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 10, 2014

Team West Neck Pod "Makes Waves to Fight Cancer"...

Proud Team Captain displaying
our Team plaque

Weather conditions were perfect for this year's "Sound-to-Cove" Swim Across America, an annual event to raise funds for local beneficiaries in support of cancer research, prevention and treatment. A total of 160 swimmers, inspired by the courage and strength of loved ones fighting cancer, or the memory of those who'd lost their battle, waded into Long Island Sound in Glen Cove on Saturday, August 9th, to swim distances of 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 5K or 10K. The swim marked the culmination of months of inspired and dedicated fund-raising, and for the third year in a row, a team of swimmers from the West Neck Pod ("Team West Neck Pod") participated, collectively raising more than $35,000! to fund local organizations like Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Fighting Chance, The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and the Feinstein Institute of North Shore-LIJ.

This year’s team members included Evelyn Cruise, Kara Horn, Bonnie Millen, Alice Rogers and Teri Tiso swimming the one-mile; Tony Alizzi, Paul Coster, Margot Edlin, Joe Kasper, Steve Moskowitz, Vincent Tophoff and me swimming the 5K; Annmarie Kearney-Wood and Gae Polisner swimming the 10K; and David and Maureen Birnbaum kayaking alongside us. As of this writing, the total amount raised by this year’s "Sound-to-Cove" swim is nearly $304,000!

Many, many thanks to the valiant members of the 2014 "Team West Neck Pod"; to our families, friends, fellow swimmers and coworkers who supported and encouraged us and contributed so generously to this cause; to the SAA organizers and volunteers, and the kayakers who guided us from buoy to buoy and kept us from straying too far off course; and to the beneficiaries of Swim Across America, whose dedicated research efforts – funded by our contributions – bring us ever closer to a cancer-free world! See you next year when Team West Neck Pod once again "Makes Waves to Fight Cancer! 

5K swimmers Steve Moskowitz, Carol Moore,
Paul Coster, Margot Edlin and Tony Alizzi

Top individual fundraiser Joe Kasper(!) with fellow 5Kers Carol Moore,
Vincent Tophoff, Margot Edlin, Tony Alizzi, some guy, and Steve Moskowitz
One of our kayakers
Bonnie Millen, Margot Edlin & Tony Alizzi chatting with
photographer Steve Pfost, who covered the event for Newsday

Our exhausted but triumphant 10K+ swimmers,
Gae Polisner and Annmarie Kearney-Wood

10K swimmers pose with their plaques

Buoys in a straight line?? I don't think so!
(Note: donations to Swim Across America are still being accepted through the Fall! You can still donate on behalf of Team West Neck Pod or one or more of your favorite open-water swimmers at:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Team West Neck Pod's 2014 "Swim Across America"

The 2013 "Team West Neck Pod"

For the third year in a row, members of the West Neck Pod are taking up arms against cancer, as we participate as part of "Team West Neck Pod" in the "Sound-to-Cove" Swim Across America to raise money for local cancer research and treatment programs. Like so many Long Island families, our West Neck Pod family has been deeply affected by cancer. Several of our members are cancer survivors themselves, and virtually all of us have lost friends, family members and co-workers to this disease. Last year, Team West Neck Pod raised nearly $20,000 to support organizations like Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Fighting Chance, Children's Hospital at Montefiore, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and our neighbor across the harbor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories. The cutting-edge research that is funded by our fundraising efforts and those of thousands of other swimmers across the country help enhance the longevity and quality of life for cancer patients and their families in our community. Our individual swims honor the memory of loved ones we have lost to this disease and the courage of those whose struggle continues.

The members of Team West Neck Pod thank you for your generous support!

You can make a credit card donation by clicking on the link below and donating on behalf or one or more of your favorite open-water swimmers, or send a check made payable to Swim Across America to Charles A. Barragato & Co. Attn: Angelo Pirozzi, 950 Third Ave., 20th Floor, New York, NY 10022 (please indicate that the donation is in support of "Team West Neck Pod" or a specified team member). 


Swim Across America, Inc., [SAA] is dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events. With the help of hundreds of volunteers nationwide and past and current Olympians, SAA is helping find a cure for cancer through athleticism, community outreach and direct service.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"West Neck Swim" 2014: Picture Perfect..

The Third Annual Huntington/Cold Spring Harbor Swim (a/k/a "The West Neck Swim") was a splashing success again this year, with nearly 250 swimmers participating in the 400-yard, 1-mile, 2-mile, or, for the first time this year, 5K (3.1-mile) events. Conditions were picture-perfect and all nine waves went off smoothly, thanks to the impeccable planning and coordination of the West Neck Swim Planning Committee and all of the many volunteers who helped get the swimmers off to a smooth start, stay on course and return safely!

John Coyle (#213) and Paul Coster (#212) at the start of the 5K with Michael Raspantini looking on

Jane McWilliams and Alice Rogers give the West Neck Swim a thumbs-up...

More photos (yes, you're in them!) available here (sorry -- attempts to embed the slideshow not working!): 
See you next year!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Pod Is Back!!

