Saturday, June 26, 2010

41 Fast miles around Jersey

We started early on Saturday,
June 26, 2010. I was up at 4 am to have my usual toast and coffee before the nerves set in and the bathroom breaks start. It was a glorious morning, Sally and Charlie, Michael (Mick) and Marilyn Le Guilcher & I were the 1st people through the harbor gate to set up on 'Sea Swimmer'. I had to take one last quick B.R. break before we (minus Marilyn) boarded the boat and set off through the harbor gates, After calling into the Harbor Patrol and asking for permission to leave, we set off to the break wall, where I spent a great time the day before exploring Elizabeth Castle and the Hermitage.

I think one of my toughest tasks is, jumping off the boat into chilled water this early in the morning. I definitely prefer wading into the water, gradually feeling the water's coolness against my body. Jumping, is so sudden and I have to control my breathing, not to hyperventilate, especially this early in the swim season. I haven't worked much in these temperatures lately, preferring later July and August Channel waters, they are much easier on the body and mind.

The Breakwall doesn't look too big from afar but getting up close and personal, it is massive. The day before I was up on top of it, looking from the start side and the finish. I saw off in the western distance the final lighthouse that will signal my turn for home and I look forward to that moment.

I am all greased up with A&D ointment, petroleum jelly with some Lanolin and Vitamin A&D. great for babies bums and Channel swimming chaffing.

I couldn't have asked for any better of a day; well, 2 degrees would have made me smile more, but I'm not complaining. I have never had these type of conditions, flat, flat, FLAT, I'll take them and shut my mouth.

We head out east, I am escorted by Ross Angell and his daughter Charlotte in their kayaks, they will guide me safely through and over the many rock formations which lie below us. 'Sea Swimmer' must stay further out because of the rocks.

Charlie Gravett is my pilot, navigator and friend. He has been voluntarily escorting swimmers around this beautiful island of Jersey, UK for over 20 years. The reasonable fee that is collected from swimmers, goes in the JLDSC (Jersey Long Distance Swim Club). It assists with funding the team and the maintenance of the escort boat and equipment. Charlie and Sally started the escort in 1989 and Mick Le Guilcher joined the volunteer team in 2004.

As we continue around the island, I am trying to view some of the sights I have seen on shore. The larger buildings, castles and coast-line hotels, appear to stand still for a longer time and we race by the stationary buoys.
The sunrise at the start is blinding me, it sits directly over the horizon at the level of my eyes as I turn my head to the left. The 1st hour was mildly difficult for me to view Ross on my left, complicated by foggy goggles. The same goggle problem happened to me last year on my E. Channel crossing, just different goggles. I wonder if it is the lack of spit I have at the start of my swims or a defrosting problem with the cooler temperatures, but it is annoying, primarily because I can not enjoy the sights underneath me as I pass over the rocks and bands of seaweed. The photo to the left shows the rocks at Low Tide. The water will move approximately 22 feet from Low Water to High Water. We start our swim 2 hours before maximum High Water, giving the swimmer 2 hours to get through the rocks. Jersey has the 3rd highest water change in the world, behind the Bay of Fundy, of Nova Scotia and the Bristol Docks in England.

After 2 hours, we are past all the hidden dangers at "La Rocque", I take my 2nd feed and say "thank you" to Ross and Charlotte for waking up so early and keeping me safe. We also have a goggle change to my darkest optical goggles, oh, I hope they don't fog up, I really want to do some sight-seeing.

My feeds start off to consist of Maxim, a powdered Dextrose, which will give my fuel. We have flavored it with a powder vitamin I have brought from the States, and 6-8 oz. of water. It's not my favorite mix, but my stomach can handle it, and I know I need the calories to fuel the day out and to keep me warm. Sally makes the mix a comfortable temperature, not too hot.

As the core temperature of a swimmer gets cooler, the mouth may not be able to judge hot temperatures, and the swimmer may request warmer preps. It is important that the crew feeding them, to reassure the swimmer that the feed is warm enough, and not burn the tongue and back of throat. The mouth will have enough to manage with the extreme salt in water.

The remainder of the swim, I will continue next to boat, no more worries for hitting any rocks below.

I get back into my swim groove, there is some vegetation debris as we pass through the Bay of Grouville, only for a small stretch. Sally signals me to swim with my head up, to avoid taking in the wash. 20 strokes later, my head is back down and we continue north toward St. Catherine's Bay and the turn along the Northeast coastline.

We are swimming a good distance from the coast, to access the strong tidal currents. That's fine with me, I'm enjoying my conditions, and don't want to work too hard. Seriously, I working at my normal pace, 74 strokes per minutes, trying to complete strong strokes with every pull and push.

Dolphins are joining me off in the distance, enjoying the sunshine, but no waves for them to play in. I wish they would come closer and introduce themselves to me, that would be really cool. The North shore is the longest stretch of land to contend with, I know my location after swimming in a few of the bays as we pass them, Bouley Bay (on my 2008 visit) and Bonne Nuit Bay on my arrival evening with some of the club members.

I can see the northwest corner of the island in the distance,
Grosnez Point. I remember visiting the cliffs and ruins in 2008, Charlie had given me a land tour of all the points. I know when we reach this cliff we are on our way home.

Sally tells me at 6 hours, Janet has called from the states, the news lifts my spirits. Sal has told Janet about the dolphins and we are ahead of schedule, she also is updating our progress on Facebook, fun stuff.

