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!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Swimming to "The Other Shore"

Conditions could not have been more perfect for today's long-awaited and long-imagined "Cross-County Swim" from our home beach in Suffolk County directly across the harbor to Cove Neck in Nassau County!  The morning was overcast, but the sun kept bursting through great, gorgeous cloud formations that were as dramatic as the occasion. The air temperature was comfortably in the high 50s and rising, there was virtually no wind, and the 67-degree water looked as inviting as that opposite shore....Nearly 30 swimmers turned out for the adventure, along with a fleet of paddleboarders and one kayaker who'd volunteered to escort us across and protect us (we hoped) from the boats that regularly criss-cross the harbor.  Though we'd hoped that the late September date would mean there'd be less boat traffic to worry about, I watched with growing uneasiness as one boat after another sped northward past the distant yellow buoys marking the path where we would be swimming.  I counted ten boats by the time we were suited up and ready to go -- an unheard of number for an early Saturday morning in late September -- even in this busy harbor.  But the distant shore was beckoning, and no one was backing out despite the obvious risks, so off we went toward "The Other Shore"!

Boat #9?

We swam in three tightly packed groups spaced widely apart and kept a vary eye out for approaching boats, as did our escorts. Though the round-trip distance -- a little less than two miles -- was not much more than a typical "Sailboat" swim, which most of us do regularly, the fact that we were so far from shore and swimming across an active boat channel made it seem much, much farther....So when we suddenly saw the flashing lights of the Oyster Bay Constable's boat approaching, and watched it take up a watchful position alongside the phalanx of swimmers, we were greatly relieved -- at least once we realized he was not there to arrest us!  We all relaxed a little bit and were able to really enjoy the fabulous swimming conditions and the extraordinary view of our home beach from far out in the harbor. When we had all arrived safely at the beach at Cove Neck, without having seen another boat crossing the channel or bearing down on us, we were elated -- and then we remembered that we still had to swim back!  After a brief rest (too brief -- I forgot to look for my flip-flops which had drifted away a few weeks before on an easterly wind -- I know they're here someplace!), we started back across the harbor, in the same three-group formation, but a little more practiced at keeping ourselves together and swimming at the same pace.  The Bay Constable's boat followed us all the way back to West Neck Beach and, despite the early traffic, we didn't encounter any other boats and all arrived safely "home."  There, swimmers, paddleboarders and friends enjoyed an end-of-Summer feast of bagels, donuts, muffins, crumb-cake, watermelon and hot coffee and tea -- and the exhilaration of having completed what for many of us has been a long-term dream! Many, many thanks to our group leaders Rob Ripp and Carole Wickham for keeping us organized and in formation, and to our kayaker and fellow-Podder Nancy Reycraft and paddleboarders Sal, Nick, Edgar, Linda, Jamie, Jackie, Katie (and one other whose name I didn't get) for keeping us safe and on course! For those who missed out on today's adventure, you can count on us doing it again next year....See you in the Salt!
View from Nick's paddleboard
Arriving at "The Other Shore"
Home again....

Paddleboarder Linda with fellow paddleboarder Jamie's mom Amy

Swimming/paddling across the harbor makes you hungry!

The harbor two hours later...

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