halloween 2010 OWS
It's hard to say when, exactly, the "West Neck Pod" came into being, but that it did at all is principally the doing of Rob Martell, who was unquestionably the fledgling Pod's founding father....Though people have been open-water swimming at West Neck Beach for eons, it was Rob who in 2004 or thereabouts began organizing the "lone wolves" into a loose pack whose "every man for himself" ethos was gradually replaced with an awareness and then eventually a concern for the other swimmers "out there." Scheduled swims, communicated to a small but growing group by email, made these open-water swims accessible to a wider audience -- an audience that I became a part of in 2005 or 2006 thanks to the support and encouragement of Rob and others, who helped me overcome my terror of the open water. Though Rob was a fast and strong swimmer who was always at the front of the pack, he would often double back to check on the rest of us as we struggled against a strong current or a rough chop that he sliced through with seeming ease. Eventually, his concern for his swimming brethren became the norm for all of the West Neck open-water swimmers, and when I began writing the email exchanges known as "The Water-Log," it was inevitable that this now cohesive collection of swimmers would bear the eponymic appellation of a "pod" -- a family of marine mammals.

In acknowledgment of his country of origin, The "Pod-Father" Rob Martell was also known as "The Crazy Canadian." Seemingly impervious to cold, he continued to swim in the open water long after the rest of us had retreated to indoor pools. His December solo swims -- memorialized in the Huntington Masters Swimmers' blog (http://hums.blogspot.com/2006/12/robs-2nd-annual-december-ows.html) -- laid the groundwork for what later became the "West Neck Polar Pod."  
Rob Martell finishing his December 2, 2006 OWS -- photo by Mike Engel from the HUMS blog

But Rob was also infamous for his late-night solo swims, his long-distance exploratory swims around the point and beyond, his swim-to-run junkets with his sneakers tucked into his suit (sorry, no pictures are available of that!), and especially for his long-rumored (and now confirmed!) open-water swim while Hurricane Irene was raging....While most Pod members did not push the swimming envelope as far as Rob did, it was Rob's exploits that encouraged and motivated the Pod to test their own boundaries, following the paths that Rob had paved.  Under Rob's planning and guidance, half a dozen Pod members swam their longest distances ever, completing their first 5K or 5-mile swims last August -- and the Pod will be forever grateful for his invention and deployment of the first "Floating Pod Sandal Station" and his provision of electric heaters to warm the space under the overhang for post-season swims.

Rob Martell (with Rob Ripp) looking like raw meat after the jellyfish infested 2008 "5K in the Bay"
But now, Rob is leaving us -- he's moving to Denver to pursue a new life and new opportunities, and is bidding farewell to the West Neck Pod and the open water....We will miss him terribly, and the inspiration he provided, but we wish him well in his new inland life -- and look forward to his visits home to his Pod-family and friends....

Rob Martell: "Gotta go!"
See you in the Salt, Pod-Father!

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Team West Neck Pod's" 2013 "Swim Across America"

On Saturday, August 10th, 17 members of the West Neck Pod will be participating in the 2013 "Sound-to-Cove" Swim Across America to raise money for local cancer research and support organizations like Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Fighting Chance, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. These organizations are performing cutting-edge research and providing essential services that are improving the longevity and quality of life for cancer patients and their families in our community.  Fifteen members of our Team will be swimming the 5K distance (3.1 miles) in Long Island Sound, with one member swimming 1 mile and another kayaking alongside us. Like many Long Islanders, most of us have lost far too many friends, family members, co-workers and colleagues to this disease, and we have all suffered the stress and uncertainty as those we love underwent surgery and treatment for cancer. This fight against cancer is personal for all of us – and our "Sound-to-Cove" swim is dedicated to the memory of those we love who have lost their battle with cancer, and in honor of those whose courageous struggle continues. So many of us in the Pod-family have been touched by cancer -- including several of our teammates -- and probably you have, too...You, too, can participate in the 2013 "Sound-to-Cove" Swim Across America by supporting Team West Neck Pod and this cause by donating as generously as you can....Thank you for your support -- See you in the Salt! -- Carol Moore, Captain, "Team West Neck Pod"

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer Swelter....Fall Pall...

Just a few scant weeks ago, in mid-July, Long Island was engulfed in a sweltering heat wave, with temperatures soaring well into the 90s one scorching day after another. Even the open water offered little relief, as it felt barely cooler than the still, stifling air -- even in the early morning. By week's-end many of us had shed our customary wetsuits in favor of bathing suits, the "ick" factor succumbing to the heat index....I found that my Speedo was definitely cooler than my sleeveless wetsuit, but its relatively loose fit was a veritable open door to a myriad of tiny sea creatures whose numbers had fulminated in the warm water, and their incessant nibbling was distracting and disconcerting. Not only that, but the gravitational pull of "the girls" was slowing me down even more than the lack of buoyancy, so by Saturday I'd switched over to my "technical suit" which, although far from flattering, wadded everything down so that I felt sleek as a seal.  The heavy rains that were forecast for the weekend never materialized and the relentless heat continued through the weekend, but a light westerly wind on Saturday, followed by an easterly wind on Sunday, drew off some of the surface heat so the water felt almost refreshing, but the weekend was still absurdly hot and the open water was the only sane place to be....

When the heat wave finally broke early in the following week, we rejoiced in what we mistakenly thought was a return to "normality," until Mother Nature --as she had with Hurricane Sandy -- abruptly reminded us that there is no "normal" anymore....We awakened mid-week to find, a'la Rip Van Winkle, that although we had gone to sleep in July, we had awakened in September...The air temperature had suddenly plummeted deep into the 60s, and "August" was but a ghost....

Even today, when the calendar said it was August 6th, the 56-degree air temperature said otherwise...and though it is technically only mid-summer, we swam as if we might not get another chance...




See you in the Salt -- unless it snows!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The "Winged Goddess of the Dawn" Returns...

Late Friday afternoon, the long-awaited "Eos III" finally took her place at the mooring alongside the "house at the end of the Causeway." Though this morning’s sky was grey and cloudy, and a light rain was falling, a huge throng of swimmers battled a stiff north wind and incoming tide to pay homage to the new "Winged Goddess of the Dawn," her slender, beckoning mast once again visible in the distance atop the waves. At long last, "The Sailboat" has returned!


Tomorrow morning, the Sailboat will guide us northward again, as we "go long" to Fort Hill Beach against an incoming tide then ride it back to West Neck Beach -- or all the way to the South Buoy, for those looking for some extra distance (especially those of us who are training for next Saturday's 5K for the "Swim Across America"!). See you in the Salt!