Marcy MacDonald’s English Channel 1-Way Swim

Dear friends and family,

I’m sorry it took me this long to get back to you about the swim, I’ve collected my thoughts and here’s a synopsis of the last 2 weeks. I hope I don’t bore any of you. I would like to send a special thank you to Janet Galya, Bertha Eurto, Janice Rink, and Cheryl Sherwood for escorting me and putting up with another crazy channel crossing. You really are very special peaople and friends and my thank you’s can not say it enough of how important you are to me.

Mixed news about the swim across the channel this year. It’s always new and exciting being over in England and preparing for the big day, even when it’s not your 1st attempt. The water in the harbor was 63 degrees for my practice swims, friday was 3 hours and saturday, 2 hours. Saturday I met with my captain, Mike Oram, he was excited about the weather coming up, a high was entering bringing in sunny skies and light winds. Monday was probably going to be the day, but at what time to start?

Sunday the decision was made to start the follwing morning, meet at the Western docks at 5 a.m., great… I can get a pretty good nights rest. I took sunday off from the water, went to 11 a.m. Mass at St. Paul’s and then made our final preparations. The light sticks were packed for the night swim, 6 liters of my gatorade and Endurex mix were made and I spoke with my crew chief, Janet, about alternating feedings of that and adding the Maxim every hour.

I finally feel asleep Sunday night to the modern Romeo & Juliet movie playing on BBC 2. We woke at 3:30 a.m. for last preps and packing the big red box for the day in the water. The cab picked Janet, Bertha, Jan, Corky and me to head for the docks. We beat Mike and Frank there, waiting about 20 minutes, I stretched along the railing while everyone else relaxed, atleast that what it looked like, I know they were nervous too. Susie Dodds from San Francisco was swimming today with Mike’s son, Lance.

The sun was rising to a beautiful day, calm waters and no clouds. Susie and I left our respective boats, I was greased with channel grease around my neck and shoulder area, Susie I don’t know where she greases up, she swims topless. I swam to Shakespeare beach to start, Corky sent me off with a quick good bye and we were off. Corky said I took off like a bullet but my swimming has never been referred to in those terms but I guess in the channel anything goes.

The day was progressing very well, my 1st three feedings were 45 minutes apart, then we decreased them to 30 minute intervals. My stomach was fine and we were catching the swimmers already in the water with other captains. Long and strong strokes I kept reminding myself and with every half hour we got closer to France. My crew watched and entertained me as much as possible, writing me notes and pictures every so often. I started to notice clouds forming over the England horizon but tried not to focus on that, clouds mean the big heat lamp in the sky turns down the temperature and when you’re in 61 degree water your body temperature drops quickly. Well, first I had to get to France.

My crew had to deal with another factor on the boat, one of our observers from the channel association was sea sick from the get go. Feeding the fish, not on my swimming side and passing out. Mike had to make arrangements with the French coast authorities for Bill to be able to return to England on the Calais ferry, not the norm. Nigel, an associate captain, escorted Bill back to England. Mike brought them over to the stoney beach where I landed and brought my half way snack. I chomped down half a protein-plus bar, peanut butter flavour, while Mike took some photos from my water camera I had packed with my food. During the 8 minute rest I had, Mike informed me my crossing was pretty quick, 9 hours 42 minutes.

I started back to England in much different circumstances. The seas had started to get angry, with 3 to 5 foot swells and a hard chop I was challenged by the channel again. I wasn’t having trouble with the seas but I began getting concerned about the growing cloud cover in the northwest skies. It was 3 p.m., normally we would have another 6 hours of sunshine before night fall. I tried not to focus on the cooling waters and worked through to the next feeding. My crew knew I wasn’t having a good time now, my smile had left and they were having a hard time watching it, I asked them to decrease the feeding time to 20 minutes, they knew I was getting cold now. I had crossed through the shipping lanes but still knew I had a cold night ahead of me. I could feel the cold in my torso, starting to get chills up my spine and I tried to focus on other things, but the cold and the thought of Dave getting pulled out of the water the previous day wouldn’t leave my mind. Dave was still in the hospital recovering from hypothermia.

Frank tried to cheer me up by telling me they could see the the white cliffs but I knew we were out for some time. I stopped between feedings and asked for the truth, “how many more hours?” They told me I had another 5 hours out here. After 15 hours, 45 minutes I knew I was in trouble. My body had not failed me but darkness had arrived earlier than we had expected. I know my capabilites, and if I stayed in any longer eventually they would have had to pull me out. The channel had won this round.

I’m very happy with this experience, my first leg was my personal best and at this time the quickest crossing this year. That is the beauty and mystery of the channel, it’s an ever changing and demanding body of water. The purest of all open water swims in the world.

“I have never understood why “hard work” is supposed to be pitable…. You get tired, of course, often in despair, but the struggle, the challenge, the feeling of being extended as you never thought you could be, is fulfilling and deeply, deeply satisfying.”Rumer Gooden (1907-1998), English writer

To all of you a big THANK YOU for your support and concern. Love, MARCY.