Monday, August 10, 2009

Open water swimming

I read the article on kayakers supporting open water swims in February's Sea Kayaker magazine with a certain amount of disinterest. I hadn't heard much about open water swims in our area and didn't feel that things like the rip tide off Alcatraz, giant tankers, and sharks would concern me too much in the Lake Superior basin. Thing changed when the WoodFondlingBarrister asked me to be his personal kayak support person in the 4th Annual Point to LaPointe open water swim, a 2 mile race to Madeline Island from Bayfield, WI, on frigid Lake Superior. As a man who enjoys abusing his aging carcass with things like ski marathons and bike races that are way too long, his scheme did not surprise me in the least. Also, due to a series of screw ups, I had nothing going for the weekend. When I mentioned the event to RonO and the ManFromSnowyLegs they thought it sounded like fun as well and northward we went.
I don't voluntarily get up at 5am unless I'm attempting to put venison on the table but there I was, frying sausage for the crew. Both the swimmers and kayakers received their briefings at 6:30 and the 200 swimmers (including the character left) set off for Madeline Island. The forecast 20mph NE winds with waves 3'-5' was dead wrong once again, much to our complete surprise (!) and we had a light north breeze with some chop. The community swim began 10 minutes later and the WFB was chomping at the bit to let the personal physical abuse begin. All the swimmers wore skull caps of a color not found in nature with numbers to keep track of them. You can watch the start of the race here. It became apparent early that the WFB listed to the left when he swam and my main job became keeping him aimed toward the island and shielding him from the chop with the Q boat. That and feeding him what I can only assume were illegal steroids of some sort in small foil packets. I can't help believe that 'gel packets' of that nature are completely illegal and I feel bad about being an enabler. The swim went well and as we neared the finish line I began to get nervous. The WFB has been involved in several legal actions on the island and I feared a crowd on the bank with torches and pitchforks if word of his participation reaqched LaPointe. When I heard them announcing the names of the finishers on the PA as they crossed the line, I braced for the fusillade of bullets that was sure to come. Thankfully word must have not gotten out and the WoodFondlingBarrister finished in under two hours. The winner crossed in a blistering 43 minutes.

It was a surpisingly enjoyable event. Besides RonO and the MFSL, a number of other friends showed, including RangerMark and the GreenThumbChef (our Friday night hosts), Pod and the GurneyGranny (seen modeling the kayakers T-shirt), and a half dozen other paddling notables from around the area. The only glitch in the day was that by the time we got in line for breakfast it was gone. We were told our coupon would be honored at The Pub in LaPointe......which of course was not open. Pod reminded us that we were on the island where the rythmn's of life are a bit different so we paddled back to the old standby, Morty's in Bayfield. We all agreed that we would most definitely do the event again and there were even some ill advised statements by the MFSL that he would be interested in swimming next year. I think I'd probably bring the Ore Freighter, my Aquanaut HV, next time. The speed and nimble traits of the Q boat are kind of negated when there is a large barrister hanging from the back toggle, gulping steroid goo. I had my two piece Greenland stick on my front deck and warned him that if he became panicked, unruly, or flew into a steroid rage, I'd need to club him unconscious with the paddle and drag him to shore like a seal. I'll probably also rig some sort of container for coffee and doughnuts since one or two mph really doesn't requre much intense focus.

This was a multitasking weekend so we saddled up and headed over to Two Harbors for the Kayak Festival and race. We had gotten word that the race had been postponed until Sunday. Apparently the organizers had actually believed the NOAA forecast and called it on Friday night. Needless to say, there turned out to be no racing for us, but thats another post. It was another good weekend in the Apostles as the summer begins to wind down and I think we may have yet another annual event on the calendar.

1 comment:

Peggy O said...

Summer winding down? Harrumph. There used to be a Country Time lemonade commercial saying something about how if you really, really enjoyed the summer to the fullest, you just might be able to make it last longer...