I have recent drawings that I can’t show you yet, so here is a commission I did a few months back – this is Rachel Ray’s Dart 10K swim. The Finish! A nice change for once to be able to say I’ve done that swim, I don’t have to imagine what it’s like, I was there (though in fact not the same year, and I think we may not have had quite such a muddy finish…).
“Many years ago, a very wise young man, Owen O’Keefe, a.k.a. Fermoy Fish, said to me, always remember if you’re the first to do a swim, nobody can ever take that from you, no matter how long it takes you to do it” Maeve Mulcahy
Some time last Autumn I was honoured that Maeve asked me to draw a picture commemorating her achievement, the first woman to swim Fastnet to Baltimore, a 10h 45m marathon completed on 1st September 2017. Her friends: fellow swimmers and crew, Anne and Eoin were important characters in the drawing, and although the water looks calm, and I gather it was for much of the time, the account which you can read here is of a long hard swim.
So this is Maeve, her crew, the Fastnet Rock and lighthouse in the background, and their Myrtle Turtle flag flying from Radiance.
There’s also a short video of the swim here.
Some enter the water while raising arms in an attempt to remain as dry as possible. This works, for a very very, very short time. An alternative technique is to splash your face – or all of you – with water, which is rater the opposite: get wet before you have to get wet. It’s not for me, but I’ve seen people do this happily! Then there are those who like to inch into the water bit by bit, drawing out the appalling process for several minutes. It often helps to swear a lot. I used to be an arm-raiser, but I’ve slowly come to the conclusion that if it is very cold the best thing is to get the whole dreadful experience over as fast as possible, wade in and then plunge and swim as fast as possible until it stops being awful. For the sake of caution I should add this last method is not a beginners choice: do make sure you can breathe before you can swim!
It helps to know when the school holidays are, if only because the traffic is different and sometimes everyone heads to the coast all at once. However, this was a peril I had previously overlooked. On Monday morning The Great Crab Release occurred. At a still relatively toasty 11.5 degrees in the lake, changing back into warm clothes would otherwise have been safe and simple. It was nippier than expected!
By chance, I wasn’t the hapless swimmer exiting the water: I was the one running around with a camera saying ‘Oh Look! Crabs!’ and taking photos of them. It was an impressive haul, the crabs were conscientiously counted out of the bucket and there were over 30 of them, caught in little more than half an hour. They are back in the marine lake now, but some of you may not wish to know that.
On Saturday I swam in Scales Tarn, overlooked by Blencathra, while a crocodile of people plodded on up the tricky way. The tarn was a beautiful azure blue, though in truth you had to be underwater to admire its colour, since the surface reflected the leaden sky. It was cold and wet, but outside of the tarn it was also wet, and quite slippery, and as the people filed past me on their way up Sharp Edge we eyed each other, both safe in the knowledge that the other party was the more foolish.
On Sunday I swam at Clevedon. If you’re not an open water swimmer you may be unaware that the subject of Tow-Floats amongst swimmers is a bit like Marmite amongst toast-eaters. But when there’s a stiff wind blowing up the channel against the tide, this is what it’s like to swim here. In the mess of confused waves you can barely see another swimmer yards away, but for a brightly-coloured bobbing float. And this is one reason why most of us at Clevedon like our floats: it’s always reassuring to know that you’re not alone out there, that there are some other nutters with you who think this is a good idea.
I’m told by Channel swimmers that these conditions are good practice for the English Channel. It is not something I ever intend to put to the test, but my three fellow swimmers are waiting for their tide window, having twice got as far as Dover, once even got out on the pilot boat, but the weather’s being uncooperative. So please cross your fingers for the BCH Relay team. You can follow them here: https://twitter.com/BchChannel?s=04. They are a team of ‘mad doctors’ and if you follow the link you can also donate to their cause to fund a specialist bereavement cubicle at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children
Jackie and I went swimming in Ullswater last week. The rain in the morning was so heavy I discovered that, while a Dryrobe is excellent for keeping most of a person dry, under the right conditions it also has an ability to collect all that rain and funnel it straight into one’s boots…
It’s much more fun being soaking wet in a lake.