Monthly Archives: July 2010

What happened that day

Tuesday morning was calm seas as we boarded the Louise Jane in a nervous silence. We set out from Dover Harbour to Samphire Hoe Beach where we would start. The crew consisted of Andy the pilot, Andy the first mate, Steve the official observer from the Channel Swimming Association, Bonnie Curtis, Greg Gjerdalen, John Hamilton, Hugh Johnston, Hannele Gjerdalen, Luke Gjerdalen and Cole Gjerdalen.

First order of business was for my crew to apply grease to avoid chafing in salt water and maybe warm the body a bit.

Andy came within 300 meters from shore where I took the plunge into the 15’C waters and swam to shore. Once I cleared the water line the official observer blew his whistle and started his watch and I started my journey to France.

The first 2 hours were spent thinking about family and friends, including my mum who I would dedicate the swim too and asked to keep me warm. At 2 ½ hours my support swimmer Greg jumped in and swam beside me for an hour. This would prove to be great for moral. At 4 ½ hours I had my first “crisis”. I was in that horrible place where the “demons” start to play with your mind. Their argument was that if the water was to stay at 15’C for the next 8 hours how would I manage. This proved to much for me and I told the crew that I was having a hard time and was thinking about giving up. I  will never forget the adamant response they gave me and that was…  “you can do this…two years of training…think about it”. and then Andy poked his head out and said “are you tired Rod” I said “no” he said “your not even shaking man” and before I could say anything else, he said “put on your googles and lets go”. I remember putting my goggles back on and starting to swim. I was mad and angry and full of self pity because these guys had no idea what I was going thru and who were they to comment from their nice warm boat. I made a pack with myself that I would prove to them how cold I was and that their pleas to continue were of no use.

At 6 hours we had passed though the British shipping lanes and the water warmed a degree. This was to be my savour! I now could comprehend swimming further. I quickly thanked my mum, told her that she was beautiful and that I knew she was there…

Support swimmers can swim for an hour with you then they have to get out for an hour. Greg proved to be a vital part of the swim as I would anticipate his presence and hence boost my spirits.

At 8 hours the feeding plan went out the window. The high carbohydrate mix was starting to come back up and cause stomach cramps. I switched to solid food which threw my main feeder and fiance Bonnie into a frenzy. I asked for muffins, bananas, melon, hot water and coffee. I continued this for the next 4 or 5 feeds. I don’t know why but I was starting to feel stronger and could actually see France.

At 10 hours we were close to Cap Gris-Nez and the water was calm. I was strong and warm at this point, thinking maybe I can do this. I have learned from previous swims never take anything for granted and stay focused.

At 11 hours France was clearly in sight.

At 12 hours Andy put the tender in the water and escorted me to the landing area which was just south of Cap Gris-Nez on the rocks. I will never forget looking over at the greatest crew of friends that have come all this way to be part of this amazing journey. I took them from one extreme to another and for their patience and support I am truly grateful.

At 12 hours and 21 minutes I climbed on the rocks, cleared the water line, raised my arm just as the official blew his whistle. The crew cheered and the Louise Jane blew her horn. I had just swam the English Channel!

We did It!!!

A quick post to let you know that I crossed the Channel today in 12:21:00!

Will post with details as soon as I can…a little tired right now.

Green Light For Tuesday Morning

Looks like we have a go for Tuesday with a start time of 4:30am. I will try to post as soon as I can afterwards.

July 18, 2010 – Sunday

Just got of the phone with Andy – looks like he will take the relay team tomorrow (Monday) and then me on Tuesday. The forecast is for some rain, but otherwise sunny. The only thing that might stop us is the wind. Fingers crossed. The water temp is a little cooler than expected, but I will just have to swim faster!!!

Keep you posted…

July 16, 2010

July 16, 2010

Weather has been very windy the last two days. We met with our pilot Andy King today at 11:00am. He took us aboard the Louise Jayne, which is named after his late sister. Coincidentally, my sisters name is Jayne Louise. Andy seems very qualified as a seaman and has done over one hundred crossings. We talked about the weather and so far it does not look good until Monday and he has a relay team to get across before me. I will keep you posted.

