Day of The Swim - Part 1 - Alan

Over the next 3 weeks we are going to post our individual recollections of the actual swim. Today we are starting with Alan's perspective, next week Mike's, and then cap it off with Madhu's thoughts on the swim. Without further ado - Alan!

January 28, 2015
I woke up around 4am – don’t want to be late for the 5am departure!  I slept OK, but a little on edge.

It seemed like the wind was calmer yesterday morning, but we left later.  I sure hope it’s not another windy day.  Does the swim have to be today?  Maybe later in the week would be better.  Is the moon waxing or on the wane?  I think the former, so the sooner the better, ‘cause the tides won’t be as strong.  What the hell do I know?

4:55 am.  The van’s here.  Vamonos!   The Argentinas Cargones are already on the bus – let’s go!

Wow – it’s pretty good daylight for 5am!  Uneventful ride out, seems faster than yesterday.  Saw some guanacos and rheas in the fields.  Wonder if they barbeque them?  There seems to be a vibe on the bus that today is the day!

Photo Credit: Mike Morton

Arrive in Punta Delgata around 6:45.  Pull into our spot next to the Armada’s building, the same spot as yesterday.  No one is moving.  Finally, Claudia gets out of the van to speak with Perkis, the guy in charge of this Armada Post.  She’s gone for what seems like quite a while.  Now she’s back.  Our interpreter (Claudia II) says to be suited up by 7:30, jump time 7:50.  OK, it’s a go.  It doesn’t seem as windy today as yesterday, but it’s still blowing.  Still, nobody is moving.  Finally, some movement as folks start to get ready.  Madhu doesn’t have much to do; with no wetsuit, hand paddles, torpedos or helmet,  he’s much more minimalist than the Argentinians.  I wonder what’s going through his head.

It’s getting close to jump time!  Madhu wants me to lube him up with Vaseline and give me what looks like a wrapper from Kraft Singles to keep it off my hands.  To heck with that, the Argentinians have some latex gloves – let’s score one of them!

Photo Credit: Santiago Rodriguez

Lube on, Cap on, Goggles on!  Let’s take some more pictures.  I think we should get going, it’s time.  Down to the water.  More pictures.  I thought there were supposed to be two Armada boats and two Zodiacs (pronounced Sodiac in Chilean).  WTF?  Mike and the paramedic get on the the first Armada boat, the Toucan.  Hey, isn’t Toucan the guy from the Fruit Loops commercial?  Focus!

Here comes the other escort boat, but no sign of another Zodiac.  It’s 8:07 for Christ’s sake!  Mike & the paramedic, lifejackets on, take a ladder from the back of the Toucan to his Zodiac. The first Zodiac starts buzzing about, stalls a couple of times, then restarts.  The Toucan pushes off.  The second Zodiac appears out of no-where.  I guess it was on the back of the second boat.  It seems smaller than the first one.  The second Zodiac comes to shore and Claudia and Christina’s husband get on.  It seems overloaded as it gets swamped by waves.  Hmmm.  The Armada guys bail some water & push off just the same.  Can we get this thing going?

OK, time for some more pictures and then maybe they can go?  I Must remember to start my Garmin immediately after they set foot in the water.  Take some final pictures and they’re off – It’s 8:21.  Forget to start the Garmin.  Walk to the ferry with Claudia II.  Some Armada guy is coming with us so we can score free passage. Crap, forgot to start the Garmin – It’s 8:26.  Oh well, start it now.

Photo Credit: Santiago Rodriguez

The passenger deck on the ferry was on the starboard side and swimmers were on the port.  Head to the upper deck and see the swimmers, the Zodiacs and the escorts.  Hey, they seem to be making some pretty good time.  Some dolphins come alongside the ferry and start playing, jumping out of the water and ducking under the bow.  I guess every species has dumb teenagers.  The dolphins are kind of neat here – black and white like mini-orcas.  Playful like any other dolphin I’ve seen.

We get to the other side and get off the ferry.  The Armada guy gets off too.  He has a radio with him and tells us than one of the swimmers has hopped into a Zodiac.  Already?  Apparently just to adjust her helmet or something and she’s back in the water.  Everyone is doing well.  We head up to see if there’s a coffee shop or something.  Not much to see, a tourist office and a washroom, but otherwise more desolate than the Punta Delgata side.  Back to the shore to watch the swimmers.

At about 55 minutes, it looked like the swimmers were about half-way across the channel – great progress!  I post on Facebook to let the folks back home know.  For the next while they didn’t seem to be getting any closer at all, wondering what’s going on.  They seemed so strong for the first half, maybe they’re just a bit off course.  The Armada guy confirms this, saying they’re getting pushed down the channel and will make landfall further down.  I really want to get some video of them making landfall, but there’s no path down there and the beach is full of large stones. 

Photo Credit: Alan Swankie

After a while, about 1:40 into the swim, I decide to walk/run down the beach to try and meet the swimmers as they hit the shore.  As I head along the beach, the swimmers seem to be getting farther and farther away.  Even when I pick up the pace and try to run on the stones, they aren’t getting closer.  After about 2 ½ kms I decide that I’m not going to reach them, so turn around to head back to the ferry landing.  As I’m walking, I notice one of the Armada ships heading SW back along the channel.  It seems to be going a good clip, so I run most of the way back.  I arrive just as the ship is starting to lower its bow ladder.  The ambulance is backing down the ferry ramp.  Hmm.  Hope it’s just a precaution.

I go see Claudia II, she says the Armada guy told her that everyone was on the boat, with one being treated for hypothermia. I think maybe it’s the guy without the wetsuit.  I head down to the ship and Mike is on the bow.  He tells me to come aboard and bring Claudia II.  Madhu is OK, below and having a shower to warm up.  I do some Facebook posts to let Suman and the others know all is well.  

I get on the ship and go below.  There’s some guy cooking, as shower and some beds, but no Madhu.  I go up on deck and am directed to bridge.  There’s an entrance to the fore cabin from the bridge.  They direct me down and there’s Madhu, smiling and looking like nothing happened, cup of coffee in hand.  They fill me in on the adventure.

Shortly we’re underway for Punta Delgata.  We arrive at shore, all disembark – hey – it’s time for some more pictures!  Everyone gets ready to go, Mike, Madhu and I go to get a coffee and give some pins to the young daughter of the proprietor of the shop.  More photo ops and Madhu scores a free sandwich.  Claudia II comes to fetch us, as it’s time to go.  Load the van and head back to Punta Arenas.

Alan Swankie