How far is too far, without an escort boat?

HaydnHaydn Member
edited April 2013 in General Discussion
We all are happy to swim a mile or two from our clothes if we don't get too far out from the beach and we follow the coastline. But, how far off shore is too far? How wide a bay is too wide? Swimming straight out towards the horizon, how far is too far?


  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    depends on commercial and recreational traffic.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member
    I agree with Dave.

    I grew up on Lake Erie. In the summer, I would often swim out there. During the week, I didn't have any issue parallelling the shore along my peninsula in the mornings. The only people on the water at that hour are charter captains, who are responsible, and don't fish where I was swimming anyway. During the weekend, there's no f'ing way that I'd think about swimming anywhere outside in a very serious manner. Way too many (probably drunk and foolish) boaters to even think about it.

    False River, Louisiana, where I do some training now, I might swim from someone's dock during the week when everyone is at work, but I can only get up there on the weekends. I don't mind swimming up there but will only swim if I have a paddler. Again, too many drunk partiers. I don't begrudge people enjoying their weekends, but I don't need prop marks on my back.
  • HaydnHaydn Member
    OK, so lets not consider swimming in lakes, but the open ocean and lets consider drowning as the main risk and not traffic.
  • oxooxo Guest
    edited April 2013
    There are a number of non-traffic risks. Which causes of drowning are on your mind?
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    depends on commercial and recreational traffic.
    Haydn said:

    OK, so lets not consider swimming in lakes, but the open ocean and lets consider drowning as the main risk and not traffic.

    hey... whatever blows your dress up. if you want to swim off into the sunset; have fun.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • HaydnHaydn Member
    In England we are surrounded by water in which we could literally swim straight out to see and have virtually no risk of collision with recreational or commercial boats. Certainly we could swim as far as the horizon, straight out and back, without an escort boat. We might tow a float with water and radio. My op seeks to ask at what point is it considered too far to swim (assuming most of us are capable of swimming out 5 miles and back). We also have bays maybe 2 or 4 miles across. Swimming across a bay man entail being 1 or 2 miles out at the furthest point.

    At what point would you stay within say a 5 minute swim to get ashore? Are you happy to be 30 minutes or even 2 hours away from shore? Without an escort.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Mem​ber
    For me, towing one 650ml bottle of carb behind me, about 3 hours, which isn't a hugely long swim. Strictly speaking, I don't really need a feed for 3 hours but the bottle and the time limit is my concession to safety. I find it impossible to separate traffic considerations from anything else. Tides are the biggest factor though, unsurprisingly when the local tidal range is 4.0 to 6.5 metres, neaps to springs.

  • oxooxo Guest
    How stable is the weather/fog Haydn?
  • I'm comfortable going out a half hour / mile from wherever I left my clothes on the shore and then I head back. To me that feels like a safe distance that I could get back to no matter what. I just do laps like that then until I feel the cold starting to creep in too much and I don't hesitate to cut the last lap short. Most of my swims are in lakes in middle of nowhere Alaska so I don't have to worry about motorized boats. There are just occasional kayaks and I've never seen a drunken kayaker.
    The funny thing is you never know who is watching. There have been quite a few times when I thought I was totally alone and some hikers popped out of the woods to talk to me as I was drying off. One couple was afraid to leave me there alone and hung around until I got out. Another lady thought I was a suicide case at first but then said she changed her mind because I was too good of a swimmer. I can't blame her for thinking that. If its raining like crazy and you see a guy strip down to his swimsuit, stuff his clothes into a garbage bag, and then swim off into the distance, you've got to wonder.
    And yeah I know I'm not supposed to swim alone but to have a whole lake to yourself in the middle of nowhere where you can't see anyone, hear anyone, or see any sign of civilization.....oh what luxury!
  • Of course it depends on the tides and the area. Where I swim I am surrounded by land masses that jut out a decent half mile and an island 10k away but the tides locally would definitely cause a huge problem. However with so much land mass at least there is a higher chance of getting back to land. Personally I've never swam further than a quarter mile from shore.
    Why not get an inflatable buoy and take a waterproof phone out with you to phone the coastguard when you begin to drift away? That'd be adventurous
  • IronMikeIronMike BostonCharter Member
    There was that couple that swam across Crater Lake last year "alone." They had one of those SSDs. No boats.

    Please join the Lake Issyk Kul Swimming Federation on FB!

  • bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
    I maxed out at 1 mile years ago. I don't know how they do it now, but when I swam Seal Beach it was a straight swim 1 1/2 miles out to an offshore oil rig and back. I didn't have a paddler, and by the time you get to the turn around the field was pretty spread out. On one of my swim to the horizon swims in Ocean City Maryland when i was young, I had a 35 ft boat catch sight of me and rush over. One of the people on the boat got out on the bow with a life ring and started to shout that they would get me and not to worry. When I calmly told them I was out swimming, they looked at me like I was crazy. I was less than a mile out.
  • cwerhanecwerhane Portland Oregon Member

    Maybe this is the wrong place for this comment, but I’m not sure where else it might be worthy.

    This weekend, on one of my open water social media groups, a woman gave a race report where within the first mile of Lido Keys her kayaker flipped and “unbeknownst” to her was towed into shore. She chose to push on without an escort, without feeds, and without knowing anything about her kayaker’s safety. She claimed “I was swimming unsupported. No reason to stop”.

    In lieu of the events that happen at a race in Lake Erie and my own concept of OWS being a team sport, I beg to differ. Her safety was at risk and her kayaker’s safety was in question. On social media, people sang her praises for being tough and swimming onward. I disagreed. She was unsafe and put the race for all at risk.

    IMHO I’d like to see more race directors enforcing this concept - swimmer and kayaker are a team that starts together, finishes together, and must stay within a certain vicinity of each other.

    I know I myself have swam on while my kayaker feel victim to the winds of Apache (SCAR 2017). Looking back I see the errors of my ways, and I vow to never do so again. If I can’t do it with my paddler, it’s not OUR day.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    For me, partly due to wimpiness and partly to lack of sufficient experience, I'm not sure I'd want to swim anywhere alone, but have done some swimming w a companion swimmer parallel to shore w both of us wearing tow floats. Since he's faster, he typically swam ahead of me for about 50 yds or so, then circled back to check on me. This worked pretty well. There was boat traffic, so we stayed close to shore.

    If a swim event requires a kayak escort, you'd best believe I wouldn't want to proceed without one, there being, no doubt, good reasons for such a requirement.

    In fact, I'm a tad nervous about not having a kayak escort for Spuyten Duyvil, as that will be my longest swim without an individual kayaker by my side--although from what I've heard, that swim goes pretty quickly.

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    Am lucky to have 2 lakes close by that motor boats are not permitted on. Granted they are tiny, the biggest being about 800m across, but they are safe. I feel completely at home in both, and usually swim alone.

  • FrancoFranco Charter Member

    I don't think it is that cut and dry @cwerhane .

    First off, as important as the support of a paddler is, it is not a team sport. (This is not The Marathon Swimmers and Paddlers Forum) We are often assigned a paddler we know nothing about. While there may be exceptions, most paddlers do not train the number of days and hours swimmers do for a marathon swim. They are often local and do not have the travel and lodging and event fees we have invested into a swim.

    I had a 27 mile swim a few years back where the paddler had never paddled before and didn't make it more than an hour with me. I swam without one for nearly five hours. It was in a river that was not very wide and I was asked to try and stay near another swimmer. The RD was able to get me a substitute paddler for the last four hours. The RD and Safety Coordinator for event didn't think I needed to get out and did what they could to eventually fix it. Why should I have quit when they weren't asking me to and I didn't want to? Because someone they assigned me was not capable?

    I had another twelve plus hour swim where I had three paddlers throughout the swim. The first guy left after about five hours and I had a sub for about an hour until my replacement came for last six hours. I always had a paddler and a support boat with me. Should I have quit then? Why?

    I would agree that there are times swimmers should not be able to proceed without support if there are safety concerns. Otherwise, I think it should be up to the swimmer if the RD and safety crew are not asking the swimmer to exit.

  • cwerhanecwerhane Portland Oregon Member
    edited April 16

    @Franco I have no problem with trading out kayakers in shifts, in the scenario listed above. But I do disagree about swimming alone during an event requiring a kayak escort.

    Having swam, paddled support, and provided life guard duty on race support boats, I see the importance of the kayaker on the team. They have constant eyes on the swimmer. My paddler has saved me from hypothermia when I was too cold to note the signs of impeding doom. If your race director’s boat must act as your solo support, they can not protect the masses. This is not a solo swim; many lives, many people’s training and goals are at stake.

    Now, I vet my paddler carefully because my races and my life depend on it. We train together and travel together. My success is her success. For others who simply accept what volunteers they are offered, that is the risk you take. In my local community, I train paddlers and when people come to race the Portland Bridge Swim, I connect swimmers to experienced OWS paddlers. I believe in the team concept and if a kayaker was not important to the swim they would not be required for the race.