Yesterday we were joined by our good friends Greig, Hannele and their boys Luke and Cole. Greig will be swimming along side me for parts of the swim. This will definitely be a bonus as it can and will get a little monotonous out there.

As far as sight seeing goes we walked the Cliffs of Dover and because it was a clear day we could see France! It was a bit daunting, but all I have to do is point myself in the right direction and keep swimming…

July 14, 2010

I talked to our pilot Andy King. Friday is not so good, but Saturday and Sunday may be ok. I am the #2 swimmer in a Que. of three. I will be in contact with Andy closer to Friday.

For some reason I didn’t get the best sleep, maybe five hours. The guest house accommodation includes breakfast. So far, I have opted for the English breakfast, which consists of two eggs, sausage, ham, baked beans and toast. I definitely could get used to this, and it certainly helped the lack of sleep.

We walked down to Dover Harbour (10 mins) where they have a huge protected recreation area. Historically, the majority of channel swimmers come and train here.

When we arrived I noticed a group of swimmers from Libya on the beach preparing for a training swim. I talked to their coach and sure enough they were planning to swim the channel as a relay team. This would be a first for Libya.

I swam here for about 1:15mins. The water temp was about 16’C . I did notice how much saltier the water is here and made a mental note not to get lazy and ingest to much. After the swim we talked with the group from Libya and took some photos, it was great fun to meet them.

Next Stop Dover

July 13, 2010

Today is Travelling day. We took a cab to the Victoria Train Station from our hotel. On a side note is was kind of sad leaving London because of all the incredible sights to see knowing that we had just scratched the surface. Everything here is very accessible via the public transportation. On a personal note, I must confess that I am not the greatest with confined spaces, like the London Tube. Team “Midlife” thought that they would experiment with me…as Hugh put it “Lets just take the champ underground to see how he does…” well the champ lasted about one minute. It’s funny, I would rather swim the channel than ride the tube!

We caught the train to Dover at 3:30pm which was a very fast and scenic way to go, it lasted about 1:30mins with a total cost of 27 pounds.

Arrived in Dover just in time to check into our bed and breakfast (Maison Dieu Guest House) . Met with the owner Diana French who immediately gave us tea and cookies and took us though the logistics of our stay. We later walked into the City core (5 mins) and had a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant. To finish the evening off we walked down to Dover Harbour where I stuck my toe in the water and ran out screaming like a little school girl! Just kidding…the water is cold, but not that cold.

Lastly, we walked along the promenade where we paid homage to the local hero Captain Matthew Webb who was the first person to swim the channel in 1875.

July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

The swim is getting closer, but we are still in London…

Woke up this morning and made my way to the Porchester Recreation Centre. This a great facility only five minutes from our hotel. It was built in 1926, originally as a bath house and it has a 30metre pool, which is kind of an odd size as far as pools go. I swam 3500m at a reasonable pace.

Today we were joined by two of good friends John Hamilton and Hugh Johnston. I had no idea Hugh was to be travelling with us as they kept this a secret from the very beginning, including a going away dinner party last week. I will never forget walking down to the Lobby, glancing over to see John, and then seeing this person next to him that really looked familiar…welcome Hugh!

London is an amazing place. Today we visited Buckingham Palace, attended an hour long service at Westminster Abbey, walked through Trafalgar Square and lastly had a wonderful Indian dinner at Piccadilly Circus.

London Calling

We left Vancouver for London, England on Friday, July 9 at 8:30pm. We arrived at Heathrow Airport Saturday, July 10 at 1:40pm. Having to sit upright for ten hours on a plane is always an arduous task. The weather is hot (28’C) and sunny.

Quick itinerary, just in case you are interested; Stay in London for three days, leave for Dover on Tuesday, July 13. Stay in Dover for as long as it takes. My tide window is from July 16-24. Best scenario would be to swim early that week and have the rest of the time to travel. We will do our best to keep you updated before, during and after the swim!

After we landed in Heathrow we ended up taking a London Cab to our hotel. We were bound and determined to stay awake at least until post dinner as we wanted to beat the jet lag as best we could. Our hotel is situated very close to Hyde Park and the Serpentine Lake, where they actually have a swim club. Hyde Park is huge with great sights including the Kensington Gardens, King Alberts Memorial and Speakers Corner.

