MSF Documented Swim
St Thomas-St John
January 18, 2014
4 hours, 53 minutes
Observed & Documented by Daniel Basick
- Name: Anthony McCarley
- Age on swim date: 54
- Nationality: USA
- Resides: Berwyn, Pennsylvania
- Route Description: Three-way crossing of Pillsbury Sound, U.S. Virgin Islands: St. John to St. Thomas to St. John.
- Body of Water: Caribbean Sea
- Date: January 18, 2014
- Start: 7:46:36 am (local)
- Finish: 12:40:12 pm
- Swim Duration: 4 hr 53 min 36 sec
- Historical Claims:
- First known one-way, two-way, and three-way crossing between St. Thomas and St. John.
- First marathon swim completed under MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming.
- Start: Lind Point, St. John, US Virgin Islands (18.33667 N, -64.79885 W).
- Finish: Cabrita Point, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands (18.32484 N, -64.83204 W).
- One way distance: 3.75 km (2.33 miles) - shortest line between Lind Point and Cabrita Point.
- Total swim distance: 11.25 km (7 miles)
- Pilot: Nathaniel McGowen
- Vessel: Reel Deal
- Observer: Daniel Basick
- Crew: Richard Biffle
Rules and Conduct
MSF Standard equipment and swim rules.
Feeding: Half-hourly, water + GU gel.
Swimmer Statement on Swim Conduct
On January 18, 2014, following the Rules and the Spirit of MSF, I successfully swam three legs (a Triple) between St John and St Thomas (USVI). I was boated over from St Thomas to St John. The swim began on St John above the water line. Swam to St Thomas, cleared the high water line. Swam to St John, cleared the high water line. Swam to St Thomas, cleared the high water line, to complete the swim. All completed under my own power, without being touched and the only man-made items I touched were my water bottle and GU packages.
Swimmer Narrative Report
This swim started in January 2013. I was a companion on a business trip to St Thomas with my wife. I could see St John from the hotel and thought, “I should swim that”. Originally it was just something for me – a little one-way pleasure swim between islands. I tried to hire the hotel boat guys to be escorts. But they wanted nothing to do with it and they said I couldn’t do it – that no one could, especially someone my age - that I was stupid to think I could do it. Yes, they were rude about it. So this year (2014), I made arrangements to be escorted by a captain from outside the hotel. The new plan was to start and finish a two-way right in front of the hotel boat guys’ business. (Yes, I do have a long-burning fuse.) Then the swim morphed to back into something positive – an opportunity to show my support for the establishment of marathon swimming Rules. To satisfy the distance requirements, the morphing also turned the swim into a Triple starting on St John.
According to everyone I have spoken with over the last two years, including the three captains involved with this swim, no one has ever swam even a one-way between these islands. Much less a Triple. (I even spoke with someone who is sixth generation St Thomas and not only had he never heard of anyone doing this swim, he thought even doing it in a kayak was nuts.) So, there was a lot of learning going on. But the captain, did a great job: Got me to shore alive. Also, because he understood this was the first swim under MSF Rules, he took his extra tasks seriously. He knew having special “expertise” was important for an official Observer, so he had two other captains on the boat. One as the Observer, who did not assist the swim in any way. One who functioned as my immediate support – did the feeds, etc. I met all three of them for the first time that morning and had no other support with me.
I got fooled in the first leg – St John to St Thomas. Smoked out the lap in 1 hour and 10 minutes. It was a great feeling seeing the bottom come up to me at shore. It felt good and I thought to myself that the swim was going to be easier than I thought. Then Mother Nature called me a smart-ass and smacked my ass. I knew the wind was blowing toward St Thomas, so expected the second leg to be harder – but we all expected the third leg to be easy again. Instead the legs went from easy, to hard, to really, really hard. The second lap took about double the time. The winds were bad and the current was working against us. For a long time, I was stuck 1,000 meters from shore. A little tired, but thinking the worse was behind me, I started the third leg with a relaxed optimism. About 500 meters off shore, the currents shifted against us. And it was all uphill from there. Swells picked up. Boat traffic picked up. Wind picked up. And the currents got stronger. I was only about 15 meters from the boat, but there were many times that the swells were so big that I completely lost sight of even the antenna of the 35 foot escort boat. I will admit that the third leg pushed me very close to my limits that day.
In case you are curious about the kite-boarder in the video… at the time I wasn’t happy with him being so close. There were several times during the third leg of the swim when his kite was directly above me, which made me feel unsafe. It turned out that he is good friends with the captain. We were stuck in one spot, not making progress. The kite-boarder was actually trying to get as close to the boat as possible in an effort to help the swim. Apparently he was able to get close enough to suggest a different route, which helped navigate the currents at a swimmer’s speed. This was part of the learning going on during the swim… and the reason it took about two hours longer than it should have and the reason we veered to the south on the third leg… and why it was an adventure!
We couldn’t get to the rock beach we used on the first leg, so I had to scramble over sharp(ish), urchin covered boulders to finish… and instead of a pebble as a trophy, I got an urchin spine in one of my toes!
Statement from Captain McGowan re: route on Leg #3
On the third leg the current picked up to a severe strength, and the only way to physically get across was to head more south and then once out of the current belt resume course back to the original heading.
Statement from swimmer re: GPS tracking gap on Leg #3
Please note that each leg of the swim was only 2.33 miles. We are all used to looking at GPS swim tracks of 20+ miles – almost ten times the size. Because of the scale, the normal SPOT hiccups and current adjustments were much more pronounced on this swim than tracking we normally see. The coordinates were recorded by the Observer and the SPOT device.
Handwritten Observer Log
- 1.6 MB PDF - download here
Nearest NOAA buoy: Station LAMV3 - 9751381 - Lameshur Bay, St John, VI
Air & Sea Temperatures