Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.


English Channel relay

7 Swim stories almost as weird as Kevin Costner’s gills in Waterworld

IMG_43901. S.S. Eating Disorder

In the swim zone with thoughts drifting in and out like a slow moving current, I pass a sail boat anchored in the bay at Manitou in Naramata. I casually note the vessel’s name and swim on. “Mmmm, odd name for a boat…The Bulimia.” After a day of reflection I make it my mission to swim closer to The Bulimia for a confirmation check of the unusual name. “The Bohemia”…makes more sense.

IMG_44092. Cats and Rats and Elephants

A swim alongside ducks is pretty common here. We note each other’s presence and do our thing. An eagle flying over and making off with a duckling a foot away is not as common. Despite the mother’s efforts to shield her remaining fuzzy kids, the eagle made a second pass and then there were five. Circle of life right?

Swimming on a hot day at Manitou can bring other hot creatures to the beach for a dip. It’s not uncommon to see horses wading out from the dog beach for a paddle around. No eagle worries there.

Weirdest of all. A woman arrives at the Penticton beach with cat in her arms. Both head out into the water for a short dip and the cat seems pretty OK about it. I stuck around to watch it being towelled off before they packed up and headed for home. The cat looked cooler and still pretty OK with it.

IMG_84853. Sunnies

The summer of 2015 I could have opened a used sunglasses shop. I found six pairs of sunglasses on various long swims in the lake. Many were found beneath the buoy most used to anchor floaties filled with wobbly-pop drinking sun-tanners. My new Maui Jim’s retail for $269.00 US. The rhinestone beauties went to my sister-in-law. Another pair ended up back in the lake. Circle of life right?


Ironman Canada start in Penticton

4. An argument for skin

Conventional wisdom is to hydrate well before the long day on an Ironman course and pee while swimming to save time before hopping on your bike. Never having practiced this, a tri friend gave it a go during the race. “No problem, made it happen. Then I started envisioning my body covered in pee and literally freaked out. I grabbed my zipper and peeled my wetsuit half off to rinse myself. It’s impossible to put back on in the water. Long, awkward swim.”

Another bud, Crazy Canuck team member Jaime put her wetsuit on for the first time on a 30-plus degree day. As my daughter aptly described wet suiting up as, “like putting on a dolphin,” a red-faced, sweating Jaime did the Ta Da dance after the epic struggle. “Hey Jaime, You know the zipper is supposed to be in the back right?”

5. Disturbia

Swimming blithely along, a search and rescue boat pulls alongside and attracts my attention. “We’re searching for the victim of a fatal boating accident. Please be aware of the search boats in the swim area.” As I answer, “OK, sure,” my thoughts go to the deep, weedy area I’m just entering. I’m not really worried about the boats.


6. Great balls of fish

Swimming in the ocean in the Kailua harbor in Kona, Hawaii is cool but for us Canadian shark-worriers…it’s a bit daunting. Imagine our surprise at coming upon a fish ball, or bait ball. It’s a large, teeming mass of fish that swim in a tightly-packed formation for less than 10 minutes in a kind of last-ditch measure to protect themselves from predators. Well at least the fish near the centre of the ball. “Mmmm fish ball… predators…sharks.” The experience notched up a level when a snorkeler emerged from the very centre of the ball beside Crazy Canucker, Al.

7. It who shall not be named

“I guess you know why I asked you to give me a call,” I said.

“I’m in,” says Chris.

“That was easy,” I say.

“What do you need me to to do?” Chris says.

The fifth member of the Crazy Canucks relay team making a bid to cross the English Channel this summer telepathically knew what the call was about and signed up without a qualm.

Well maybe a few qualms…”The swimming itself is perhaps not the challenge. It will be the weather conditions, the dark, seasickness and nerves. But it will be a blast!”

Chris spent summers at a cottage in the Gatineau hills of Quebec and swam down the lake with canoe escorts. He and his family still spend time at the lake and swims now circumvent the entire lake. A triathlete, he has raced in many events including numerous Iron distance races. He says, “In the past couple of years the ‘swim only’ bug has bitten and he has completed some four and five-kilometre open water races.

Making his home in Canmore, Chris will have no problem getting in some cold water training … once the ice on the mountain lakes melts in June.

Dropped on our heads and into the ocean

IMG_2057International Space Station image of the English Channel courtesy of the European Space Agency.

After Captain Matthew Webb swam the English Channel in 1875 the Mayor of Dover said, “I make bold as to say that I do not believe that in the future history of the world any such feat will be preformed by anybody else.”

We all make mistakes but he wasn’t far wrong. It’s remains a pretty daunting challenge. About 1,500 people have completed solo swims of the Channel, far fewer than have climbed Mount Everest. The first six-person relay swam the Channel in 1954. There have been about 6,000 relay team members who have successfully made the crossing since…still not a lot in my books. And every member of our team is older than the average age of 33…some double that.

We will make our attempt to swim the 32 kilometres, with each swimmer taking one-hour turns in rotation until we walk up a beach in France, in late July of this year. If we make it, it will be because of a mixture of good luck (the weather and everyone’s health), good preparation and support from friends and family.

We all have something in common, according to the owner of Dover’s Churchill Guest House where we will be staying when Team Crazy Canucks makes its bid. “One correlation we have noticed between you all is that at some stage during your childhoods you were all dropped on your heads which made you all crazy enough to attempt such a mind-boggling challenge.”



Step one: Find five other people who were dropped on their heads as children and like to swim in cold water, in the ocean, in only a bathing suit (no wetsuits allowed and there are stringent Channel Swimming Association rules about the type of suit you can wear too), and don’t mind a jaunt to England.

This proved easier than I thought which I guess says something about me and my pals.

The first to sign up was Jaime. We met training for a marathon during which we had this conversation. “Hey, we should do Ironman in three years,” I say. “Sure, but I will have to learn to swim first,” Jaime says. She did and we finished Ironman Canada in 2005. Her home town at that time, Sundre put a “congratulations Jaime” message on a billboard. I think a parade would be in order this time.

A friendship developed over hours of running and cycling is something pretty special.  There are no secrets left to tell after four hours sweating it out and no one you would rather tell them to. When we ran out of secrets we talked about what we were going to eat when we stopped, in great detail, as in the actual recipes.

If all goes our way, Jaime says, “Next year Ella (daughter) will be able to take me to school for show and tell and say my mom swam in the English Channel. How cool will that be?”

She says her feeling about the Channel is summed up by this quote by Bob Proctor: “Set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilarating that it excites you and scares you at the same time.”

“I am so looking forward to it but at the same time it sometimes makes me cringe just thinking about it.” That sounds like excitement and fear at the same time for sure. I’m glad she was dropped on her head.

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