Georgia Strait Swim (Salish Sea)

Release for press;

“VANCOUVER – On July 3rd five swimmers will enter Georgia Strait, or the northern arm of the newly named Salish Sea, near Sechelt and emerge less than 12 hours later at Pipers Beach in Nanaimo. The swimmers are daring to cross this 35 km stretch of water, roughly the same distance as the English Channel crossing, in order to draw attention to increased pressure being put on the Strait of Georgia.

Following in the “finsteps” of marathon swimmers Fin Donnelly and Marilyn Bell, Rod Craig will swim without wetsuit, and four others will swim in relay. “The purpose of the swim is to draw attention to the fragile nature of the Salish Sea,” says Brent Hobbs, Salish Sea swim coordinator.  “This region is home to the magnificent Pacific Salmon and many other marine creatures, and we have to become more aware of the need to protect this amazing body of water.”

“Crossing the Salish Sea is an opportunity to bring attention to one of the finest bodies of water in the world through a physical demonstration of endurance,” said Fin Donnelly, who successfully crossed this body of water four times in the 1990s. “These swimmers are doing this swim because they love and respect the ocean and its denizens”

“We greatly appreciate the attention these swimmers are bringing to the Strait of Georgia, one of Canada’s most at risk natural environments,” says Christianne Wilhelmson of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “We all need to become better stewards of the Strait and we hope this will bring attention to that goal.”

The swimmers have boats accompanying them with first aid, offering protection in the event of hypothermia. It is expected the solo swimmer will make landfall approximately 10-12 hours after entering the water on the Sechelt side. The relay team hopes to maintain speeds of 2 to 3 ½ km an hour, arriving, if the wind, currents and conditions are favourable, in under 10 hours.

Mr. Craig, who qualified last summer to swim the English Channel by swimming 25 kilometres in six hours in Howe Sound, considers this swim his rehearsal for his English Channel challenge later in July.

One of the escorts is John Dafoe, a well known environmental activist, guide and resident of the South Sunshine Coast. He escorted Donnelly on his 1992 record-setting ‘Save Georgia Strait’ swim crossing in support of Georgia Strait Alliance.”

July 3, 2010

Once again here is the “call” from our very own Brent Hobbs;

“I think John’s note sums up our experience perfectly.  It was epoch!  Congratulations to James and Rod for battling through Force 3 conditions at the start and the “demons” that occupy the mind from the 6 hour threshold until the finish.  It takes a team to make this happen.  Claire, Jim, Mike and Bill set the pace and kept Rod and James company.  Wendy did a fanstastic job of capturing the essence of the swim for the public (note: the environmental message was conveyed in Check TV’s coverage).  Our expert pilots (Richard/Dale, Scott and John) ensured that we achieved our goals safely and efficiently.  I was very impressed with their attention to detail.  Through South-Easterly winds and Force 3 conditions at the start, Westerly winds in the middle, and South-Easterly winds along Vancouver Island, our pilots worked tirelessly to ensure that we swam in a straight line through thick and thin–remarkable seamanship!  Also, a big thank you to all of you who took turns looking after Connor.  He had a great time on the sailboat, so much so that he wants to take sailing lessons.  Lastly, I want to thank Fin for his support.  Fin got the Rivershed Society of BC and the Georgia Strait Alliance to support our swim for an important environmental cause.  Fin is working tirelessly in the House of Commons to support endangered wild salmon stocks.  Having swum Georgia Strait and other significant “endangered” bodies of water, Fin is also an inspiration for marathon swimming.

I think this is a day that we will remember for the rest of our lives, and we did it for a good cause.  You can check out our coverage on Check TV news

For the record books.  According to the History of Open Water Marathon Swimming (Johnson, Tim, 2006), there have been 7 successful non-wet swims (English Channel rules) across the Strait of Georgia.  The record was set in 1967 by Mike Powley in a time of 9:23.  He swam from Neck Point just north of Departure Bay to Sechelt.  The second fastest swim was performed by Shane Collins of West Vancouver in 1998 in a time of 9:55.  James and Rod are now 2nd and 3rd in the record books.  Considering the adverse conditions, this is an incredible accomplishment!”