  • FrancoFranco Charter Member

    I think it is great you have someone you can train,travel and share your events with. I would certainly consider that more of a team effort. Not all of us have or want that type of situation. Of course it is a risk we take if we cannot bring our own paddler but there is a reasonable expectation that we are provided one who can last through the event if the event is advertised that way. In the two events I mentioned, both of mine quit. They were not scheduled shifts. It was RD's making the best of a situation which I appreciated. The notion I would quit my swim to support my assigned paddler if the RD wasn't asking me to makes no sense.

    If a Race Director and Swimmer are okay with the situation, I commend them for making it through the adversity. The Lido Key Swim was only a seven mile warm water swim that they swim along the shoreline. It looks like average time was under 3:30. I would have wanted the RD to let me finish as well.

    It sounds like your situation is perfect for you and your teammate. I respect your situation and your opinion but I am glad that Race Directors are willing to look at individual situations and make the call based on that situation as opposed to a blanket policy requiring pairs to start and finish together.

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    dpm50 said: Came upon this in FB.... no thanks!

    As a (former) free solo climber I sort of get what @munatones is trying to say, but very few rock climbing situations require piloted assistance, or permits. I am in awe of anyone who can do a multi hour swim with no outside support!

  • WarmWaterWarmWater SingaporeMember

    I was brought up a road's width off the beach and there is nothing macho about drowning I can assure you. Boat traffic is one thing but coming from an area of tidal sea, the current is your biggest fear. You have to understand the tides and currents, the underwater topography of sandbanks and channels if you're going to swim far out without safety back up. In the Irish Sea I'd play it very conservatively and swim a parallel course a few hundred metres off shore, the tides are simply too fast.

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    It has taken me a few summers to adjust to the idea of swimming alone-- I'm a lifeguard/WSI, and I know better, but I also know that people go for walks in parks alone, and really, that is what swimming is for me. I started with laps at the town beach where I could brush the sand with my fingertips if I chose, and stayed but the ropes marking the beach so boats were not an issue- although I still kept an eye out. I've done up to 13 miles at the beach that way. After I met someone with a dock a bit down from the beach, I felt ok doing laps alone from the beach to her dock, as long as it was quiet- her neighbors were careful boaters, so I didn't worry that they would run me over, but again, I kept an eye out. Without boat traffic worries, I might be tempted to use a raft as a swim buoy and tow it with a small cooler and head out, but I'm not interested in getting run over. Maybe someday, when I no longer have a child under 18. . .

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member
    edited April 21

    I've spent the past few days thinking about this. I'm very happy and relaxed with a coastal swim, however long, as long as shore is within easy reach. I carry hot feeds in a donut float and have happily done 6 hours like this. I must confess to feeling a little vulnerable and isolated this week, though, just being 300m offshore on my own on a breezy day. That must sound really daft, but for some obscure reason, it looked such a long way back to shore from the buoy. The water was 50F, so not too cold, but I find that I'm often a complete wimp if I'm out on my own offshore. I can't equate this anxious person with the one who was just mildly concerned when I lost sight of all but the antennae of my support boat in swell around the north west corner of Jersey last summer. I'm wondering if I just switch off the anxiety during long swims. Seriously weird! Does anybody else suddenly feel out of their comfort zone like this? :-S

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MAMember

    I don't put the huge time in that a lot of you do, but the most "alone" swimming I do is with someone on the beach where I start and me never more than 1/4 mile from them or 25 yards from shore. Even that I do minimally. You can minimize risk, but you can't eliminate it. For me (and my spouse), this is the right amount of risk. In the unlikely event I can't sucker someone into sitting on a slow moving kayak for a while, I'll just go to the pool.

  • Kate_AlexanderKate_Alexander Spring Lake, MichiganMember

    Where I swim 200m off shore is too far because that's where the boat traffic starts.

  • SydneDSydneD Senior Member

    Whatever your husband will not feel panicked about you doing? Or maybe that's just my family? ;)

  • ByronBoyByronBoy New Member

    Recently swam 7k without a boat but with a buddy. I figure as long as you say close to shore it's okay.

  • HaydnHaydn Member

    I posed the question 5 years ago. Maybe the question needs editing, Lets try this. Is 1000 miles too far?

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember
    edited June 18

    Haydn said: I posed the question 5 years ago. Maybe the question needs editing, Lets try this. Is 1000 miles too far?

    Finding a crew for 32 miles was hard enough. I think for 1000, you would pretty much have to be willing to go it alone. ;) Where?? I'd want to see some sort of landscape. Sea in all directions may be cool, but I don't think I would need to make a day of it. . . or more.

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