Thursday, October 7, 2010

Final Analysis

So this will probably be the last post, at least for a while.

This is the official chart of our path, the red line that wiggles (27.5 nm), the black line is the straight line distance (18.8 nm). Those work out to 31.6 statue miles total distance, and 21.6 miles as the crow flies. It was a long, cold bit of swimming.

Here is my official certificate of completion. Not too bad I guess.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The White Horse

The day after the swim, we slept in. We spent the morning wandering around Walmer Castle, one of the Cinque Ports of the Kentish coast, (it seems there are like 8 of them, I didn't really get a good explaination why they were called cinque). For lunch we visited The White Horse, in Dover. (So named for the resemblance between the white capped swells, often present in the channel, to galloping white horses.)

Outside The White Horse in Dover.
So called "white horses" of the channel, out past the break water. Maybe you can see...

Although a relatively recent tradition, when one swims the Channel, either solo or as a member of a relay team, one is then entitled to write their name, the date, the time, and a few words about their crossing, etc. on the walls or ceiling of the pub.
Here we are scouting a spot to record my crossing. The times vary from widely, the names are of people from all over the world. Some names have many dates and times under them. One of my favorites, because I could relate, had the name, time, date, and just said "It was bloody horrible."

Alison Streeter, MBE has under her name, "Queen of the Channel", and as though to justify this statement, there is a 41 with a line through it, a 42 with a line through it and a 43 with an exclamation point! (Although Major Bad-ass English-women would be appropriate, MBE is a form of knighthood, Member of the British Empire. 43 is the most number of channel crossings, by any person, ever, living or dead, real or imaginary. There are some ferries that havn't done this many crossings. She is amazing.)

I found a little spot right over he corner of the bar. It reads: DAVIS LEE 28/9/10 12:41 E -> F "IT WAS COLD"

Here we are with some celebratory pints.

If you are ever in Dover go check it out.

The Crew

I would like to use this post to introduce you to, and thank the crew. They are:

Lance Oram: Channel pilot, skipper of the "Sea Satin", chief Channel navigator and chief harasser of swimmers.

Toby: Mate of the "Sea Satin", future Channel pilot, secondary harasser of swimmers and auxiliary tea brewer.

Jordan: Official officiant representing the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, tea brew master and primary sheep counter.

Andrew Soracco: swim coach, Channel beverage apothecary and poop deck sleeping wizard.

Tim Lee: part time assistant coach, photo/videographer, communication expert, beverage and bottle hurler, water warmer and bhisti and, to coin a new phrase, a "poop deck polymath". (We were very lucky to get him on such notice, he can book up years in advance.)

Here are Toby (left) and Lance (right). This is on the dock after our triumphant, if exhausted return.

Here are Andrew (left) and Tim (right) that is the coast of France in the background.

Jordan proved a little more difficult to photograph, like a snow leopard or a yeti or something. Just as he had materialized out of the dark, simply appearing on the dock about 12:50 AM, so too, when we landed in the afternoon, he seemed to merely dissipate in to the luminiferous aether. Before we lost track of him, we were assured that he would take the required steps to ratify our unofficial time of 12 hours and 41 minutes.

I can't thank these brave souls enough, without them, this crossing would not have been possible. Working all through the night, with disregard for their own comfort, pushing through sea sickness and rain, huge swells, tankers, ferries, the pod of dolphins, they ensured that I was taken care of for every one of the 761 minutes I was swimming.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dover to Calais

So as most of you know, by now we made it. You also probably know about the 1 AM start and some of the other details. Before I get into it blow by blow, let me apologize for being silent the last 48 hours or so, leaving you all wondering what happened.

Monday, we suspected that we would be swimming Tuesday, so we took it a little easy. In the morning we went to Deal Castle for a short visit, and then home for lunch and rest, I am not sure anybody actually napped, save Oliver. The afternoon passed without event. We had a terrific, great big pasta dinner, and I went for my evening call with the Orams. As you probably know by now I had been calling every night, about 7 PM or a little thereafter, to check in with Michael and/or Angela Oram about the prospects of swimming the next day. Monday evening, Angela responded: "Right, you are on for tomorrow, meet Lance at the marina at midnight. Cheers."

So it was time to go. We rounded up a few last things, and all "went to nap" in reality not one of us could get a wink of sleep. At 11:30 PM we said good bye and headed to the docks.

