I still have sea legs (the world swaying back and forth) as I write this.
This swim became difficult about 1/2 hour after we left Aggermore Point, Nova Scotia at 7:22 pm. We left the relatively warmer shallow water at 19 deg C and hit water that was about 17- 18 degrees. This would not normally be a big problem but there was a north wind blowing that was plummeting the air temperature. 2 hours later, the wind switched to south, as predicted and the swells began. The tide also switched to running out of the shallow Baie Verte. These 2 forces pushed warmer water onto my route to New Brunswick, up to about 18 degrees. The rest of the swim across Baie Verte was relatively pleasant except for the mobs of jellyfish. It seems, whenever the water warmed up, they congregated. I got 22 stings on my face and 3 or 4 dozen on each extremity. Fortunately they stopped hurting after 10-15 minutes.
As we approached "Indian Point", New Brunswick (according to the nautical chart but without a name on Google), the waves suddenly whipped up to over a metre coming in chaotic directions ( I think this is when the tracker got soaked and malfunctioned). It took me 1 1/2 hours to get through this washing machine. Unfortunately, this battle hurt both my shoulders (reactivating old injuries) and got my back muscles aching. To swim into shore in New Brunswick, we had to leave the Classy Glass in the deep water. Darcy and I entered the relatively calm, warm, jelly fish infested water in the shallows behind the Point. This quarter mile with just Darcy paddling beside me was magical. Quiet and peaceful with no boat motor or bright lights and 2 kinds of bio-luminescence in the water: green sparkly spots; and a white "shadow" light in the path of where my arm had been.
When we re-joined the powerboat, the captain cleverly lined me up for a straight shot across the main Northumberland straight to PEI, going with the waves and tide. As we zipped past Cape Tormentine, the water plummeted to 16-17 degrees, it was about 3 am and the air was 14 degrees. Despite the pain, I had to sprint to stay warm. On a positive note, the cold water partially anesthetized the joint and muscle pain. My feedings were coming up quite a bit so we had to change from Carbo Pro to Boost and feed me more often to give me the calories to sprint and heat the engine.
The run across the straight was a piece of exceptional navigation, juggling the winds (over 10 knots - predicted to be 8 knots), waves (which were building to over a metre), and tides (which were sweeping me up the straight). Tony understands these waters and how these forces move a boat across the straight. Very few captains really grasp this concept, steer the boat in anticipation of these forces and are flexible enough to play it by ear.
Despite the fact the waves were pushing me, they still bobbed me up and down, forcing me to use those very sore rib cage muscles.
As the wave height grew, I realized that, with my very sore body, there was no way I would be able to fight the increasing wind force generated by several black clouds closing in on us. I was also thinking that I had already done an excellent preparatory swim for the Cook Strait and I did not want to destroy my shoulders. Surprisingly, my crew did not argue with me to attempt the double crossing. I think they were hypothermic themselves, wearing wool hats, mittens and all the warm and waterproof clothes they had brought. Later, I heard that the return trip to New Brunswick was projected to take 12 hours, for a total of 28 hours, because the wind was increasing in speed.
Then the captain said we had 4 nautical miles left and I was going 1.1 to 1.2 nautical miles an hour and I would be in before the tide changed. I knew I was in the coldest part of the channel (at 16 degrees C) and I was doing OK coping with the cold. That's when I knew I would make it.
The ending was a bit dicey. We had to cut across a bay with 12 inches of water to get from a man made piece of land to a natural piece of land, in accordance with the rules. I had a choice of scraping my feet or my hands. I have band-aids on both feet and my derriere.
I finished at 12:03 pm. Total time 16 h 41 minutes.
After being put in a sleeping bag in Tony's hot cabin and then a hot bath, I am warm but sore.
Of all my swims, this one was surpassed in difficulty only by the English Channel (where I had the worst conditions of the year).
The Northumberland Strait is a great training ground for Canadian English channel swimmers and I would encourage more of them to stay at "home". The publicity, interest and friendliness in all 3 provinces here was outstanding.
A big thank you to my crew: my husband who "cooked" and paddled; Thie Convery who cooked, swam and coached; Paula Jongerden who was the assistant observer and swam with me; Darcy Campbell who did an outstanding job as the main paddler Jen Alexander, the first person to do a double crossing of the Northumberland strait, who I am sure will write outstanding observer reports for the World Open Water Swimming Association and Marathon Swimmers Federation; and the best captain I have ever had, Tony Trenholm.
And don't forget, it is not too late to donate to support a wonderful charity.
Welcome to my Three Provinces Swim website. For those of you who don't know me, I swam Lake Ontario the easy way in 1983 and the hard way in 1984. I “came out of retirement" to swim the English Channel in 2011. In 2013, I was the oldest Canadian to swim the Strait of Catalina in California. Last year, I completed the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and became the first Canadian to complete the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming. The 3 swims are the English Channel, the Catalina Strait and the Manhattan race. (See links below for more detail.)
This year I am hoping to become the first person to do the Three Provinces double crossing of the Northumberland Strait. I plan to swim from Nova Scotia north 33 kilometers to Prince Edward Island (PEI) and then south 13 kilometers to New Brunswick. Why a swim in the Canadian Maritimes? I was looking for a cold water ocean swim and I decided it was time to be the first to swim a Canadian route. This swim is a warm up to another goal, to swim the Cook Strait between the north and south islands in New Zealand next February, one of the toughest swims in the world.
The Northumberland Strait is the site of the Confederation Bridge, 13 kilometers long, linking New Brunswick to PEI. The biggest challenge to swimming is the tide, which floods through the strait in a southeasterly direction more strongly than it ebbs northwesterly. The tides vary from 2h 47 min to 8h 36 minutes. I am expecting a maximum tide speed of 1.2 knots. The tide is at its lowest for the month during July 23-28. It will be quite the challenge to pick a start time for this 24 hour swim. The other challenge is the jelly fish, both lion’s mane and moon jellies. I am reassured that the jelly fish are not bad in July. They also tell me there are no sharks in the strait. The water temperature should be between 62 and 68 degrees F (16-20 degrees C).
There have been three double crossings of the Northumberland Strait between New Brunswick and PEI: Jen Alexander July 2007, Kristen Roe July 2008, and Jeremy Davidson August 2014. Jeremy was only accompanied by one kayaker. In light of the fact that there is no governing body for the Northumberland Strait, the level of substantiation and safety of the two dozen single crossings varies greatly. I am planning on following all the rules of the Marathon Swimming Federation and the World Open Water Swimming Association. I am ecstatic to report that Jen Alexander will be my official observer.
I am pleased to be able to use this opportunity to raise money for the Good Shepherd Centres in Hamilton. They run a network of shelters and services for troubled youth, abused women and children, the dying, the mentally and physically challenged, the hungry and the homeless. They strive to support people through crisis and help them re-establish healthy and productive lives. I am personally very grateful to a great many staff at the Good Shepherd who have helped so many of my patients. Please support my swim by donating to the Good Shepherd Centres. Thank you.