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!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What the...??? or, Apocalyptic Swim...

For nearly a week, an unrelenting wind had been whipping across the Island, bending tree limbs and rustling leaves and whipping up whitecaps across the water everywhere....Saturday was relatively calm, but by Sunday the blustery wind had returned, and midway through our 8:00 morning swim it changed direction and intensified, forcing the handful of stubborn stay-ins to stick close to shore to avoid head-on collisions with unseen mooring balls or other swimmers. Conditions were much the same for the Tuesday morning 6:30 swim, as Margot Edlin and I fought our way to the North Buoy against the northwesterly wind and then fought our way back against what we’d thought would be an incoming tide but felt awfully outgoing....

So when Gae Polisner and I arrived at West Neck Beach for the Wednesday morning 6:30 swim, we were relieved to find the flag hanging limply against the flagpole and the water flat and still, though the air was chilly at 55 degrees. As we pulled our wetsuits on in the parking lot, deeming the water still too cold for bathing-suit-only swimming, we discussed our options for the swim. According to my iPhone’s tide app, as confirmed by Gae’s, the tide was still incoming, with high tide not until 8:57.  So, taking into account our years of observed wisdom that the tide actually turns about an hour earlier in Cold Spring Harbor than the tide table reflects, we figured we still had a good hour’s worth of swimming on an incoming tide before it turned, so our first "Sailboat swim" of the season was our objective.

As we headed to the water, though, our attention was caught by a long, breaking wave out in the middle of the harbor directly in front of the beach. The wave kept breaking in place, curling over itself, and we could hear the sound of the water moving long before a series of rolling waves washed over the beach. Other than a few stationary clamboats dotting the harbor, there was no boat traffic, though, and we wondered, somewhat anxiously, what was out there causing the water to move like that...Fish...?? Big fish...?? How big...?? And how many...??

video

Gae pointed out that the swim lines were bowing, despite the lack of wind --but not in the direction we would have expected with a still-incoming tide. Once we waded in (we were there to swim, after all, and the water was so clear and clean and calm and lovely despite the unknown force "out there"), we realized that our bodies were moving, too, just like the swim lines, and we were being pushed northward, as if on an outgoing tide. It made no sense – high tide was still at least an hour and a half away, but there was no doubt that the water was moving northward towards the Sound, and pretty forcefully, too, and we were moving with it.

We quickly readjusted our swim plan: To the South Buoy against the apparently though inexplicably outgoing tide, then to the North Buoy and then in, for a mile-plus swim. Off we went, but both with a sense of uneasiness, a feeling that something is off, that things are not what they’re supposed to be....

We had been talking on the beach, of course, as I imagine people all across the country and even the world have been, about the deliberate and merciless slaughter of my gay brothers and sisters in Orlando and the apparent ease with which this latest mass-murderer (who I believe was more of a crazy person than a Muslim terrorist) obtained the assault weapon that made killing each of them and so many of them so easy...so easy.... 

In Orlando...and before that San Bernardino, and before that Charleston, and before that Newtown, and before that Aurora, and before that Columbine...and so many more in between -- all of those innocents, taken so easily from their families and their friends and their futures....

It is no wonder that the winds are raging, that the tides are unpredictable, that the earth is erupting, that our human hearts are breaking along with that of our Mother the Earth...and that Gae and I felt so vulnerable swimming in the face of all this to the South Buoy and then to the North Buoy and then in....

Like Isak Dinesen (or because of her), I believe that "the cure for anything is salt water"....But this is going to take a lot of swimming...a lot of swimming....

See you in the Salt...and be mindful of the shifting tides....