I know as we swim by the west coast of the island along St. Ouen's Bay, I only have a few more hours to stay in the water. My skin has goose bumps showing, but I am not shivering. I've been through this before, and I keep telling myself I am almost done. In the distance is the Corbiere Lighthouse, one more turn and the home stretch. 

Only a couple more feeds, I know I need the Maxim calories, but they are not settling down as well as I'd like. I look forward to my feed that Sal has mixed up for me, with only tea. I'm used to this, it still doesn't make it any easier. We've discussed the final feed, only warm water please.

Mick has been a fantastic pilot, I feel very safe and confident we are taking a course along the coast.

I remember visiting Noirmont Point, a cliff with Battle Garrisons that the Germans used while their occupation during WWII. The Channel Islands were the only British land that the Germans occupied during the war. History fills this area of the world. Just before the point we pass the final bay, Ouaisne Bay, where pirates moors and remains of Wholly Mammoths have been found.

I can see Noirmont Point, our final point before heading to the Breakwall and my finish. The boat traffic has increased as we close in toward the final bay to cross, St. Aubin's Bay.

I see Sally signaling me to pick up my kick and move as fast as I can. We're going to have a good swim time.

I think this was the toughest part of the swim, crossing St. Aubin's Bay.
I'm trying kick (hate that), work the hips, pull, push... come on I'm tired. I'm thinking of all my loved ones who have supported me through all these years of swimming. My angels are pushing me, with Dad in the front. I don't know until later, that Bill Unangst has passed away yesterday. I'm sure Dad has greeted him at the pearly gates and rushed him over to help with the job. Davey Parcells, Nikki Giampolo, Gerda Ziemer and of course my Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles have all  joined in.
The currents by the Elizabeth Castle Breakwall are the toughest to get through, I feel my hands going one way and my legs going another, put your head down and go for it!


It's over, I turn and there's 'Sea Swimmer' behind, everyone is smiling.

The ladder is coming over the side and I swim to it. Climbing the ladder can be tough for me, my lower back is very tight from the prone position I've been in for hours. Charlie reassures me to take my time, stretch and climb. It's tough to get my leg up over the rail, but soon enough I'm sitting with a towel around me, cap, goggles and nose clip off and stowed away below.

We head back to the harbor, with a welcoming committee to greet us. Thank you to everyone for your help.

9 hours, 59 minutes.... very happy, and a new American record, sorry Dennis.

Thank you Charlie and Mick for my safe travel and Thank You Sal for watching over me and feeding me.

I suggest this swim for anyone looking at crossing the English Channel. A fantastic place to get used to channel temperatures, salt content and reach a new level to challenge yourself. A very nice long swim with a great group of people.

Dream Prepare, Succeed.

1 comment:

  1. As Marcy's pilot on the day for her Round Jersey swim and as a first time reponder to any blog, may I say it was a pleasure to be involved with the swim. This was the first of our 2010 season swims so we are always a little nervous that things are going to work out OK and that we have a successfuly outing. Marcy is one of the easiest swimmers a pilot could wish for. Never a complaint or a grouse about anything. Water temperature was still only just above 15C so she had every reason to be tetchy, but never once did that huge smile leave her face. Mick, Sally and I agreed it was the most boring swim we had ever accompanied, but for all the right reasons! Good luck Marcy on all your future endeavours and in raising that much needed cash for St Vincents. Come back soon and add Jersey to France to your CV.
    Best wishes
    'Charlie' Gravett


2015 ... Swimming for Homes for the Brave

After spending the past 20 years paddling from Dover to France, it is time to venture into new waters, while helping some special people.
Soon, I will be traveling with my A-team to Scotland to swim the length of the famous Loch Ness.
As always, I try to help a Foundation raise funds and awareness and I thank you for interest and support.
I am deeply troubled with the thought of homeless individuals, especially in our US Veteran population.

That is why I am teaming up with our Connecticut-based “Homes for the Brave”. Can you imagine not having a place to call home?

Here is more information about Homes for the Brave! -Facebook pages –

- Annual Appeal with more information about our financials and programs-

-Check donations can be mailed to the following address:
Homes for the Brave
655 Park Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604

- Donations can be made online as well:

Please write “Loch Ness Swim/Marcy” to track your donation.

I will always be dedicating my swimming to all those battling cancer and in the memory of 4 special people in my life. Cancer first hit my family when I was young. My grand-aunt Eleanor Kersavage, passed away with uterine cancer and my Auntie Bea Halchak battled with brain cancer.

On January 1, 2002, our LEHY family lost Nikki Giampolo to bone cancer, just turning 16 years old. Her spirit still lives on in our East Hartford swim team.

In July of 2009, my brother-in-law, Gregory Allen Urban, who passed away, after a valient battle with lung cancer. I can see him now, talking about cars and projects around the house, music and his family.

I know Aunties, Eleanor and Bea, Nikki, Greg and all the angels will help me CUT through all this water this summer.

The St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation, based in Bridgeport, CT provides financial support for the needs that Health insurance companies don't cover, in addition to providing affordable cancer screening, wigs, medication and other things to make life easier for those suffering with cancer and their families.

Please make a donation, and thank you.

Online donations can be made at:

or you can send a check through the post to:

Swim Across the Sound
St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation
2800 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT 06606

Thank you so very much, peace and good health to all.