Round Trip Angel Island: Observer Log

Round Trip Angel Island: Observer Log

Report by Cathy Delneo on my Round-Trip Angel Island swim this past Sunday. Cathy is a Manhattan Island soloist, an IISA Ice Miler, a member of the first women’s Farallon Island relay, and the 5th person (and first woman) to complete a solo Round-Trip Angel Island.


Round Trip Angel Island Swim

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Swimmer: Evan Morrison

Pilot: Paul Saab

Observer: Cathy Delneo

Boat: South End Rowing Club inflatable Miller Time (a.k.a. “Big Red”)

Course: South End Rowing Club beach, San Francisco past the west end of Alcatraz Island, toward the west end of Angel Island, into Raccoon Straits on the north side of Angel Island, then back to San Francisco on the east sides of Angel Island and Alcatraz Island, finishing on the SERC beach.

Rules: MSF Standard

Jump: 4:49 am

Notes

We were aware that 3 vessels were scheduled to come through the Golden Gate, with the first scheduled to be in the incoming channel (between Alcatraz and SF city front) around 5:30 am. This led to a slightly earlier jump than planned.

4:49 am – Swimmer walked into smooth and calm water at the SERC beach

5:08 am – 64 strokes per minute

5:20 am – 1st feed, about ½ green bottle

Swimmer breathes right, so pilot positioned boat on the swimmer’s right.…

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Round-Trip Angel Island: A Devil of a Swim

Round-Trip Angel Island: A Devil of a Swim

If I had to nominate a single, definitive marathon swim of San Francisco Bay, it would be the Round-Trip Angel Island.

Start at Aquatic Park’s “swimmers’ beach” between the South End and Dolphin clubs, swim out into the Bay, past Alcatraz to Angel Island (3.5 miles), around the island (3 miles), and then back to Aquatic Park (3.5 miles). Ten “honest” miles by shortest route, mostly perpendicular to the tidal flow.

Round-Trip Angel Island route
Round-Trip Angel Island route

Angel Island is the second largest island inside the Bay (behind Alameda), and has functioned at various times through history as a military fort, an immigration station (like a west coast Ellis Island), and currently as a California State Park.

angel island
Angel Island from the air. Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands, Bay Bridge, San Francisco city skyline, and Alcatraz visible in background.

The Round-Trip Angel Island (RTAI) is like the Round-Trip Alcatraz (RTA)…squared — almost literally, by distance. The 3.2-mile Round-Trip Alcatraz is an annual South End club swim — and Water World Swim organizes a popular public version called the “Swim Around the Rock.” A RTAI swim involves many of the same features and challenges as a RTA: scenic views, iconic landmarks, complicated currents, and busy shipping channels — requiring skill from both the pilot and swimmer.…

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Standardized Swims and Routes

Standardized Swims and Routes

As previously defined, a swim route is a predetermined, abstract path between a start location and a finish location, composed of a straight line or series of connected straight-line segments.

Let’s further define a standard swim route as an established, recognized route used by most (or all) attempts of a given swim. A standard route is established either informally, through a history of successful swims along the route; or formally, by a sanctioning organization.

Finally, let’s define a standardized swim as a swim for which a standard route has been established.

Most well-known marathon swims are standardized swims, with standard routes:

  • An English Channel swim, by default, covers the straight-line route between Dover and Cap Gris Nez.
  • A Catalina Channel swim, by default, covers the straight-line route between Doctor’s Cove/Arrow Point and Point Vicente.
  • A Boston Light Swim starts at Little Brewster Island and finishes at the L Street Bathhouse, via a meandering route among several islands in Boston Harbor.

Why does this matter? Consider the following hypothetical:

Perhaps I’m not satisfied with the typical English Channel route — I want to be different and special and do something no one’s ever done before. …

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Measuring Non-Straight-Line Swim Routes

Measuring Non-Straight-Line Swim Routes

In the previous article, I discussed the difference between a swim route and a swim track, and how the measured distance of a marathon swim is always the length of the route, not the length of the GPS track. To demonstrate this principle I contrasted the standard English Channel route (a 20.5 statute mile line between Dover and Cap Gris Nez) and a typical English Channel track (a swooping S-curve as the swimmer is pushed back and forth by the tides).

