Contributed by Jennifer Downing, NEM-CRM
SAA Boston Harbor Swim
My favorite day of the year happens each July—the Swim Across America (SAA) Boston Harbor Swim. This year’s event was particularly special in that we honored long-time Event Director extraordinaire and my dear friend, Kitty Tetrault, after 30 years of incredible service. When Kitty asks you to help the only answer is “of course!,” so I promised I’d be back from my family vacation in time. Each swimmer is asked to raise at least $2,000 to help fund quality-of-life clinical research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and pediatric oncology research at Mass General Hospital for Children Cancer Center. Collectively we raised over $260,000 this year for these terrific institutions.
The Harbor Swim takes the form of a “relay” with two boats dropping their 8-12 swimmers in alternating, 15-minute heats over the course of the day. While most swimmers complete 4-5 heats on average, a select number of participants are designated as “angel swimmers,” meaning that they volunteer to do extra heats and keep any swimmers company who may be less comfortable in the ocean. I was lucky enough to complete 15 heats as an angel swimmer this year, totaling just over three hours in the water. Mother Nature gave us a bit of everything: the morning started with fog and misty drizzle, but by the return leg we had blue skies and sunshine. We also had the benefit of a strong tide on the way out, so we arrived at the Boston Light very quickly and were able to enjoy a more leisurely trip past Georges, Lovells, Gallops, Long, and Spectacle Island as the weather improved. Major kudos and thanks to Kitty for a stellar career, and please consider coming out to one of the Boston-area SAA events in the future!
Two days after SAA Boston Harbor, I headed north to the 5th Annual Misery Challenge, a multi-sport event offering a 3-mile or 1.5-mile swim (new this year), SUP, row, or kayak. Each year Race Director Josh Crosby makes this event bigger and better, bringing in local sponsors and raising awareness for Humans for Oceans. The event is named for Misery Island in Manchester, MA and the swim consists of a lollipop-shaped course heading out through the Manchester Channel to the island and back. The tide was high and the water temperature was great, but the sun glare on the return leg made sighting a real challenge. Plus, the buoys seemed nicely closer together at the start but were spread further apart as you got into the course; I guess that’s half the fun of being a “Challenge Finisher!” This was my 4th time doing the 3-mile and I was pleased to finish 8th non-wetsuit overall, as the 4th female and 1st in my age group.
Nubble Light Challenge
Continuing up the coast a bit further, I found myself three weeks later in York, ME for the Nubble Light Challenge, a 2.4-mile swim to benefit the Maine Chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Although the ocean was unseasonably warm by early August, a mid-week storm and strong off-shore breezes sucked all the warm water out to sea just days before the event. That meant on race day that we were faced with 56 degrees in the “Gut” (the narrow passage between the peninsula and the Nubble Light island), and sub-60 for the entire swim. In addition to the cold temps, we faced a cross-wind that caused “washing machine” action for much of the second half. I love days when the ocean has “personality,” but this race was not for the faint of heart. Race directors Bob Reed, Bob Fernald, and Jennifer Zorn and their safety crew did a great job monitoring the course and had stressed early on that wetsuits were encouraged. One hundred thirty swimmers finished the race, and of the 18 “skins,” most were fellow members of the Nahant Knuckleheads or L Street gang, so we were a small but mighty bunch. This was only my second time doing the swim, but I will definitely be back for more! Eric Nilsson (overall winner, and “skin” swimmer, no less!) shared drone footage taken by his dad. It truly is a beautiful spot, even if the aerials don’t do the waves justice.