After our trip to Ansel Adams, Murali Krishna asked me to arrange a long open water swim in preparation for the Bridge to bridge 10K (6.2 mile) swim.
I got Gary Emich’s contact from Tandy/Doug and set up an Aquatic Park (AP) to Alcatraz and back swim for Monday August 22nd.
We got to South End Rowing Club bright and early and after a quick tour of the facilities – Gary explained the tides and the various signals he would be using to keep us bunched together. Chakri and I were still a little sore from our 50 mile run on Saturday. I was hobbling around with a few large blisters...but the cool bay waters would be good for the sore legs.
Given that we were heading out at the peak of the flood tide (6:30 AM SHARP), we had to aim to the west of Alcatraz and the slowing tide would drift us towards Alcatraz Island. Gary asked us to get suited up and wait for the horn at Aquatic Park. There we stood; Chakri, Mouli, Murali Krishna (MK) and I waiting for the large yellow RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) to show up at the opening of AP (The RIB was not allowed to enter AP). 6:30 sharp the fog horn wet off and through the murky light of dawn we could just about make the outlines of the RIB. The four of us started off and we stayed together as we slipped out into the bay. Once out in the bay, Gary pointed to the direction he wanted us to swim and off we went. Slowly, as the sun rose, we could see the outline of Alcatraz and Gary kept the boat to the east of us so we would not be sucking in all that exhaust.
The going was good and the water was calm. Being a left side breather I had to make an adjustment to keep the boat in sight (it was on my right) – Mouli and MK were 5 to 10 meters ahead and Chakri and I stayed together. We had all discussed that we would stay in a group, so every few minutes Mouli and MK would stop and wait for us to catch up. Once we settled in to a decent pace we kept drifting to the east (tide coming in) and Gary would point us to the west…finally we made it to the island and stood up on the rocky beach on the west end of Alcatraz. My wetsuit had begun to chaff around the neck and was getting a bit irritating. After a brief break (about a min) we headed back. The tide had begun to shift and was now moving west (out to the ocean).
On the way back my goggles started leaking and I had to keep clearing them, no matter what I did it just would not seal tight! As we swam on the tide and wind picked up and Gary kept pointing us to the east. The AP opening is pretty tricky and can’t really be seen from the bay. Then we heard Gary say something but I could not hear him or follow what he was trying to say. MK said we need to swim to the wall on the west of AP, that did not make sense to me as we were to head inside AP. I kept fighting the current and trying to head to the opening...finally I swam close to the boat and asked Gary what was going on. He said we missed the opening and the tide was too fast to try swimming to it, he said 'aim for the rock wall' to the west of the opening. Off we went, I saw the buoy zipping past me...well it was actually me zipping past the buoy :-) the tide was moving really quick. I looked back and saw that Chakri was still close, so I started a sprint to the wall (I thought it was a sprint). I got to the rocks and stood up, and cut my feet on those sharp rocks. Then headed back to the boat.
As I climbed onto the boat Chakri came by and we told him that he had to touch the wall and then come back to the boat, so off he went :-). Gary looked at us laughing and said, "I'm sure Chakri is saying, 'what a bunch of bastards'..." :-). Once Chakri was on board, I patched up my cuts and off we went for a nice warm shower and back to a normal day at work.
Big thanks to Gary, he is an awesome guy.
Gary Emich web site: Lane Lines to Shore Lines
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