While I muddle through writing up posts about July (Kingdom Swim, 8-Bridges crew, England swim adventure, Channel crewing, etc.) my fearless relay partner, Suzanne Sataline, has already written up a beautiful piece about yesterday’s charity swim, a 25K crossing of Long Island Sound. Suzanne is a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who is working on her new career as a writer of open water swimming adventures. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y, just a few blocks from me. Together, we were “Shark Week,” one of only five 2-person relay teams competing in the St. Vincent’s Swim Across the Sound. With the exception of the photographs and their captions, the write-up below is by Suzanne.
Thrown in the Sound (and various watercraft)
by Suzanne Sataline
Thank you all for your interest and support (financial, technical and emotional) as Caitlin and I swam across Long Island Sound. The short answer is that we finished – we passed land in Bridgeport Harbor more than 8 hours after leaving Long Island, swimming toward the finish line of a 15-mile route. Hurrah! (In hindsight, Caitlin, I wish I had just bolted onto some rocks.) We swam 14.68 miles, just short of the end, when race officials pulled everyone from the water because of an approaching storm (which didn’t arrive for several hours.) It was a bitter end to a marvelous day.
The full story includes two hungover — but loyal –captains, a dead engine, trips on two or three more boats, confusing and conflicting decisions from race officials, a day without the chills, and the most cheerful, determined partner a swimmer could ever want.
After ferrying out to Port Jefferson, N.Y., we met our initial captain, Karl, and his first mate, Chris, who were hungover but in good spirits and really eager to get us to the finish. We had great conditions: partly cloudy skies, 80-something degree temps, a slight breeze, flat water about 72 degrees on the surface, and a small, but workable boat. Karl wisely instructed Caitlin to swim from the Port Jefferson, N.Y. beach away from the cluster of boats, meaning she would be swimming due north to Bridgeport. She did and at the first transition, we led the relay racers.
Unfortunately, our craft, the Lady Diane, was not as seaworthy. Ten minutes after I had jumped in, the boat’s engine died. Karl & Co. told me to swim toward another boat. At the half hour mark, I was picked up by another boat, carrying Cindy our race official, Max our teen lifeguard, a medic and our endless bags of supplies. We motored to our new craft, Sotaly Tober.
Tober’s Captain Phil was a steady, good humored pilot, and his wife, Georgeanne, a generous and enthusiastic cheerleader in a bikini. Cindy doted on us, monitoring our stroke count and checking to ensure that we had eaten. Having lost our flat of water after leaving our first boat, Max generously offered his water and food, along with ruminations about the murky depths of the Sound. The jellies were absent, but the sea lice started nibbling. Team Shark Week found a good rhythm in the rippling sea.
Caitlin’s constant long stroke (see video below) pulled us closer to Connecticut. Unable to chat, we left messages for each other on a clipboard, and that included tips on stroke work. I worked on lengthening my glide watching her technique. Caitlin’s biggest accomplishment was stopping me from making random 90-degree turns as I tried (and failed) to anticipate the boat’s course during our transitions. (Swim to Iceland, anyone?) Perhaps I’ll eat less sugar next time.
After more than eight hours in the water, angry clouds had massed. The wind picked up, dragging us eastward and off course. The race officials debated calling the event. Onboard, I hunkered down in my parka with ginger tea, determined to not get cold. Luckily, our gal Caitlin helped us through the hardest part: on the approach to the harbor, she battled a sore shoulder as she glided through growing swells and rip currents that spooled into endless pools. With my Janet Evans (or Olive Oil) technique, I got us deeper into Bridgeport harbor, while trying to remember Caitlin’s instructions to kick.
Over the radio, the officials called the race for the teams behind us because of high swells. Capt. Phil muttered: “They’re calling the race because of rain? Swimmers are wet already!” The officials, though, said that everyone in the harbor would be allowed to finish. We were thrilled, but knew we couldn’t slack off. Caitlin let modesty fly with the wind and went topless so the lice wouldn’t stick. A half-mile to the end, I paused before jumping in. The lovely Sound had turned into the most disgusting sewer I’d ever entered (and that includes the Caspian Sea). Warm, brown and viscous, I couldn’t see my arms underwater. Something tasted vaguely sweet. A habitual ocean guzzler, I clamped my lips shut, turned off my mind and cranked, toward the building reading “Captain’s Cove.” By then, boats carrying teams pulled before the finish were streaming into the harbor’s entrance. Suddenly I was surrounded by craft on all sides. Then I heard everyone on board our boat shout, “It’s over. Get on board!’’ Thinking there had been thunder, I quickly obeyed.
Our boat passed teams still swimming. We saw a teenaged girl crying on her boat; swimming solo, she had been a breath from the finish when she was pulled. Caitlin, the crew, and I were furious at that and Caitlin told the race director so when we reached the dock.
Up until those final minutes it had been a wonderful day. The two of us raised $4,000 for people with cancer, and that doesn’t include checks still coming in. We only wished the officials had been more thoughtful and consistent with their decisions to call the race as they had been with the planning.
Karl and Chris, our initial captain and mate, met us near the dock and insisted on helping us with our bags and getting us a drink. (No cranberry juice, please.) They felt horrible about their crippled craft and want to captain us next year. This morning, after a long sleep, that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, at all.
Thanks for the support from all of you.
— (Thanks for such a great write-up, Suzanne!)
Here is a clip of my stroke with a request for feedback. Why does my shoulder hurt so much?
Here is a clip of Suzanne swimming from early in the day. She stayed strong and consistent for the whole swim. As the day progressed, so did the length and smoothness of her stroke.
And a few more pictures from the day: