Rough water exits

The sea is getting rough next week and we’re heading into Winter, when rough water and waves will be much more common.  Swimming in the waves is great crack, no question. 

Getting in and getting out of the waves is not quite so much fun and potentially dangerous. 

Donal Buckley is doing a very detailed series on this and I’m going to point everyone there.  However, I’m going to copy a couple of his lines below – just as a summary. 

We’re very lucky in Myrtleville to have a sandy, safe exit 99% of the time.  There are rocks, though, and even on sand a wave can hit and flip you very easily.  That’s painful – and dangerous.  Think before you get in and think very hard about how you’ll get out.  It’s too late to do that when you’re in the waves.

From loneswimmer.com:

  • You should not be getting into open water before you know where or if you can safely exit.
  • You should not let others decide for you if exit conditions are safe.
  • Alternatively you should not get into the water simply because someone else is already in there.
  • A corollary of these statements is that you should not be getting in the water in anticipation that a safe exit will somehow present itself once you have entered the water.

Swim safe – which can mean “don’t swim today”.  If it looks a bit dodgy to get in, it’ll be a lot worse to get out 🙂

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Christmas presents – sorted.

Wondering what to get for the swimmer (and car-owner) in your life, this Christmas?  The year’s must-have fashion accessory, of course.  The Myrtleville Swimmers windscreen decal.  I didn’t even have to make this one up.  Fair dues to Owen McSweeney.

You’d expect to find Kieran Murphy around anything like this – and sure enough…

Can’t wait to see Finbarr Hedderman’s car when he gets his one done.  Bernard has already ordered one for Ann Lynch.  Don’t tell her though, it’s a surprise.

Myrtlevillians mistreated in Sandycove

Honestly – some people?! We do all this work to support Sandycove and our peaceful emissaries are grievously mistreated by way of thanks.   The images from the events of Saturday are simply shocking.  Those of a gentle disposition may wish to look away now (Denis, Eoin Lowry etc).

First up – staunch Myrtlevillian, Finbarr Hedderman was lured into a picture with horrendous grey branded products and some kind of goat flag.  Ever the gentleman, he faked a smile but refused to wear any of them.  Myrtleville to the core, is Finbarr.  

Further insult was heaped on the unsuspecting award-winning Siobhan Russell, when she was unceremoniously bundled up in some of the gear.  We think this is an attempt to get star recognition of the goaty stuff, what with Siobhan’s high profile and access to all the top media outlets – this site, the Carrigdhoun etc.

The swim itself was where the real badness occurred – with outright assault on poor Bernard Lynch by person or persons unknown out the back of the Island.  Eoin O’Riordan, by the way.  Beaten and battered was Bernie – until he pulled away and bate the perpetrator.  Gwan ya good ting, Bernie!!  

The assault was raised with Rob De Bull after the event, in the hope that Eoin might get his just punishment.  “I saw nuttin”, said Rob.

We’re sure there were other assaults, but Myrtlevillians swam on regardless.  It’s worth noting that every single Myrtlevillian in the event beat Ned Denison.  How about that? Doesn’t happen too often.  

Darren Morrissey also showed the begrudgers what he thought of them. Gwan, Dazza!!

Things just got worse at the after-party.  Senior statisticians pored over the purported results and noted numerous additions of time onto Myrtlevillians.   Fake Times, said some American guy.  

Leading Myrtlevillians, Aisling and Finbarr, took to the stage to appeal for calm and a modicum of gratitude for all that Myrtevillians have done for little Sandycove.  That went down well.Eoin O’Riordan responded with shouts of “thanks, I’ll give ye thanks!!!” and went for Bernard again.  How much punishment must the poor man take?Salt was then rubbed in the wounds when our Mike Harris award was presented to Alex Jeffers.  I’m sure Alex has done his bit for Sandycove – but nowhere near as much as myself and Bernard.  Fix, like.  Fix.  They made our Finbarr stand in that pic too.  

Still, there’s always positives amidst the gloom.  The Irwin family had another great day out!  Well done, Mae – and the first man home in togs, Neddie, of course 🙂

Weever attack – steps to take.

If you happen to have the incredible misfortune to step on a Weever fish, it’s important to know the steps to take.  I’m helpfully listing them here.  Not all of them are strictly necessary or helpful, but you can weed those out.

First of all, to avoid needing to know these steps, shuffle into the water – especially at low tide.  Otherwise, you might meet this guy.  Mostly they stay away from us and down in Sandycove – so there is hardly anyone in danger – but sometimes Ned drops a bucket of them in Myrtleville,  so we have hundreds of swimmers to warn.

Have you seen this fish? Vicious Weever transported from Sandycove and dumped at our beach.

One useful thing to know is that after you’ve been spiked, if you stay in the water your foot will be so cold you won’t really feel the pain.  You’ll know there’s something wrong, but it’s a deferral method.  Try deferring for as long as you can.  Do a ten hour swim.  I only did an hour and was sorry I got out.

Once the pain starts to hit as your foot warms up, here’s what you do:

  1. Ring an expert on Weaver Fish.  That’s Bernard.  He’ll tell ya.
  2. Curse him when he doesn’t answer.
  3. Look up “weaver fish” on google.  
  4. Just accept it when google tells you it’s showing you results for “weever fish”, not “weaver fish”.  It’s not the time to get into a spelling argument about how Bernard told you to spell it.  Curse.
  5. Realise your foot is getting sorer fast, that the pain is moving up your leg and you’re a long way from a basin of hot water.  That’s what google told you to get.
  6. Drive home.  Further cursing optional.
  7. Limp into house.  Cursing optional, but likely.
  8. Do whatever is needed to get foot into basin of water at 40c+
  9. Put foot in water.  Curse because it’s too hot.
  10. Replace foot in water.  Pain is worse than the heat.
  11. Eventually receive call from weaver fish expert.  Explain to Bernard you’re only interested in weever fish.
  12. Listen to Bernard’s stories about how much worse his weaver/weever fish attacks were.  At least get some good advice about checking for spines left in the foot.
  13. Try to twist foot around to see if there are spines stuck in it.
  14. Ask spouse to check if there are spines.
  15. Graciously refuse spouse’s offer to get any spines out with a bread knife.  “I’ll get in good and deep just to make sure”.  No thanks.  You’re grand.
  16. Sit with foot in basin and wait for pain to subside.
  17. Wait.  A few fecks as the pain ebbs and flows.
  18. Wait.  More hot water.
  19. Check google again to see how long they said this would last.  Two hours for peak pain?  It’s four hours since I was attacked.  Feck.
  20. Wait.  Curse a bit more.  Add hot water.
  21. Attempt to put on shoe.  Realise foot too swollen.  Curse.
  22. Wait.  It does fade to numbness.  Took seven hours, though.

So, from Irish Water Safety: When entering the water, make plenty of noise with your feet and kick up the sand a little, this alerts the weever fish to your presence and they normally swim out in to deeper water away from you.

Otherwise, you’ll end up like this.  And Bernard’s no feckin’ help.  Believe me.

Do the Weever Shuffle. You don’t want to be this guy.

Mike Harris Trophy – Nomination

I’m reprinting here my nominating letter for this annual award down West.  I hope that all Myrtlevillians will get behind this nomination and inundate Eoin O’Riordan, Gordon Adair and Finbarr Hedderman with communications to swing the vote in our favour.

For those who don’t know, the Mike Harris Trophy is for the person who has contributed most bigly to the spirit and ethos of open water swimming at Sandycove in a given year.

Dear Mike Harris Trophy winner pickers,

I’d like to nominate myself and Bernard, jointly, for this award. 

I don’t think anyone has shown more support for the dwindling numbers of Sandycovers than the two of us.  We’ve constantly mentioned Sandycove in Myrtlevillian communiques, just to remind people it still exists and to encourage someone – anyone – from the hundreds upon hundreds of regular Myrtleville swimmers to trudge down West.  We encourage people to go – some more than others – to make it look like d’Island is still being used, before it’s reclaimed as a goat sanctuary and swimming is verboten.

In addition to trying to get people to go there the odd time, we have offered a refuge to all those escaping Sandycove who now spend the year training in Myrtleville, while still saying they’re true-blue Sandycovers – they just “don’t get there as often as they’d like”, as they say (as in, once a year). 

Although Bernard wouldn’t get out of bed to go there, I personally visit quite often when I’m in Kinsale twice a week, dropping off for TKD classes.  There’s never anyone there, obviously, but I at least go out there to try to show there’s a bit of interest in the place and to send bleak, empty photos back to Myrtleville.  Maybe I should stop that – it might be putting people off going there even more, if that’s possible.

To be fair, it’s busy enough during Distance Week – a genius idea by Ned to get people from out foreign who aren’t in the know to go swimming there – and the day of the Challenge.  But, I digress – back to the nomination.  We routinely use our #supporttheweakercounties tag to raise the Sandycove profile and we send rakes of cakes down there for the Turkey Swims.

All in all, it’s hard to think of two more deserving recipients of the Mike Harris Trophy.  Mike can present it to us down in Myrtleville.  He’s always here.

The only known photo of the nominees in Sandycove. Taken a long time ago, there was nobody else there that day either – so we swam home to Myrtleville.

Maeve Mulcahy: #swimfastnet

This is my account of my Fastnet to Baltimore swim which I completed on 1st September 2017.

I had originally been training for the Galway Bay Swim which was to happen in July.  Unfortunately, this year it was very difficult to procure boats and, much to my disappointment, I was unable to do the swim.  I had been training solidly coming up to July and I didn’t want to waste my efforts.  So, my Myrtle Turtle mates, Eoin Lowry and Anne Sheehy, and I set about looking to organise a swim that I could do. 

Many years ago, a very wise young man, Owen O’Keefe, a.k.a. Fermoy Fish, said to me, always remember if you’re the first to do a swim, nobody can ever take that from you, no matter how long it takes you to do it – thank you Owen for that advice!  So, with that in mind, I got talking to Noel Browne and Steve Redmond of the Lough Hyne Lappers and, between one thing and another, I found myself booked with Kieran Collins of Baltimore Angling – the most amazing boat pilot a swimmer could ever wish for – with a possible window of 1st September to swim from Fastnet Rock to Baltimore. 

With no hesitation at all, Eoin and Anne offered to crew for me and I very gratefully accepted their offer.  Both took time off work to be with me on my swim.  We all know that a solo swim cannot happen on its own.  As soon as the booking had been made, Anne set about making arrangements for our accommodation in Baltimore.  Both Eoin and Anne supported me through all my training by kayaking for me, swimming with me, taking out Eoin’s boat in Cork harbour, figuring out the best feeding methods and helping me devise a suitable feeding plan for my first solo swim.  Their dedication and commitment to me was incredible.  They totally believed in me and that gave me huge confidence.  I was warned that they were not going to let me out until I reached the slipway in Baltimore – there was the threat of a hurley being brandished if I remember correctly!  In the weeks before the swim we met regularly, made copious lists and finally we were well organised and ready to do this swim.  In hindsight, I now realise how lucky I was to have this pair crew for me.  I need to speak about how indebted I am to both of them.  Eoin won’t allow me get all emotional about this but Anne understands J I honestly feel that this swim has tied us together in such a special way.  We are forever connected by the laughs, emotions and memories of our adventure.  During the swim they worked tirelessly for me, minding me for Joe, never taking their eyes off me, feeding me, lifting my spirits when needed, tweeting, posting on FB and updating all my supporters of my progress.  I am forever in their debt and will never be able to thank them enough for what they did for me. 

At this point I would like to mention my husband Joe.  Joe is not a swimmer and is not too keen on the water at all and usually leaves me off to my own devises when it comes to my swimming.  However, when I had the swim booked, he understood how important it was to me and wanted to help in any way he could in the build up to my swim and, so, he spent long hours in Lough Hyne preparing my warm feeds while I lapped around during my training swims.  Joe’s involvement meant so much to me and I was chuffed to see that he was so proud of me for taking on this challenge.  Joe is a worrier and he was concerned for me that maybe this was all too much to take on but he kept his worries to himself and knew that I was in safe hands with Eoin and Anne and they would look after me. 

Sailors the world over know of the Fastnet, notorious for its winds and rough waters, the turning point in one of the world’s toughest yacht races.  Many swimmers have attempted to swim Fastnet but were unable to get the right weather and conditions.  It is a lottery as to whether you get out or not – pure and simple.  I had been on the phone to Kieran the week before I was due to swim and he was feeling very positive about the conditions for Friday.  He was taking another swimmer, Paul, out the day before who had been weathered out previously.  All was looking good.

We arrived in Baltimore on Thursday evening.  We took a walk down to the pier to have a look at Kieran’s boat, Radiance, and rang Kieran to make arrangements for the next morning.  His trip out with his swimmer, Paul, had been a success and he was very optimistic for me.  We headed back to the house and had dinner and Anne and I surprised Eoin with a belated birthday cake and card.  Once that excitement was over, we began to make up the feeds, make sandwiches and pack our bags for the next morning. 

We were all in bed early but I struggled to get a good night’s sleep – the nerves were kicking in.  Anne was up at the dawn filling kettles and, following a breakfast of porridge, we met Kieran at 05.45am.  By 06.05am we were motoring out to the Fastnet.  The sun was rising on the most exciting day of my life.  I will never forget the beautiful red and orange hues of that sunrise.  I watched the upper edge of the sun appear over the horizon and a calmness came over me at that point.  I felt so ready to swim.  At 07.35am I was greased up and jumping in to touch the rock.  And so began my wonderful adventure. 

I stroked away from the rock following my boat, Radiance, keeping to her starboard side.  The water was warm – yay!  The sun was up and the sea was like velvet.  I had already decided in my head that I was not getting out until I reached the slipway in Baltimore – I would have to be pulled out by my crew or the pilot if circumstances required it.  I was loving it!  My feed schedule was set at every 30 mins.  The time was flying by – before I knew it I had 4 feeds down. 

