Wednesday, 5 December 2012

And the captain wasn't pleased....

I have just been sent the link to the updated historical record for 2011, kept by Penny Lee Dean, of Catalina Channel swims. Just as everyone does when reading such a document, I went straight to the bit about my swim (me, me, me...). Like most of the entries, the narrative is taken directly from the swim report, and two things really struck me about it.

Firstly, the report repeatedly states what good spirits I was in. In many ways, this is true, and it would be churlish not to be in good spirits while doing something so exciting as a marathon swim in a (to me) relatively exotic location. But I also recall that swim as being extremely miserable, especially for the first half, when I threw up, suffered from burning acid reflux and burped up virtually every feed. I remember being worried that they would pull me out if they knew how much I was struggling with the sickness and digestive problems so deliberately kept it hidden, which may or may not have been a mistake; but I also remember trying not to dwell on it by 'performing' being okay. Basically, by faking it, I was able to not focus on the problems I was having and try to seek out the positive. As a swim strategy, I guess this worked, since I was able to keep going....and things did improve physically in the second half of the swim, especially in terms of my ability to keep the drink down, which in turn gave me the energy that I needed to pick up my stroke rate / pace. But it does mean that there is quite a gulf between how I remember particularly the first half of that swim, and what it looks like on paper - a curious artefact of perspective.

And secondly, I was very struck, and really quite annoyed, by the statement that at the halfway point "...the captain felt the swim would take 17 to 18 hours and he wasn't pleased". I don't blame him for the pessimistic prediction, since I really was crawling along at that point, such was my level of depletion. I don't even mind that he was displeased, since I'm sure that however supportive, all pilots prefer the faster to the slower swims. But I do resent that he expressed it, and I hate the thought of that conversation going on on board while I was struggling away.

It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

But the important thing is that I gave it my best shot, had an amazing experience, and crawled onto the shore at the other end. That's a moment that I would never trade, even to pacify a displeased captain.


  1. Hey Karen

    Sorry about my last comment. I obviously didn't read the blog post properly, sorry about that. I thought this was referring to your last English Channel swim, not the Catalina Channel. Anyway I actually clicked on the link this time and you're right, it doesn't sound very nice the way it is worded in the report so I understand how you feel. It still could have been taken out of context by whoever was writing the report though. Main thing is you made it.


  2. Hi Chris
    Now I'm intrigued - what was your earlier comment? I don't think I've seen that.

  3. Hi Karen

    Maybe I didn't validate it after I wrote it so it never got sent. I thought the captain wasn't pleased comment was referring to your English Channel swim. I've worked on the CSPF boats as an observer and written these reports, and sometimes things can read differently in the report to how they actually happened. I know that all the pilots want the swimmer to succeed, and they know that the faster the swimmer gets there, the less chance there is of something going wrong or the swim failing. So the captain not being pleased may have been because they wanted you to succeed and they would have preferred you to be going faster to make the tide or increase the chances of success, rather than because they wanted to get home for tea.
    But anyway, that was based on what I know about the CSPF pilots and before I clicked on the link, and like I said, it doesn't sound very nice to actually read it in the report there.
    Good luck with the training. I have put a link to here from my blog I hope that is ok?



Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.