The few times I’ve slept since it’s all I’ve dreamt about. I knew he could do it but when it was happening I had my doubts. 7 of the 14 hours were in the dark. The waves were up to 5 feet. The water temperature was 64 and the air was that most of the time. The wind was over 20 knots. On the beaufort scale it was 5 to 6.
Being part of the crew on the support boat for someone swimming the English Channel was the most strenuous, complicated and exciting adventure I have ever experienced. Then, considering the person in the water was someone I love, the whole thing was magnified by a million. The enormity was overwhelming.
And then how interesting that we left the world to swim the dark and cold English Channel only to return to the world and learn the news from the Les Turner ALS Foundation, the group that our project raised almost $150,000 for, is responsible for discovering information about the cause of ALS. Yes, the enormity was overwhelming.
It all happened so fast upon our arrival. We assumed we would have time to become adjusted and prepared and I remember when the word came and we were scrambling to pack up in something of a daze and Doug told the kids, “We have practiced and prepared for this and we could do this in our sleep if need be.” That was the boost of confidence that we needed and off we went.
The actual swim was HORRIBLY difficult. The waves were huge and the majority of the crew got sick. Some for the entire trip. Those of us who were not down for the count were tossed around. I took three pretty good falls and hit my head so hard one time that I threw up. The sun did come out for a awhile before it went down again and that made for beautiful photographs. Once it was down the high seas eventually ended. It was pitch dark and no more photographs. I was able to put a few dimly lit videos on facebook and, although they didn’t bring comfort to anyone, when I took them things were quite calm and quite beautiful.
Through it all he swam a steady pace. His strokes were 60 to 62 per minute and by the end they were about 54. We gave him his nutrition every 30 minutes and the only time that we had good news was when we were close to the end, and that was the good news. He had been used to practicing 5 mile swims so that felt comfortable, to our crew at least. And when we were 1 mile away we knew that it was comparable to swimming to Buck Island and back. And when he was l/2 mile away the captain told us that it was basically over, he could float into shore.
We had seen lights on the Frace side but where the computer took the boat was a beach that was sandy and dark. We had only seen footage of landing on rocks so landing on a sandy beach was confusing to us. The rules say that he needed to touch dry land and in so doing he fell over and over again. We could only see by a spot light that the captain was shining. The l/2 moon and the abundant stars proved worthless. I didn’t dare try to photograph it. Ashley had the video camera running the whole time but we have not shown him yet. He hasn’t asked to see it.
When he returned to the boat he could barely speak. We wrapped him up and told him that we loved him, just as we had done every time we gave him his nutrition every 30 minutes for the last 14 hours. He was cold and could hardly move. I took good care of him. It didn’t seem appropriate to use my camera. The boat headed back on the 2-l/2 hour trip to Dover and we watched the sun that seemed to have just set rise again. He tried but he didn’t sleep. And he hasn’t slept much since. I think he doesn’t want to miss a moment of this.
His friend, Don Macdonald, is here to make the swim too and his time is not up yet. Doug has offered to be part of the crew on his support boat. I will go, if they need me, but I honestly look forward to never having to have this experience again.
Here are some photographs. I’ll post some video soon.