Here we are on the docks at midnight.

About 12:30, Lance showed up, he had done a kayak channel crossing earlier that day.

Here is our escort boat, The Sea Satin. It is a 36 foot, steel hulled, trawler type boat. We left Dover Harbour and headed out to the sea. We left from a beach just south west of Shakespeare Beach, a little further than usual, due to the slightly stronger tides. It was cold on deck but you could see the horizon and not feel sea sick, and down below, the crew were guzzling cups of tea and chain smoking cigarettes, you could not see horizon, but it was warm.

Here we are a few minutes off the the beach, about 1:15 AM doing last minute preparations, i.e. Vaseline and glow sticks, party?

A few minutes later Lance pointed off into the dark and said: "There is the beach over there, swim in and walk completely out of water, when the horn sounds get in and swim; stop when you get to France."

Cold, I walked to the rail of the boat, stepped over the life line, and plunged feet first into the water. It was cold. I started to swim ashore, and they managed to find a flashlight to shine on the shore. I got out, cold and wet, and waited for the horn, I was not totally comfortable with the prospect of 5 hours of cold, night swimming.

The horn went off and the I got in and started to swim.

The first half hour or so was nerve racking, but smooth. By the first feeding, 1 hour in, the sea had picked up quite a lot. I got sea sick, about 2 minutes after eating, and lost that, and most of dinner. It was still quite cold, I thought after we got moving I would warm up, not really. I swam on, figuring it would warm up as day broke. As the sky started to lighten something huge, with many lights, passed behind us, I later found out it was a 700 foot (or so) container ship.

Here, just after daybreak, we see another ship on the horizon.

And a ferry a little while after.

And then an 800 foot tanker that seemed not to get the call from the Dover Captain, to give us a wide berth.
The French coast comes into view after about 8 hours. The sea was still choppy, tough to swim in and still quite cold. About hour 6, I had switched to warm beverages and added a strong kick to my stroke to generate more heat. It was cold.

Look right next to the rock protruding from the water, (it is like a where's Waldo), we made it, 12 hrs 41 min. After being within 3/4 of a mile of the shore, the tide changed, and I was swept about another 3 or 4 miles down the cold shore, and had to swim a bit further to get out on that "beach" not the 2 miles of those huge rocks to the right of the frame. The hardest 200 yards of my life were swimming back out to the boat, like insult to injury.

Back on the boat, nobody looks good after nearly 13 hours in freezing, salt water. I drank a cup of hot tea, and shivered for 45 minutes, slept for about 15 or 30 minutes, then went on deck. and watched Dover get closer and closer.

A cheerful family reunion on the dock about 15 hours after we left. We made it, it was long, very cold and often lonely. Did I mention it was really cold?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

1:12, update

0.75 miles to go

2.25 miles to go

Tim sent a message at noon - 2.25 miles to go!

9.5 miles to go

I received my first update from Tim at 1:56 AM - Davis had been in the water for about 20 minutes and was doing well. Over the past several hours I've received more updates - all echoing that Davis is doing well. I guess it was pretty choppy there for a bit and another swimmer (with a different boat) abandoned their attempt because they (the swimmer) got seasick. The chop has now been reduced to swells and they recently passed by a pod of dolphins.

Just got an update from Tim (8:25AM) 9.5 miles to go.

I am not sure about the tracking link. We were told to use the Sea Satin one, but as has been pointed out it doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps the other link is the right one. Sorry I can't be more helpful.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Green Light

At 7:00 this evening Davis was given the green light - he was told to meet Lance, the pilot, down on the dock in Dover at midnight.

We spent the next little bit getting things ready to go and then Davis and his support crew (Andrew and Davis' brother Tim) tried to get some sleep. I am not sure if Andrew and Tim got any sleep - I know Davis didn't. Excitement mixed with nerves mixed with a huge amount of pasta made sleep impossible for Davis. The thing that Davis was most concerned about, and which was his biggest obstacle to sleep, was the idea of swimming in the dark (it is currently dark, raining and in the 50s). Although he's done it before, it's been awhile and there weren't a ridiculous number of huge ships lurking about. I told him that I would be worried if he weren't concerned about the dark and the ships - yes, he is prepared and there is no doubt in my mind he can do this, but it would be unnatural if he weren't a bit nervous about this undertaking.