Aha!, you might say: Not every swim route is a straight line! What about an island circumnavigation? Or a swim down a curving river?

Let’s review the definition of “swim route” from the previous article (emphasis added):

A swim route is a predetermined, abstract path between the start and finish, composed of either a straight line or (if the straight-line path is interrupted by another land-mass) a series of connected straight-line segments.

So, by this definition, even a non-straight-line route can be understood as a “series of connected straight-line segments.” The key in measuring a non-straight-line route is knowing how to select the intermediate waypoints — the “nodes” connecting each line segment.…

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Swim Route vs. Swim Track

Swim Route vs. Swim Track

Sometimes basic principles need to be stated. It is surprising how often media reporting of marathon swimming – and even swimmers themselves – get this one wrong.

A swim route is a predetermined, abstract path between the start and finish, composed of either a straight line or (if the straight-line path is interrupted by another land-mass) a series of connected straight-line segments.

For example, the route of an English Channel swim is the straight-line path between Dover, England and Cap Gris Nez, France (approximately 20.5 statute miles, typically rounded up to 21 by the CSA and CS&PF).

english channel route
English Channel ROUTE

A swim route is typically the shortest path between the start and finish, though in some cases a longer path may make more sense (if certain characteristics of the shortest path make it undesirable, e.g., adverse currents).

In contrast, a swim track is where you actually swam – including navigation error, tidal movements, and other variables that cause differences between the abstract/ideal path and the actual path. A swim track is typically recorded with a GPS device.

For example, here is the track of a slower English Channel swim: The swimmer is first pushed southwest from Dover by the ebb tide, then northeast by the flood, then southwest by another ebb, then northeast by another flood and into the French coast.…

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Top 10 DNF excuses you never hear

Top 10 DNF excuses you never hear

Presenting the top 10 excuses for not finishing a marathon swim you never seem to hear….

10. Quite simply, I decided I didn’t want to swim anymore.

9. I lack persistence, and have a hard time finishing things I start.

8. I got sick — not because the waves were 10 feet high and thrashing me around, but because I drank too much the night before.

7. I am a really slow swimmer even when I’m fresh. When I get tired, I literally stop making progress in the water.

6. I stopped after the first leg of my planned/announced two-way, because the solid ground felt sooo good and I didn’t want to get back in the water.

5. Marathon swimming is stupid.

4. I was hopelessly naive, and didn’t have any idea what I was getting in to.

3. I had to poo, but was too embarrassed to do it in front of my crew.

2. I didn’t really care about finishing anyway — it was more about getting publicity and attention for myself for just attempting it.

1. I didn’t train enough.

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Making Independent Swims “Count”

Making Independent Swims “Count”

For standard marathon swims such as the English Channel, Santa Barbara Channel, or Catalina Channel, swimmers need not concern themselves with “proving” they did the swim. For these swims, the authenticity of a swimmer’s claim is supported by the legitimacy of the local sanctioning organization — legitimacy derived from the marathon swimming community’s trust in the organization’s leaders and procedures.

A legitimate local sanctioning organization provides trained observers to document swims and verify adherence to the organization’s published swim rules. Although it’s difficult to “prove” an event witnessed by few, many miles out to sea, any swim ratified by trusted organizations such as the CS&PF, SBCSA, or CCSF is generally accepted without question by the marathon swimming community. A swim log completed by the official observer is viewed as the only “proof” needed (though ironically, these logs are almost never made public, and in some cases are held quite tightly by the organization).

But what about swims for which there is no well-established sanctioning organization? How do you make a swim “count” in ungoverned waters, without a trusted sanctioning organization to back up your claims?…

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