Attendance has been sparse at weekend morning swims since the unofficial (and disappointing) start of the open-water swimming season on Memorial Day Weekend (see previous blogpost!).  An unusually cool Spring has kept both air and water temperatures low, keeping many erstwhile open water swimmers pool-bound, and it seems that the weather has not yet caught up with the calendar.  Last weekend the water temperature finally edged up to 67-68 degrees, but after a week of chilly, rainy weather the water temperature yesterday had dropped to 63, and by this morning it had dropped even further, to 60-61 degrees! But with just one more week of Spring swimming left, and the Third Annual "West Neck Swim" just a week away, West Neck Beach was thronged with returning swimmers this morning. Most -- even those without wetsuits -- made their way all the way to the Sailboat, undeterred by the still-ripping incoming full-moon tide and the uneven chop of a brisk northwesterly wind.  It looks like the 2014 open-water swimming season has finally begun in earnest!  Even weekday morning swims may resume shortly, with a first open water swim tentatively scheduled for Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. (check Facebook for updates and other info about ad hoc swims). 

Next Saturday, June 21st, marks the Summer Solstice and the official beginning of Summer 2014! It's also your last weekend chance to try out the venue and "test the waters" if you're registered or planning to register for this year's WEST NECK SWIM, which will take place Sunday, June 22nd, at West Neck Beach.  The deadline to register for the 1-mile, 2-mile, or new 5K event is Tuesday, June 17th, so time is running out! For registration and other info about the West Neck Swim, follow this link: http://www.westneckswim.com/.

See you in the Salt!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Crappy" Start to Memorial Day Weekend OWS!

As the 2014 Memorial Day Weekend approached, Newsday reported that 125,000 gallons of partially treated sewage had accidentally been released into Oyster Bay, and that six Nassau County beaches -- some directly across the harbor from West Neck Beach! -- were closed as a "precaution." That information -- combined with Friday evening's torrential rains and the concomitant threat of additional toxic contamination -- was not enough to cause the closure of West Neck and other nearby Suffolk County beaches despite their close proximity to Oyster Bay.  But West Neck Podders, forewarned by the Newsday article as well as by Facebook and email posts (and undoubtedly further deterred by continued unseasonably low water temperatures), stayed away from Saturday morning's official season-opening open-water swim in droves....Even I was sufficiently disconcerted by the prospect of sewage-laden water to decide not to risk a swim, but I headed down to West Neck Beach anyway to see if anyone was crazy enough to venture into the Salt. The early morning clouds were just giving way to brilliant sunshine, which reflected off the surface of the pristine-looking water -- no sewage in sight! Four intrepids were suiting up in the parking lot, nonplussed by the sewage spill, which as they pointed out was "partially treated" and so practically innocuous -- indeed, more so than the water temperature which was somewhere between 56 and 58 degrees. (Lorraine Huether was happy for the coldish water in anticipation of her Alcatraz swim next weekend!) While I watched from the shore (quite happily, I might add), Marc Leahy, Stephen Albright, Anthony Sarchiapone and Lorraine boldly struck off for the north buoy (yes, the buoys are back!) and then continued onward to the yellow sign.  All returned safely and without any apparent ill effects (or significant discoloration), and, with the expectation that conditions would only improve with a few more tidal flushes, I looked forward to my own first open-water swim of the official 2014 season on Sunday.


Cheerleader Susan Robinson
By Sunday, not only had there been no reported fatalities as a result of Saturday's swim, but Marc, Lorraine and Stephen all returned for another dose of Salt, joined by me and by Tim Sullivan for his first open-water swim since November 1st! We swam to the north buoy and then on to the yellow sign.  Enjoying the near-perfect conditions (but for a surprising number of lion's mane jellyfish sightings), and forgetting my pre-swim admonition that the tide turns about an hour earlier than the tide tables reflect, we decided to continue on to the White Rock -- just in time to have to slog back against a just-turned tide. After a winter of very little swimming, I was just barely up to the challenge -- as my aching shoulders and wetsuit-bitten neck can attest. 

Marc -- sleeveless but not gloveless

The White Rock
Fortunately, there's a whole season of swimming ahead for me to build up my endurance and speed and regain my swimming chops again -- but I'm taking tomorrow off!  Happy Memorial Day, everyone -- See you in the Salt!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It's Open-Season for Open-Water Swimming!

After a l-o-n-g, brutal winter that kept even the West Neck "Polar Pod" out of the water since mid-November, and delayed by several weeks the telltale signs of Spring, the slowly emerging crocuses and tulips and daffodils began to give hope of an eventual return to open-water swimming. The Polar Pod optimistically scheduled a "Resurrection Swim" for April 19th, the Saturday before Easter. But when the temperatures were forecast to go into the 60s this week, Annmarie Kearney-Wood was quick to urge us into the water sooner -- just in case the weather decided to go south again.

Five Polar Pod members took up the challenge, and on Saturday, April 12th, Annmarie, Joye Brown, Carole Wickham, Sharon Hochberg and I tiptoed, with winter-tenderized feet, over the low-tide rocks that poked and bruised even through our insulated booties.  The booties kept the cold at bay, but not our necklines, and when, one by one, we lowered ourselves into the 40-degree water, our wetsuits filled with icy daggers that sheared our skin and stung and burned our unacclimatized faces.  But the sun was shining brilliantly and glinting on the flat, calm water that looked so inviting....Joye reminded us that we'd swum in worse conditions in November, and when she said, "We can do this," of course we did!  It was -- as our cold-water swims always are -- incredibly invigorating and energizing, and the Polar Pod is all fired up to do it again tomorrow!  See you in the Salt!
Carole, Joye, Carol, Annmarie and Sharon
Basking in the sun and drinking hot tea afterwards