Date: Friday March 18th, 2011
Weather: Storm Warning, 7.0 wind speed with 11.1 knot wind gusts, Rain
Air Temperature: 46.2 F
|Alcatraz March 18, 2011|
3:00am, my phone squeals impatiently for me to wake up, I reach for my phone confused, “I have set the alarm for 5:30am not 3:00am”, then I realize it is a call from work, navigation complete by 3:25am, OK still 2 hours to get some rest before ” the swim”. I snuggle safely under the covers….sleep does not come, my mind is racing, going over last night’s swim in San Francisco Bay and the upcoming Golden Gate swim. ” Why did the water feel so cold last night for the first quarter mile?” I ponder the question, the Dolphin Swim Club swimmers I chatted to after my swim last night told me about the water in the Bay, ” currents under water pull in cold water”, they were also talking about their plans for the weekend, there was a Saturday Swim planned but with the storm warning for Friday neither were considering venturing out. I can hear the wind whipping outside and the rain pelting the window panes, I am expecting to receive a call phone from Swim Art who are organizing the swim saying that it the expedition is cancelled, the call never comes..
UP AND READY TO GO
5:30am I bolt out of bed, I laid out all my gear last night……warm clothes to put over my suit to keep me warm in the boat, including a hat, fleece pants, turtle neck, down vest, ice breaker socks, a hot thermos of tea, a peanut butter sandwich and Lara Bar. Also a plastic bag of warm dry clothes to change into after the swim.
I get my suit on, next up navigating slopping on some baby oil on my arms, back of my neck, my upper back and shoulders, I usually have help with this and it is a bit of a stretch to reach by myself, I tip a little extra over my shoulder for good measure, hoping it will hit some part of my body and then decide to slop it over my legs as well….” at least I will think I am warmer”, I giggle to myself.
Warm clothes on, bags ready, time to go over the instructions I received from Swim Art by email 3 days ago:
7:00am = meet, dressed to swim at Aquatic Park
7:05am = check in
7:10-7:20am = briefing
7:25 = walk to the dock to board the boat- about a 10 minute walk
7:35 = board the boat
8:00 sharp = jump in time
TIME TO MEET
” We will ride two Zodiac boats out to the Golden Gate Bridge, ” Tango” and ” The Camera Boat”, you should already have your boat assignments”, I acknowledge with a nod, thrilled that there was something I had down! “You will jump off the boats together and swim back to Aquatic Park in groups of 2-6 swimmers, each group will have it’s own Kayak escort. The swim is run with the incoming current and should take between 45 minutes and one hour fifteen minutes.
Then comes the ” Has anyone got any questions?”, “Hell yes”, I am thinking feeling the wind gusts, the rain and catching a glimpse of the angry San Francisco Bay waves in the background ,but know better than to blurt it out. Instead after a long dramatic pause, ” Yes I have a question, are there any landmarks that are good to sight off that you can point out before we go”
” Great question” replies Leslie, she then points out a number of buildings, other swimmers familiar with the Bay offer their landmarks too, it is a big help and I am pleased to have a picture in my mind that I am swimming towards.
” Time to head to the dock and load the boats, after the jump in you will swim down the inbound shipping lane, you will be swimming with the current, the hardest part of the swim will be making it into the opening in Aquatic Park, the current will be pushing you straight to Berkeley”
Gulp, mission is now firmly ingrained in my mind MAKE IT to Aquatic Park…MAKE IT TO SHORE! We walk down to the dock, time to split into our two groups, I am on ” Tango”, I follow the Pilot, the kayak is loaded onto the Zodiac, swimmers in and we are off.
OUT INTO SAN FRANCISCO BAY OR IS IT NEW ZEALAND?
Memories come flooding back, the kind of memories that you only get from a long lost feel, taste or smell that rattles a distance memory from long ago and then it all comes flooding back as if the past was the present.
Timaru, South Canterbury, New Zealand 1973, it is a wild, rough day with dark clouds in the sky, it is the type of day that you wrap up inside on, or a ” Hold onto your hat day”, as we’d say in New Zealand. My brother and I are walking on the rocks along by the boat ramp, the rocks are sharp, each time we take a step to a new rock we let our foot gently check out the new rock surface before we commit our body weight, our mission today pulling star fish off the rocks and seeing if they will “man up and swim” while we wait for Dad to launch the speed boat, his mission today to go FAST, he is practicing for a boat race in the harbor and race day could bring any conditions for the competitors…rough or calm, in New Zealand we don’t cancel stuff for rough weather. Well Dad is going to be well prepared for any weather on race day because today is rough, REAL rough and me and my brother Hamish are going to be right there right now.
PANTHER GT is a smart green race boat, she has a white outboard motor which I like because there is a picture of a horse head on it, it has a deep V of a hull which makes it exceptionally good at slicing through the water particularly when it is rough. Boat launched, Hamish and I jump in and crawl up and under the front of the boat, it is dark, I have my knees pulled into my chest and I’m hugging them with my arms, Hamish is beside me, you’d think I’d be scared but I’m not I’ve got Hamish beside me and he looks out for me, I’ll be OK. We pull the boat cover up over ourselves, I am not sure if we do it for warmth or protection but it feels good to clasp onto to it. The 130 Horse Power Motor roars, I love the smell of the engine, we are off, the boat angles up at first and then as she gains speed we are launched into the air, I hit the the top of the boat with my head, we are right up in the nose of Panther so not much room to be knocked around, with each wave the boat pounds onto there is a shot of sea water that sprays into the back of the boat, as the boat pitches up and down the water begins to run to the front and back of the boat, Hamish and I are wet, we are cold, we are tossed this way and that, smashing into the boat and we are LOVING IT!
I’ve spoken to my Dad about that particular day, he remembers it well, ” How old were we Dad” I ask, ” Awe you’d be 6 or 7 years old, it was rough water that day, real rough, you two were up under the front of the boat so you wouldn’t get flicked out, no way you’d be able to hang on in the back with the size of those waves, I imagine you’d be getting a good jostle around up there”, then he said ” It was all on that day!
Suddenly I am snapped back, the boat is no longer smacking the water, the engine is quietly idling and I am back in San Francisco Bay, ” do you want to take a picture of Alcatraz” the pilot asks, ” sure do, this is my only chance to do the tourist sightseeing thing while I am here in San Francisco”, it was kind of him to stop, or maybe I had been making him nervous holding on with one hand and taking pictures with my phone with the other hand since we left the harbour. I got my shot, tucked my phone back in my pocket and then did a double take, ” someones dog is out here in the middle of the bay, a chocolate brown lab, how did it make it all the way out here we must be nearly a mile from shore?”. ” Hey see the seal lion”, someone shouted from the boat. Everything my brains knows told me it was a dog, when I looked a little closer I saw huge brown expressive eyes, whiskers and an over sized head, just hanging there in the water amongst all the waves checking us out with a ” come on in, the water’s fine!” look on it’s face……..GULP, guess I am not swimming alone today.
Will there be any other sea life in the water when I ” jump in” under the bridge? I ‘ll keep you posted.