Tim is going to send me regular messages to update me, and I'll try and post updates to keep you up to date on Davis' progress. I expect a message any moment now saying Davis is off and going.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday 26 September Update

We went for a swim this morning, about an hour, just to get loose.

Vaseline, your best friend in salt water.

Taking the plunge, it was fierce and funky out there. If the visibility was bad Friday, it was just plain dark swimming this morning, I couldn't see a thing. (Note: really large ship in the background, more on this later.)

Fighting my way out of the ocean, the fishermen thought I was nuts.

During the afternoon, we went to the white cliffs and Dover castle, this is a view across the channel. You might not be able to see, but there are 14 ships in this picture, and that water is rough.

While we were at and around the cliffs and the Dover castle, I kept track of the ships I could see, the fewest I counted was 8 the most was 21.

I guess I would be lying, if I tried to convince you that I was not a little intimidated. After the swim this morning, looking out over the Channel, the ships, and not seeing France, it was very real what I am up against here. The enormity of this undertaking is really made clear by a view from these cliffs.

This is a similar view a little later in the day, here you can see France, (and 17 ships). It is a little more manageable when you can see the other side, it is just swimming right? One stroke after another...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Update, September 25

Today was cold, gray and blustery. I talked with Mike Oram tonight and was told that there were eight foot swells in the Channel today. He said that it looks like things will improve Monday and then by Tuesday be good. Although the reality is that all that is needed is one day, I would rather not be ticking off days and waiting (my friend Thor has nicely offered to see what he can do about the weather - please do!).

Showing Oliver where I plan to swim (I don't think he believed me).

Given I couldn't swim the Channel today we did some exploring. Our travels took us to a wildlife conservation area that had lemurs and foosa - which, as you know, are prominent characters in my new favorite movie, Madagascar.

On another note, I've received several donations the past couple of days and really want to say thanks for the thought and support. I've also been asked by several people if I am still accepting donations - I am, they are welcome and very much appreciated.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Update, September 24

So I am waiting to have my evening call with Michael Oram about the weather and the departure time, I call after 7pm once he has listened to, and digested the weather forecast.

This morning we went down to the seashore and I swam for a little more than an hour, Andrew walked the shore and discussed sea obstacles and conditions with the two fishermen, and helped keep me clear of their fishing lines.

The beach was desolate to say the least, besides us, the two fishermen were the only other people I saw. The beach itself was smooth stones between about 3/4" to 1 1/2" in diameter. The water was calm this morning, (it "freshend up a bit" this afternoon, huge white caps, very rough). The water was quite salty, the visibility was near zero, I could see my elbows, but not my hands. It was cold, but not debilitating, never comfy though.

This is looking down the beach towards the white cliffs of Dover. The two fishermen can be seen near the sea's edge.This is looking North East up the beach, towards the pier in Deal, the little white thing in the sea is, I think, a ferry and actually looked really big.

This is looking out to sea, because of the way the coastline curves, here we are actually looking towards, northern France or Belgium. You may or may not be able to make out the big tanker, the ferry and the HUGE container ship out in the distance. Plenty of traffic.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


We have arrived in the UK. Had a great flight and have begun to settle into the house we rented for our stay. I plan on contacting the pilot boat shortly and determining the plans for the next few days. Right now it is sunny and beautiful out. Fingers crossed it remains that way.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Making waves

Hurricane Igor has created some amazing waves and Andrew and I took full advantage - we headed out to Plum Island at 5:00 this morning to surf.

A different kind of waves tomorrow- airwaves. Tomorrow (at noon) I am going to be interview on NPR's Emily Rooney Show. Tune in - 89.7 in the Boston area, or you can listen via podcast online

Sunday, September 19, 2010

There's still something about that one with the crazy hair that I find suspicious

Two great articles in the Boston Globe today (thanks to Brion O'Connor):

As it says in the article, we are leaving in just a few days. We spent today doing errands - getting Gu, glow sticks and other things we need for the trip. Looking forward to getting over there.

Thought I would also provide an update on the hair.

