Tom McCarthy’s swim from Minane Bridge to Roberts Cove
Part 2 The Dam to Robert’s Cove. Distance: 7 Km.
From Fountainstown up to the Dam is about 2km of tidal mudflats. As I intend to start the swim tomorrow at high water the mudflats will be covered and the channel will not be visible. As the flats may only have a foot or two of water over them they will be unswimmable, so it’s vital to stay in the channel. On these mud banks if you go aground on a falling tide you can neither swim nor walk and you can end up in serious trouble. On the Carrigaline mudflats a guy in a small boat lost the channel on an ebb tide, went aground and the only way off was a SAR helicopter. This happened only last year.
So therefore, so as not to end up like a complete Wally, the channel would have to be marked. You can’t do it on high tide as you can’t see it and you can’t do it on low tide as there is not enough water to float your boat. So you must do it on 1/2 tide when the channel is still visible and there is enough depth to get your boat up. Earlier in the day I went to a nearby wood and cut about a dozen Hazel branches of about 10/12 feet length. The Hazel limbs grow quite straight. At one end I hewed a point for sticking in the mud and at the top end I attached some red cloth, so they would look like a flag pole with a red bunting.
Wed 20th August 1900 hrs The Sand Spit, Fountainstown.
With my friend Billy Kelleher we launch a 3 man Indian canoe, enough room for 2 of us and my flagpoles. We paddle upstream sticking our poles in the mud at any point where the channel turned or where it would still be visible from the last one. In about an hour we were up and back, got the markings done and confident that I wasn’t going home by Helicopter tomorrow.
Thurs 21st August The Pier Head Crosshaven. 1430Hrs
Arriving at Crosshaven pier with my crewman, Tom, who has done a couple of circumnavigations of the North Atlantic with me in our days in square rig, we find Billy Kelleher waiting with his RIB. Besides being an expert boat-handler, Billy is experienced in tending to open-water swimmers, having acted as safety- boat for several previous events. I am especially aware that I will need two capable crew who will be able to haul me into the boat if required.
We motor around to Fountainstown and then slowly go up the channel to the Dam. Some of our markers are missing and the strong wind the night before must have knocked them over. However the remaining ones should be sufficient. We sit at the steps of the Dam waiting for the Ebb tide to start flowing out. We judge it by watching the water level on a step, drinking hot-chocolate and remaining well clothed. After about 1/2 hour we all agree it has dropped an inch or so. So, let’s do like Shepherds and get the flock out of here. I quickly change into togs etc and we are off….Incidentally the Ebb has started about 45 mins before High Water Cobh. Tides in river areas always need local knowledge. The 6 hours in 6 hours out cycles do not apply.
Swimming with the boat in front and the markers visible, I still touch bottom with my hands occasionally. (If you must touch bottom, make sure it’s a soft bottom). I swim as fast as I can (which isn’t fast at all) just to get clear of the mud. After about 1/2 hour I start getting the tide and get a good push as we go along by the Ringabella woods. Now it’s enjoyable. Some friends, who are swimming horses bareback on the Fountainstown side, shout encouragement..giddy up…giddy up. Is it a sea horse they are talking to?
Finally out to sea and I am still getting a push from the tide – it’s stronger than I expected, maybe 1/2 knot. The wind forecast was Westerly force 6, but so far I am in the Lee of the land. About halfway from Ringabella point to the Cove I come around a point and the Westerly 6 is straight up my nose. To make matters worse, it’s wind against tide and it’s a steep, short sea which slaps me straight in the face. I’m Breast stroking and swallowing a lot of water. Bang, Bang, Spew! The lads in the boat are giving me drinks every 20 mins and I eventually take 2 Nurofen Plus as my neck is killing me. I later find I have a disc out. After 2 hrs 35 mins we arrive in Roberts Cove.
Tired but Happy we head for Home…..Not really…we do a deserved detour via Cronin’s Bar and Lounge. Not so much to celebrate, as to take fuel and liquid sunshine from a glass!