Thursday Morning brings grim news
5:30am rolls around and I peer out the caravan window, it has started to get light amongst the thick fog, ” I wonder if Maria, has heard word of Colm”, I think as I peer out from under the covers, Maria is Colm’s wife, we met for the first time on Sunday and I instantly liked her, bright, bubbly and upbeat, I creep out my bedroom door, so as not to wake Cynthia, then peek out the kitchen window to see if she is awake, I see the living room light on in her caravan, and go about making my way over , I timidly knock on the door, Maria greets me with a warm smile, ” do you have news of Colm, I am not able to see the tracker?”, I ask, ” No”, I am about to call the boat, she replies, ” if you feel up to it come tell me when you hear news”, Maria is soon back to share what she has learned, ” the fog was too thick for him to land, he was 300 meters from shore, he is back on SUVA and will arrive at 7;30am”, Maria says, we give each other a tight hug, I feel sad, Colm, along with two other swimmers out there this morning did not land for safety reasons, the fog was so thick they were not permitted to leave the boat to swim to French shores, one so close she was only 100 meters away from land, ” The Channel shows no mercy”, I think.
Thursday Morning 9am
The fog remains thick, time to call Neil, ” Hi Neil, this is Charlotte, how do things look?”, I ask, ” awww right then Charlotte, you can swim at 12:30pm, or 3;30pm today, what do you want to do?”, he replies, I am thrown off I had not expected a choice, ” What do you think of the fog Neil, is it lifting?”, I ask Neil, “well maybe, maybe not, it is meant to breakup, but it may not”, Neil replies, ” can I call you back?”, I ask Neil, ” Yes”, he says. I hang up the phone and look around the trailer, what to do, I place a call to Jeff, ” I really don’t know Jeff, Neil is noncommittal, I don’t want to chance swimming in thick fog”, I fill Jeff in on the situation, ” I’ll be over in a few minutes”, he replies.
Jeff arrives, and is joined by Ned and Cynthia, none of us have a feel for what should be done, time continues to tick by, we are no further towards a decision, there is umming and arrring, some people around the caravan park think it looks good others think the weather looks bad, finally I bump into another swimmer due to swim today also, ” I am swimming at 12:00 she says”, shortly afterwards, after 2.5 hours of thick fog and indecision I hear that the fog is breaking up at the Dover Marina, it is looking good, I reach for the phone and call Neil, ” 12:30pm it is”, I tell him, ” Good meet me at the Marina at 12:15am “, he replies, suddenly we are scrambling, there is barely enough time to get my suit on, sun lotion applied and the gear loaded up. The gear is tossed in the car and we make our way down towards Dover Marina, as we drive down from the top of the White Cliffs of Dover towards the Harbor the fogs breaks up and there is brilliant sunshine, it is turning out to be a stunning day, I am thrilled, the water is calm and the sunshine is streaming through the clouds.
SUVA here we come….
Jeff, Cynthia, Ned and Deb unload the car, I am under strict instructions not to lift any thing, it feels weird not to be helping, I follow the others towards the boat drinking my pre swim Maxim carbo drink, there is no wind and the sun is streaming warm rays on us, what a day…
On the Boat we go…..
We are all ready to load, Neil and his first mate Jack get the boat ready, Jack is shirtless and is laden with elaborate tattoos, he has a massive toothy smile and jokes as we all climb aboard and head up the stairs to sit down, it is a wonderful view of the harbor, ” we leave from Shaky”, shouts Neil, ” that is Shakespeare’s Beach”, I think a 5 minute trip, we are close. I sit bundled up as we head out of the harbor.
Deb has the grease ready to apply, Ned is captaining the crew he will be the only one to communicate with me, Jeff, Cynthia and Deb are the crew on board, I feel fortunate to have them all there, they bring much to the team, Deb is tough, she knows me and what I can do, I love her presence when I swim, Cynthia makes even the grimmest of conditions seem beautiful and Jeff is my rock. Ned brings to the boat an intimate knowledge of ” The Channel”, he has been in her waters two times before, he has crossed her water and since then many other treacherous waters, but more than that he has given much to helping novice swimmers like me, get prepared to take on the Channel, from Ned I have learned lessons like:
don’t stop between feeds, if you do the pilot will pull you
if your stroke rate drops it is a bad sign, you are not doing well the pilot will pull you
if you slur your speech or have difficulty answering questions, the pilot will pull you
if you swim away from the boat repeatedly you will be pulled
Don’t stop @$&***ing swimming or the pilot will pull you
All these lessons for me have not been ones read and remembered, they have all been learnt first hand and the wrath of them felt during many a training swim, some in the icy waters of Ireland, and some in my home waters of Vermont. I have stopped between feeds before ( it did not end well), I have had a stroke rate that has dropped due to mild hypothermia on many an occasion and I have learnt to spin my arms fast to warm up, if it has been cold I have trained myself to ignore it, I have fed and vomitted and trained to keep swimming, I have swum by large ships and through masses of Jelly Fish, in filthy Harbor waters with excrement floating in it and clear sparking waters with beautiful fish.
What will I need to draw from my training during this Channel swim……… I am about to find out, ” Time for grease”, shouts Ned, I start stripping off, Deb pulls on the rubber gloves and we start the final tasks.
Greased Up and ready to go…
Deb smears the globs of grease around my neck, she plasters it under both my armpits, then under the shoulder straps of my suit, next she lathers it on my thighs and suit line on my back, I pull on my cap, place my goggles on my head and put in my ear plugs, ” remember not to touch your goggles”, shouts Ned, ” time to swim in, careful getting down the steps”, he adds, it is a good reminder, the steps are rusty and slippery, I look back towards Jeff, Deb and Cynthia, suddenly all the support of so many flashes through my mind, so many back home keeping me company during long swims, those who have spent hours and hours in a kayak by my side while I train, the wonderful messages wishing me good luck, those contributing to help get me to Dover and my family living through the day to day life of living with someone training for an English Channel swim.
Time to Jump…..
It is time to go, time for me to take the final step in this English Channel Adventure, and that step is to jump off this boat and swim into shore, I let go of the bottom rung of the steps and for a brief moment I am neither on the boat or in the icy waters Channel waters, ” This is it”, I think and with that my body plunges under the surface….
How will I feel when I surface and what will it feel like to walk out of the water to Shakespeare Beach where I am to start my swim?
I’ll keep you posted
Closing Thought: Notice this moment and it is yours to treasure forever
Charlotte J Brynn