My last haircut was June 14th and my hair has - well, it has gotten a bit out of control. There is enough of it now that I think it should provide me with a bit of warmth on the swim. If it doesn't it will have at least provided something for Oliver to hold on to when he's riding on my shoulders. If Oliver doesn't manage to pull it all out by the time we return from England, a haircut is going to be one of the first thing that happens.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Just 6 days until we leave for England and just 9 days until the first day I could potentially swim. I've been tapering my swim workouts in preparation for the big swim, but have continued to cross-train. Here are a couple videos of my cross-training.

The plan is to be better about updating the blog while we away so as to keep anyone interested up to date on the pre-swim, swim, and post-swim activities. I also plan on sending out emails to keep people updated.

Please let me know if you'd like to be put on the email list.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ready to go

I just received an email from Lance Oram, the captain of my pilot boat - he says that I have satisfied all the requirements of the Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation and am "ready to go." Good, because I feel ready. Just 16 days until we head off to England and 19 days until I could potentially swim. I am looking forward to it.

This past weekend I took a break from distance swimming and participated in the Maine Sport Triathlon in Camden, Maine. I did the swim portion. My team consisted of my cousin Bjorn (super fast runner) and Bill, a friend of Bjorn's (super fast biker). Our team came in first!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

6 hours

The English Channel Piloting Federation requires swimmers to have completed a 6 hours swim in 60 degree (or less) water prior to attempting the English Channel. On Saturday, thanks to Al and Matt who not only volunteered their boat, but who also served as my support crew, I completed this prerequisite.

We left The Old Town Country Club in Newbury around 7:30 and headed down the Parker River. At 7:45 I jumped into the water and began my swim. I swam down the Parker River and out into the ocean. The day was amazingly clear and the water was pretty calm - great for the boat crew. Everything went well until about 3 hours in - this was totally expected, but not fun. After about a half hour of mental struggle (why am I doing this? this Goo tastes horrible...) I was back on track and actually got into such a zone I wonder if I was deep in meditation or actually asleep.

Andrew jumped in and swam next to me for the last 15 minutes. When I was told I'd swam for six hours and it was time to get out I can't say I was disappointed to leave the water. However, I feel as though I could have kept going and am surprisingly not too sore or tired. All of this gives me confidence going forward. While I have not doubted myself, knowing that I still felt string after six hours makes me feel I am ready to head across the pond.

Again, a HUGE thank you to Al and Matt and to Andrew. Without them I would not have been able to do the swim. I know that sitting on the boat (albeit drinking beers and snacking on delicious looking food) for six hours and going at a snails pace is not the most fun way one could spend an amazing August Saturday - THANK YOU!
Also a big thank you to Oliver - he is also an invaluable part of my support crew.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shark Attack!

I got attacked by a small shark when leaving the beach the other day - no injuries though.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Daddy 1 million, Sharks 0

Yesterday was the Boston Light Swim - an 8 mile swim that started out at the Boston Light House and ended at the L Street Bath House in Southie. The water temperature was similar to what it should be in the Channel - between 57 and 62 degrees. And the seas - yesterday it was almost like a lake out there (perhaps I can get lucky and it will be calm when I cross the Channel).

I felt really good about the swim. Not only did I finish feeling strong, but I also shaved close to 45 minutes off of the time I got last year. This year I finished in 2 hours and 58 minutes; about a 22 minute mile.

Crossing the finishing line:

Here is my cheering squad:
Andrew and me enjoying a post-race beer:

Talking about the time with Andrew and Emmett (the captain of my escort boat):

I feel great today - not stiff, not sore - I feel ready to swim.

Friday, July 30, 2010

10 HOT miles

This past weekend was the Kingdom Swim in Newport, Vermont. I participated in the 10 miles swim and let me tell you - it was HOT! Despite the fact that Lake Memphremagog is north - actually straddling the US-Canadian border, the water was in the mid-70s. I am used to water being in the 50s and low 60s, so mid-70s was scorchin' hot, and I felt it. That being said I was pleased with how I did - I completed the swim in 4 hours and 33 minutes, coming in 13th overall and 7th for men (there were about 84 participants in total).

Here are some pictures from the event-

The start/finish
Getting a pep talk before the swim began-
The start (which was much more civilized than I had expected)-

About half way done (if you look closely you can see the yellow kayak which Andrew was paddling - I'm in the water close by) -

Rounding the final buoy-
My fans-

Finishing -


I've been back training this week - yesterday I did 7,000 yards in the pool.

Next up - the Boston Light Swim - 8 miles in Boston Harbor.