21 May 2007

Candlestick to Diablo Point

The swim started just below the city limits on the bay side at 3:26 a.m. on Sunday May 20th. The water felt warm when I got in. I stayed right next to Duke, who was escorting me in a kayak. For the first half of an hour, I couldn't see much. The southern part of the city is not well lit and I couldn't make out the Bay Bridge yet. It took me about an hour and a half to get into a good rhythm with my stroke. I wasn't scared and I felt calm and confidant with Duke and my crew on board the "Magic Woman" watching over me. As I approached the Bay Bridge at about 4:45 a.m. the color of the sky changed and revealed the very first hint of the light of day. The sun wouldn't rise for another hour and 15 minutes. By now, the lights of downtown San Francisco were clearly visible and I felt like I have made some progress. We continued on, past the Ferry Building, the piers along the Embarcadero and towards the Golden Gate. As we approached Alcatraz, a container ship passed on my right. I was a little nervous, but stayed right next to Duke in the kayak. As we got closer to the Gate, the water got a little more rough but I continued on. I swam under the Golden Gate full of enthusiasm. I didn't know for sure that conditions would allow us to continue this far and I felt like I had a chance of making it as long as I could make the turn to head South down the coast. It was smooth sailing under the Golden Gate and then conditions changed dramatically. 7-9 foot swell had been forecast and now I was in the middle of it. The wind caused the swell to break so they were like waves. Because of the geography of that area, the huge cresting swell was hitting me from three different directions. I saw the Duke skillfully maintaining the kayak and the boat moving side to side but I was in the middle of too much water to see anything else around me. All of the sudden everyone was telling me to swim South, towards the South tower and towards Mile Rock. An incoming ship was approaching fast and I had to get out of the way. I felt like things had gotten bad very quickly and that if they got any worse I would be in trouble. I told Duke I wanted out. The boat got close to me quickly and Dan pulled me out. I wasn't tired, just scared. I started shivering about 5 minutes after I got out but I hadn't felt cold during the swim. Heather and Alice helped me get warm and we headed back into the bay. As we went back through the Golden Gate, I looked back to where I had just been and the water looked more calm than it had been when I was just there. Things can change so fast in the open ocean. Mark dropped us and all of our stuff off at a dock near South End and I headed in for a shower and sauna.

After we were all warm and dry, Alice, Heather, Duke and I went out for breakfast and discussed the swim. This swim put us all in a situation that we had never been in before. I was scared and doubted myself for just a moment. We discussed what we learned and what we could all do differently next time.

I feel stronger, more confident in my crew and better prepared for the Channel. I feel fortunate that this happened on a training swim and not on my way to France.

THANK YOU to Dan and Anna for coming up with the idea for the swim and asking me to be a part of it.

THANK YOU to Mark Chow and his crew for donating his time and his boat.

THANK YOU to Alice and Heather for monitoring me in the water and keeping me well fed.

THANK YOU to Duke Dahlin for paddling next to me, especially in the dark!

Next up: 8 hours on Sunday the 27th.


Sarah said...


I am *so* incredibly proud of you. You are such a rock star and I remain in awe of your commitment and strength through all of this.

Congratulations on your lessons learned and a fantastic swim. I'm glad you're safe. :)


Alisa said...

I'm so proud of you. It's hard to know when to stop, especially when You're doing well, but the Conditions are not. It's good to be both smart And an excellent athlete! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Jessica, in my past life, in this life and in my next life, you will be my hero.

Swim, girl, swim.

nea said...

Jessica! I had no idea you were doing this until my mom sent a newspaper article on your Sunday morning swim. I am so impressed with you. And the English Channel? Very familiar territory. You go, girl. Nice to read about Alice in the clipping, too.

Carla said...

Hi Jessica,
the next day after I swim with you at South End my parents showed me the article about your swim! Its good to experience this kind of thing *before* the channel.