Success! 7/13/2010

Success!  7/13/2010
Europe to Africa.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Water is a different Color

The water is a different color here in the Gibraltar Straits. It is not the blue black of San Francisco, or the blue green of Hawaii, or the slate blue of the east coast, or the green blue of the Caribbean it is the blue I tried to paint my bedroom and didn't even know it. The paint card was named "Blueblood".  That's the color of the water I was in.
I drove to Tarifa this morning at 8:30 am. I was to meet Rafael at 9:00 in the port. Once I got here I realised what a stupidly unspecific idea that was, but I parked the car and began to walk around. I found a man wearing the same shirt as Rafael's organization and Rafael showed up spot on time. There was a man from North Carolina swimming today as well. He had his wife along to take photos. I was jealous for that, but I couldn't imagine making some one ride in a small (30 foot) boat, going seasick slow for five hours, plus the hour to get home. I was content and not nervous. That time had past.
I was wearing a South End cap that Darrin had given me on a "Sunriser" swim, ear plugs from Diana Shuster's special stash, and fabulous Blue Seventy dark goggles from Karen Rogers. I had four South End sweatshirts to give my crew and Rafael as a thank you and the big red South End flag to fly behind the pilot boat to keep me on course and committed.
I dove in at 9:33 am, and swam to the rocky shore just outside Tarifa's harbor. The water felt lovely, brisk, but not cold at all. My captain, Antonio dropped his hand, and I started swimming. Rafael had explained that it would be hard to get away from the Spanish Coast and that I must try to swim a bit fast. Fast is not in my repertoire, but it seemed to go OK. The water was much like the "Potato Patch" under the Golden Gate Bridge, waves coming from all directions and feeling more like a bubbling roiling cauldron than the ocean. The power of the water, wind, and current was noticeable and a bit overwhelming. Not much to do but swim, so I did. The waves were big, and not regular. I got a lot of slaps in the face, and drank plenty. But I was having fun. Whenever I encountered a cold patch, I was reminded of Joe Butler's opinion that; the cold is in the current and the warm is outside it. I don't know if this is true, but I tried to keep myself in the colder water. Rafael had said that The Straights are not for slow swimmers, and that I should not feed every 30 minutes as I am accustomed, but more like every 45 minutes. My feedings went well, all four of them. Thank god I never liked feeding, and swam a lot of long swims on not much fuel, because once the tide changed, they weren't going to let me stop to feed. After three hours, and what was to be my last feed, Jesus told me that I had only 2 km left. Yipee!  Africa was finally starting to look closer than Spain, but it was still a long way off to my eye. About 30 minutes later, and with no visible progress, Antonio brought the big boat back to me to talk. I didn't get in and chat mind you, but he drew along side me and explained that I must swim harder, and faster for a solid thirty minutes if I wanted to reach Morocco. By this time, I had been swimming my definition of "hard" for quite some time. The water was so rough that my swimming was never easy. But I tried to turn on the speed. Those who know me from the pool will be laughing now, because my lane mates and I often joke that we don't go faster, we just splash more and work harder. With this in mind and Africa a long way off, I tried to channel Terry from the English Channel chat line who always talks about lengthening your stroke for maximum efficiency. Man I hoped it was working. I must add here that my shoulders were holding up very well. I was not in pain, and they weren't feeling loose or wobbly at all. They hurt like hell now, but so what. I tried everything to bring Africa closer. I put my head down and pulled hard for 10 strokes, then harder for ten more, and then back to the first level- nothing. I tried swimming zig-zag because one time I was swimming around the "Creakers" with Jimmy and Lisa and that was the only way we could get around. But Jesus was not happy with that and kept pointing and pantomiming "go, go, straight, hard, you can do it". A lot of message for a few scant hand signals and a smile. I wasn't so sure by that time that I would be able to do it. So I started naming all of the people who had emailed me and wished me well. I was feeling the love and support, and that's when the dolphins showed up.  Penny wrote in her blog about swimming the Cook Straits that when it looked like she was done, dolphins appeared and encouraged her on.  Man was I excited.  I didn't have a moment of fear, I knew they were there to egg me on.  So on I went, meter by meter.  I even called upon Robbie, the deceased brother of Pat from Maine who I had chatted with after her record breaking Gibraltar crossing last month. She and I had joked that Robbie would bring me sweet currents, and take the wind out to lunch to keep it busy during my swim so as not add to my troubles. I was talking to Robbie and Pat and asking them both for help (Pat I brought some Poland Spring Water just like you suggested). 
Then I remembered a time in the pool when Karen had hooked me up to a bungee cord and told me that I should be able to swim across the 25 yards of the pool. She swam beside me in the next lane and at about 5 feet from the end I quit. I was convinced that I couldn't do it. Her words to me were, "but you were still moving forward- you had it. Why'd you quit?" I felt terrible, and embarrassed. I am sure that was not her intention, but today, out in the Med., her words came back to me. If I was still moving forward, even the slightest bit, I would not quit. Jesus and Antonio didn't know this, but after I got out, they said basically the same thing; that as long as I was still fighting and moving even incrementally forward, they would let me continue. And thank god they did, because after about a million "five hard strokes" I was smashed into the cliff at Punta Leona, Morroco.
I am sure that more things will come to me, but this is enough for now, I want to go to bed.

I swam from Europe to Africa today, Tuesday July 13th, 2010. And I swam with dolphins. Two dreams came true.
Thank you everyone for your support and enthusiasm.  Special thanks to my parents who padded my funds, and Jorge, Katharine and Coco for putting up with an obsessed person for the past six months.


  1. Congratulations ! We heard the good news from your mom at spinning this afternoon. The ladies gave a rousing cheer for you. What an accomplishment !!

    Mary Sue

  2. Wow! I was just wondering how you were doing and checked your blog tonight and you did it!! Today!! I have shed tears of joy and humility after reading your story. You are an inspiration! Congratulations!

  3. Celebrating in Maine! You did it! I am sooooooooo happy for you. Awesome accomplishment. It was a tough swim but you showed tenacity and true grit. Way to go, Ranie!

  4. I am so inspried by you and your woman power. You go Girl! Outstanding...So happy for you.

    Artura from CSOI

  5. Congratulations Ranie!!! You are an inspiration for all of us to try something different and difficult.
    You're lane mates are so proud of you. I hope that you still swim with us slow ladies;)


  6. Dear Ranie, I just read your blog entry after the SWIM!!! It is beautiful and beautifully written. Tired or not you did a great job making us all fell like we were there. What an achievement! I am so proud of you. Love, Mum

  7. Yay Ranie, I am so inspired by your great effort and great triumph! The "whole sauna" is thrilled. See you soon, MaryLee

  8. I got chills when I read the "I swam to Africa today." What an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations and enjoy a really well earned few days of fun......


  9. Yay Ranie!! So happy for you! What an accomplishment. I hope you are having other wonderful adventures for the rest of your trip.

  10. Congratulations Ranie! You are an inspiration!


The Gibraltar Straits