THE CATALINA CHANNEL- Last year she spat me out, an incomplete swim, after covering 19 of 20 miles, I was pulled from the water after 12 hours of swimming and a shark took a bite at my side one hour into the swim, leaving a tooth in my hip and a determination to return.
SEPTEMBER 17TH, 2014 Me, Crew Chief Cynthia Needham, and crewie Karyn Scherer made our way to San Pedro, to board ” Outrider”, piloted by John Pitman, locked and loaded, we began over 2+ hour journey to Catalina Island, I curled up on the bunk below and rested..
“30 minutes to swim time” Cynthia gently gives me the heads up “it’s GO TIME!” I climb up to the cabin, suit on, cap on, one final layer of sun lotion, then Cynthia applies a thick layer on Lanolin on all those places you DON’T want to be chaffed, there is chatter back and forth amongst those on the boat, I secure my earplugs and put my goggles on.
I peek around the side of the boat to see Doctors Cove, Catalina Island
Mark Miller, is already in the kayak to escort me into shore, I sit down and take a moment to take it all in before I slide into the waters of the Catalina Channel for a second time, I’m EXCITED!
I swim towards Catalina Island, clear the water and lift both my arms at 11:10pm to signal to the Observers, it’s “GAME ON”….the night Swimming begins
7.5 Hours Later the darkness began to lift…
I keep swimming….
Feeding every 30 minutes, the sun rise and luminates the sky, it was worth waiting for…..
” Your over half way” comes from the boat, I put my head down and pull hard, mile by mile we close in on the coast of California, Mark Miller kayaking by my side…
The California Coast cliff line is in sight, I can see the crashing surf at the base, I am close, I am PUMPED!
Head down, I make a B Line for the shore, as I am drawing myself onto shore a breaking wave blindsides me, knocking me down, the surge is strong and despite clawing with my hands on the rocks I am swept back out to sea, The Catalina Channel is not giving in that easy, NEITHER AM I, my goggles & light stick have been ripped off, there is shingle all over my face,my chin is bleeding, knees cut up, elbows, The Channel “Curb Stomps” me, for sure! I take another sweep at the shore and with all my might, crawl out on my hands & knees, once clear of the breaking waves and my feet are dry I turn to face the boat, and the Channel herself, we gaze it each other for a few seconds, a mutual respect,the bull horn sounds, 10 Hours, 34 minutes and 10 seconds, an official crossing of the Catalina Channel, I plop down on the rocks and watch my wonderful crew swim into shore to meet me, we share a team hug, then time to swim back to the boat.
At the start of the swim, David Clark, and Margaret Clark, our Catalina Channel observers, mentioned that some swimmers like to pick up a momento stone from the shore at the end of the swim, I didn’t scoop one up before I swam back to the boat, or atleast I didn’t intentionally, once on the boat, Cynthia helped strip off my suit and hose me down, my suit dropped to the deck along with enough stones for a small beach, we both roared with laughter.
Once wrapped up time or a hug from our wonderful Observer
We motored back to San Pedro, just enough time for a team photo
So what of the shark, he’s still telling the tale of last years run in, ” Mate that hurt, my jaw ached, I even lost a tooth, she was made of made of steel, didn’t even stop after the hit, I circled round for another look and she was gone, they’re making them of titanium these days”
Closing Thought: “When you think you’ve given it all you’ve got, dig deeper”