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!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Pathos of "Eos"

For years, "The Sailboat," whose sleek, towering mast is plainly visible from a distance even in rough seas, has been both a beacon and a favorite destination for the West Neck Pod in its northerly swims along the Causeway.  Its stylized image adorns the bathing caps of Pod members, whose message exhorts them to swim "To the Sailboat and Beyond..."  Indeed, achieving the first "Sailboat swim" marks a badge of honor for "newbies" and a season-opening milestone for returnees.  So when several weeks into the 2013 open-water-swimming season the Sailboat still had not taken its customary place off "the house at the end of the Causeway," and even its mooring ball was missing, the West Neck Pod was left disoriented and discomfited. With no Sailboat to sight on, swimmers zigged and zagged their way north to the "virtual-Sailboat," eventually assembling in a ragged cluster somewhere in front of the house....

That house -- still colloquially known as "the Billy Joel house" -- has always been a mystery to us swimmers, who see only the water and sky reflected in its blank windows...Its current inhabitants were unknown and unseen, and as we rested alongside their magnificent and -- as far as we could tell, little-used boat (since it was always there when we were!), we often wondered if they ever saw us out there and if so, what they thought about the fact that a dozen or more oddly coifed and -suited swimmers would regularly come stroking up the Causeway to loiter in their littoral back yard....

So when Sunday morning's pack of virtual-Sailboat swimmers converged in front of the house, tuckered out from a challenging swim northward against the incoming tide, we were shocked to see a woman's tiny figure waving to us from atop the seawall. Too far away for conversation, Susan Robinson and I quickly swam towards the narrow beach at the base of the wall, while the woman (to our alarm and consternation), commenced climbing down the rocks to meet us. She greeted us warmly and introduced herself, then "Cathy" told us the sad fate of her -- and our -- beloved Sailboat, "Eos II."  With the approach of Hurricane Sandy, the boat had been moved to a sheltered marina deeper in Oyster Bay where they thought it would be safer, but Sandy's high winds and violent seas tore the boat loose from its mooring and smashed it to smithereens....

Carol and Cathy getting acquainted
Susan, Karen, Eliana, Ken, Brandon & Margot at the "house at the end of the Causeway"

"Eos II"

Farewell, "Eos II"
Though the West Neck Pod is deeply saddened by the loss of "Eos II," we were heartened by Cathy's news that the "virtual-Sailboat" will soon be replaced by a real sailboat, as "Eos III" takes its place at the mooring alongside the "house at the end of the Causeway." But now, when we swim north "to the Sailboat," and look up at the windows of "the Billy Joel house," we'll smile and wave to our new friend within -- now an honorary member of the West Neck Pod!
See you in the Salt!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

The parking lot at West Neck Beach was chock-full of cars when I arrived there shortly before the scheduled 8:00 group swim on this "Fourth of July" Thursday morning. A large flock of early-birds had already finished their swims and were off to run or ride, but there was still a record-size crowd gathered under the overhang of the lifeguards' station and spilling onto the beach to suit up for the 8:00 swim. In addition to the "usual suspects" there were a number of Pod returnees, here for their first open-water swim of the season, as well as a new crop of "newbies" joining the Pod for the first time....Because it was the Fourth of July, before we headed into the water we assembled on the beach in a solemn circle to honor the memories of the three children who drowned last July 4th in a tragic boating accident here in our harbor: Victoria Gaines, Harlie Treanor and David Aureliano....

Ceremony over, we unceremoniously jumped into the water,which was delightfully warm and clear, the surface only slightly ruffled by a westerly wind. As the "Big Dogs" again set out northward to the Sailboat while the main group headed south to the buoy and "New Beach," dozens of pairs of churning arms and beating feet inaugurated the West Neck Pod's 2013 "Froth of July" swim....

Happy Independence Day, everyone! See you in the Salt tomorrow!