BTS: Stage 1 – Jordan River to Muir Creek

Sometimes we need to shift gears to get to where we want to go.

Attempt 1: June 25

After a very long journey to Sooke, the half-way point between Jordan River and Colwood, Gord, Ray and I settled in for the night. We woke up early the next day; swim conditions were ideal. Sadly, our boat’s throttle cable had been impacted by the heat and severed. The swim was put on hold and we very slowly made our way home over the next eight hours using the natural currents and some fancy well coordinated but challenging mechanical tricks.

Attempt 2: July 2

After a week’s worth of repairs, on Friday July 2, Gord, Phillipa, Ray and I attempted to position our safety boat in Sooke once agian for Stage 1 of the Big Tough Swim (Jordan River to Muir Creek). A thick blanket of fog set in while we were en route. Visibility was limited to 100 meters. For safety reasons we headed back to Victoria.

Shout out and huge thank you to our incredible pilot Gord for brining us home safely.

The forecast was the same the following day leaving us on the shore once again.

Attempt 3: July 4

Keen to jump in and swim we are shifted the route this week to Haro Strait. This gave Spirit Orca J-Pod (Aly, Ben and Drew) an opportunity to swim a good distance from the centre of a large body of water.

The swim started Sunday about noon in the middle of Haro Strait and ended somewhere between 3 and 4pm at the Beach House. Here’s the track:

What happened on Stage 1: Haro Strait

Wow! What a great day on the water and an incredible opportunity for Spirit Orca J-Pod to learn more about open water swimming and prepare for their channel swims.

First, a huge thank you to our incredible crew:

  • Gordon Higgins, our fabulous pilot and route planner
  • Phillipa Brown, our magnificent multi-tasker and the person who took great care of the athletes while they rewarmed on the boat
  • Claire Skillen, paddler extraordinaire
  • Miriam Griesser, paddler #2 and our loving lifeguard

An extended thanks to Gord and Phillipa for the use of Synapse as our safety boat. 

We started our day about 10:00 AM at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where we met and prepared Synapse. The swimmers found their place below deck, each with a personal space for their belongings. Ben was quite nervous; Aly as well. They had been in big water before, but never for  an extended period so far off shore. We chatted to help calm nerves.

Our start line was close to 10km off shore. Once there, we put the boats in the water for our kayakers. This was challenging task as the waves were 3-4 feet and current was moving  fast.  A paddle float flew into the water during the process which prompted Ben to dive in and rescue our equipment. He sang a little while waiting for the boats to be in place.

From the time we started putting the boats in the water and the time we were fully ready to go, we had shifted about 3km. It’s amazing how quickly the water can move you.

The start of the swim was fantastic. Aly, Ben, Drew an I were loving the waves. We swam together with Synapse on one side of us, Miriam paddling on the other, and Claire sweeping from behind. It was turning out to be a great experience, teaching J-pod how to manage big waves far from the shore.

About 30 minutes in we paused for a snack. I noticed Drew was shivering. It must have been from the wind. I asked him to go to Gord’s boat to warm. Aly, Ben and I swam on.

At our next break I could see the cold was beginning to have an impact on Ben. I asked he take a break and board Synapse. Aly and I swam on.

At some point Aly and I encountered a jelly fish (or two) who gave us some nice kisses. It’s an interesting feeling. The stinging sensation never left us throughout the swim.

We continued to swim inching our way to shore. About 1.5km from the beach Ben rejoined us. Drew remained on Synapse as his lips were a bit purple. We later found out it was from a beet salad.

Anxious to return to the water Drew positioned himself on the little platform at the back of the boat as Synapse made her way closer to us. Phillipa kept a watchful eye on Drew. It didn’t take long for him to shiver again as he stood out in the wind. Sadly he was not able to re-enter the water. He did however learn two very valuable lessons; 1) don’t eat purple food when swimming in cold water and 2) keep your parka on until 1 to 2 minutes before you enter the water.

Around the same time Drew found out he would not re-enter the water Aly began experience anxiety and struggle. We do not know what caused it; we suspect it may be a combination of the jellyfish encounter, some of the thoughts that creep into your mind when these things happen and a good amount of time in pretty wavy water. We do know it was real and intense, so much so that the only thing Aly could do was find the quickest line to shore and land. This ultimately lead us off our swim course, but it lead us exactly where we needed to go to learn what needed to be learned.

Aly made it to the shore. We hugged for a while, talked, and then slowly made our way back into the water on course for the Beach House. We walked at first, then swam head-up breaststroke, walked some more, exited again and repeated the patter a few times. At a certain point I had Aly walk the shore on her own while I swam. My hope was she would want to come back to the water – and she did!

We landed at the Beach House soon after. Ben had arrive just prior to us.