I am now going to talk about The Wall.  For some, it hits in the middle of a long swim, for others it’s that last stretch but for me hour 3 to 4 is my struggle.  I can think of a hundred reasons why I should call it a day.  I think the realisation of the huge task ahead hits me and I figure it’s too much for me.  However, because this happens to me all of the time, I am now able to talk, curse and cajole myself into ploughing through it and just continue with the job in hand.  So, with my “blip” over and done with by hour 4, I was back on track again.  At this point I was unaware that I was not progressing well against a strong tide.  In 4 hours I had only covered 6 kms.  This was not good.

I switched to swimming a bit behind Radiance and following her because the boat fumes were causing me a problem when I was alongside.  Feeds were going great – Anne and Eoin were doing a fantastic job – passing on all the good wishes and messages from all my supporters.  Steve and Noel were on the phone to Kieran throughout the swim – I even had Steve on speaker phone shouting me on during one of my feeds!  Kieran, my pilot, would come to the rail on my feeds telling me I was doing great – it boosted me no end.  I could now see Cape Clear and was approaching South Harbour.  I thought to myself, this is good, keep swimming, keep turning those arms over, you’re doing great. 

But how long is that bloody Island!  I have walked Cape Clear end to end during my Irish college days there in the late ‘70’s and I swear to God, it has grown longer!  Let me say, I looked at Cape Clear for a very long time!  Eventually, I could see the gap between Cape and Sherkin – the Gascanane Sound.  I braced myself because I had been warned that this is the tough bit and it was here I had to pull on all my reserves, put the head down and dig deep.  Strangely though, it wasn’t what I had expected, and I was making steady progress all the way. 

I had made a decision not to wear my Garmin GPS watch – I felt it might be a distraction that I didn’t need.  Despite not having my watch, it soon came clear to me that my 8.5 to 9 hr swim was now becoming a 10 or 11 hr one.  I asked Eoin at the next feed and he confirmed it would be 10 hrs alright – he’s a great liar!  I was okay with that – I was now in Hour 7 and all I said to myself was, right, 6 more feeds Maeve and you’re done. 

Conditions began to change at that point.  It got quite choppy and the wind blew up for the next 4 hrs.  The waves were coming from behind and breaking over me and my rhythm kept getting disrupted.  I was swallowing water on my breathing – I was coping but it definitely slowed down my progress.  On my feeds I found myself shot to the back of the boat within seconds – a combination of the current and also the wind blowing the boat forward. 

I remember listening to the legend, Steve Redmond of Oceans 7 fame, speak at the Global Open Water Swimming Conference held in Cork in 2013.  He spoke about how he repeated his children’s names over and over in a bid to keep going through the tough times.  Well Steve, I stole your mantra and my son’s names, Cian and Billy, became my driving force.  A few prayers were thrown in for good measure too – my Mum who is looking down on me all of the time was called upon quite a few times too!  And, guess what – I kept going as I knew I would, as Anne, Eoin and Kieran knew I would. 

Eoin jumped in and swam (probably with closed fists!) the next hour with me.  It was very comforting to have his company in the water.  I am so accustomed to swimming on my own, trailing after other swimmers, that I thought I wouldn’t need a support swimmer.  I was wrong.  I hadn’t realised how much of a boost it would give me.  The timing of the support swim was spot on too – I needed the lift.   

Unknown to me, my carb liquid feeds were now boosted with energy gels – thanks Steve for that advice.  Eoin’s hour was up in a flash and at my next feed, Kieran told me to look around and I couldn’t believe I was looking at the Beacon at the entrance to Baltimore Harbour.  Nice one!  I knew I would have the bones of another hour to the finish and I set off with a renewed energy. 

I have never been good at sighting.  In fact, I am shocking.  So, I ended up weaving my way through the moored boats in the harbour and, with much shouting and roaring from Anne, Eoin and Kieran to get me back on line, I re-joined Radiance and who did I spot only Eilish Leader, my Myrtle Turtle mate, with a huge bunch of balloons on the slipway.  She didn’t know it but Eilish featured in my visualisation throughout the whole swim because I knew she would be at the finish.  Next time I sighted, I spotted Carol Cashell waving the Irish flag and Noel Browne alongside Eilish shouting and roaring like lunatics! 

Finally, the concrete of the slipway appeared under me.  I made a couple of attempts to stand up but my legs just wouldn’t cooperate!  So, I unceremoniously sat on my backside and pulled myself clear of the water.  Boat hooters sounded and the passengers disembarking from the Cape Clear Ferry cheered and clapped.  I felt like a million dollars and the huge hugs and embraces from Noel, Eilish and Carol were the best!  Within minutes, my loyal crew members, Anne and Eoin and my pilot Kieran were there hugging the living daylights out of me.  What an emotional moment!

I was now the first woman to swim from Fastnet to Baltimore – job done!  The whole swim took 10hrs and 45mins – a tad longer than expected! 

But seriously, here is a lesson to all you swimmers who, like me, are not speedy, you too can become a marathon swimmer – just believe in yourself like I did.