30 April 2007
We Made It Happen!
Alice, Heather and I met boat captain Andy at the dock at Mission Bay in San Diego at 7 a.m. It was foggy, but the air was warm. I knew that this swim would be beautiful. I'd be out in the ocean, with my English Channel crew on board in the warm waters off of San Diego. We loaded up the boat and Andy drove it slowly out of the bay and into the ocean. Once we got to the ocean, we picked up the speed and Andy put the boat in neutral about a half mile of shore. He looked at me and asked me if I was ready to jump. Just about as soon as I reached for my cap and goggles, we all smelled the smoke coming from the engine. Alice and I got out of the way and I scrambled up to the front of the boat. Andy grabbed the fire extinguisher and Heather helped lift the cover off of the engine. I had stripped down to my swim suit and was prepared to swim to shore from the burning boat. I knew the gas tank was full and that there was a full extra tank of gas near the engine. Andy got on the radio and called for help "Vessel in distress!". I was one second away from jumping in the water when Andy said that he thought he got the fire out. Two guys out fishing stopped and lent us their extinguisher. Heather called her friend Brian on her cell phone. He works for the San Diego County beach lifeguards and would be able to send someone out. It seemed as if no one at headquarters had heard our call for help. We heard Heather's end of the conversation: "Our boat is on fire...no, I am not kidding". Brian called lifeguard headquarters and within 2 minutes a Baywatch style rescue boat was in sight. Alice, Heather and I climbed on to the rescue boat and rode back to the dock towing Andy and his broken down boat behind us.
We had no boat, but we still had a 6 hour swim to complete. I didn't go all the way down to San Diego to give up just because we didn't have a boat. We put our heads together and came up with the following plan: We would rent a 2 person kayak for Alice and Heather and Brian would lend Andy his paddle board. We would do 6 hours in the ocean off of La Jolla Shores. I'd swam there before and liked it.
We had all packed as if the crew would be on a boat all day. No one had clothing for kayaking and we didn't even have enough bottles for my feeding supplies because we had planned on refilling them from a larger bottle on the boat. We filled every container we had, bought some dry bags and headed to the beach.
We left the dock at Mission Bay at 9:30, we were on the water in La Jolla at 10:45. It would be a long day of swimming and it wasn't going to be perfect, but I was going to get my 6 hours in.
I felt great for the first three hours. The water temperature was perfect (60 F), the water was clear and relatively calm. Around 4 hours I started to get a little tired, but I still swam on. After 4 and a half hours I was tired, but just kept swimming. At 5 hours, Alice jumped in with me and swam the last hour. It was great to have her by my side after swimming alone for 5 hours. I imagined us swimming side by side in the cove in San Francisco as we have done for many years together. I remained in good spirits and was cracking jokes with the crew until the very end.
I felt fine walking up on the beach and just barely started to shiver during the time Heather and Andy went to get the cars. I even made friends on the beach with another woman who had done a 9 mile swim that morning. We showered at Heather's and met back up with Andy and a few of Heather's friends at a nearby sushi restaurant. I slept OK that night and felt stiff in the morning. The more I moved around during the day, the better I felt. Today (Monday) I felt completely recovered.
THANK YOU to Heather, Alice and Andy for making this swim happen despite the early morning set back. As two of my students told me this morning after I recounted the story of the accidental kayakers: "Those are some good friends!".
THANK YOU to Brian for lending us the paddle board to use. It was helpful to have another pilot out there and it saved Alice's back!
THANK YOU to the fishermen who initially helped us and to the San Diego County Lifeguards who brought us into shore.
You can also check out Alice's photos which include the boat incident and the rescue: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aywong/sets/72157600158796788/