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?


  1. Thanks for the update Davis! Looking forward to seeing you in Maine.

  2. I have been waiting for a blow by blow recount! Can't wait to see you guys and celebrate in person. Congrats again!

  3. Wow. I'm not sure I like being cold and lonely and salty and sea sick... I'm very, very, very impressed that you made it and that you've stopped shivering already. HUGE congrats from all of us and you're officially our hero!

  4. Awsome and inspiring, I can't even imagine the extent of the feat. Congratulations Davis.

  5. One BIG swim for man, one amazing swim for mankind....Incredible...Way to go Davis!!!!!

  6. hmmm you guyz had a lot of fun out there..5 hours of cold, night swimming extreme feeling man would be the unforgettable thing ...dover ferries