MSF Documented Swim

Tiffany McQueen
Around Coronado Island
10.5 miles
7 hours, 30 minutes
December 7, 2016
Documenter: Dan Simonelli

Swimmer

Support Personnel

  • John McQueen – Documenter
  • Dan Simonelli – Navigator, Observer
  • Cathy Harrington – Feeder, Observer

Swim Parameters

Route Definition

Counter-clockwise circumnavigation of Coronado Island, harbor side to ocean side.

  • Start: Glorietta Bay Beach.
  • Finish: Gator Beach (terminus of Avenida Lunar).
  • Certified Route Distance: 10.5 miles

Route waypoints (CSV)

Rules

MSF standard Rules of Marathon Swimming.

Logistics

Support Plan

Three kayakers in three kayaks – one to navigate by looking out for hazards and observe facts of the swim (Dan Simonelli), one to document by recording GPS waypoints and taking notes on swim log (John McQueen), and one to tend to the swimmer with feeds and observe (Cathy Harrington).

Safety Plan

Begin at high tide, which was forecast at 0336 HRS to take advantage of current, light wind, and light boat traffic in the San Diego Bay. All three kayakers had cell phones, and two had marine radios. Kayaker John McQueen carried both his and the swimmer’s military ID cards in the event that the swimmer needed to exit the water on the military base (Naval Base San Diego) before the planned swim finish.

Feed Plan

Maxim Carbo Loader 2 hours prior to swim start. Maxim Hypotonic Solution (orange flavor) mixed in warm water at 30-minute intervals. Alternatively Chocolate Gu gels and warm water at 30-minute intervals, if the orange flavor did not agree with the swimmer in salt water (which it did not), with warm water from an insulated Thermos feed bottle. The kayaker would switch from red lens to white lens on headlamp, or whistle with arm signals after sunrise, to alert the swimmer that it was time to feed. The Thermos feed bottle and Gu gel was attached to a line, which was attached to the kayak, and thrown to the swimmer to ensure that the swimmer did not touch the kayak. The swimmer would tread water during feeds.

Swim Data

  • Start: December 7, 2016, 03:22 (Pacific Standard).
  • Finish: December 7, 2016, 10:52.
  • Elapsed: 7 hours, 30 minutes.

Summary of Conditions

  • Water Temp: 64F at start in San Diego Bay to 60F at finish in Pacific Ocean
  • Air Temp: 55F – 60F
  • Wind Speed: 2 mph to 10 mph (Avg 4.7 mph)

GPS Track

Track also available at the MSF Tracks database.

Tides

Observer Log

Download PDF (1.9 MB)

Swimmer Narrative

I met with observers and support kayaker at 02:00AM at the Glorietta Bay Boat Launch, 2201 Rendova Rd, Coronado, CA.


0227 HRS at Glorietta Bay Boat Launch looking across San Diego Bay toward Coronado Bridge

After offloading the kayaks from vehicles, prepping the kayaks with lights and American Flags, and greasing up my body with sunscreen followed by Aquaphor and lanolin on my underarms, the sides of my neck, the inner aspect of my upper arms, and under/around the edges of my swimsuit for the swim, I started the swim at 03:22 from the sandy beach area at Glorietta Bay Park, during the slack just before the scheduled high tide at 03:36AM. Right away I tripped on a big rock that was in the water as I waded out into the Bay to start the swim. Winds were light, water was smooth as glass, and swimming under the lights of Coronado Bridge, Downtown San Diego, and Coronado Island was magical.

Approaching Coronado Bridge just after swim start

I started with liquid feed (Maxim Hypotonic orange flavor) on my first feed under the Coronado Bridge because my toes were a bit crampy at the beginning of the swim, but salt water and orange flavor don’t agree with me, so I switched to chocolate Gu and warm water for the remainder of my feeds.


Around mile 1 after crossing under Coronado Bridge and after 1st feed

I was having a great time swimming under the lights. The water was comfortable and the conditions were perfect.


0437 HRS Red Xmas Tree Downtown San Diego

0503 HRS Passing the USS Midway

The water remained smooth as glass until just after sunrise, and I felt like there was a slight tailwind most of the way before we rounded the curve past the USS Midway and sunrise because the large American flag hoisted from the mast of kayaker John’s Hobie Outback was frequently oriented in the direction of travel for the first 3-4 hours. I had no further issues with crampy toes after the first Maxim feed, and the rest of the feeds were uneventful, except for the one that hit me in the face on my left goggle lens around 05:42AM.

Sunrise

Apparently we were passed by some Navy patrol boats around the time of my 06:23 ½ banana breakfast feed, but I was oblivious to this except for the large wake that I remember swimming through.

0632 HRS Just after Sunrise

Just after sunrise the kayakers noted a pod of dolphins swimming by, again, I was oblivious to this because I couldn’t see them from my level in the water.

0654 feed

Sometime after 0700HRS with NAS Coronado in the background

The kayakers observed a moment of silence at 07:55AM in remembrance of the 2,000 American Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen who lost their lives and 1,00 more who were wounded in the attack that led to the United States’ entry into WWII. I thought about how those sailors were caught off guard on a Sunday morning when the bombs fell from the sky. I thought about how there was no escape from the burning ships because even the water surrounding them was on fire from the spilled fuel. I thought about how I was sharing the same ocean with these brave souls who gave the ultimate sacrifice on this day that lives in infamy, and how Naval Base San Diego, Naval Air Station Coronado, and Naval Amphibious Base Coronado support the U.S. Pacific Fleet that will hopefully never again experience such an attack.

0800 HRS Point Loma in the background as we approach the Ocean and the wind started to pick up

The wind picked up and the water became choppy as we approached the shoal. Dan Simonelli paddled ahead to find a safe area for us all to cross the rocky shoal. Crossing the shoal was fun, like a little rapid that sucked me right across into the ocean side of the swim.

0900 HRS Ocean with container ship in the distance

The water was quite choppier on the ocean side of the shoal, and it was windier, as I could tell by the flag that was hoisted from the mast of kayaker John’s Hobie Outback.

0925 HRS Coronado Beach and Downtown San Diego in the background

At one point I doubted the end of the swim because kayaker Dan Simonelli declared “To Hotel Del!” as I crossed the shoal for the final leg of the swim. It confused me because our agreed swim finish was actually much further down the beach, at Avenida Lunar between the last tall building of Coronado Shores and the boundary NAB Coronado. I daydreamed that maybe we were going to finish at Hotel Del Coronado and they would let me sit in their hot tub and give me free drinks for swimming around the island. I just put my head down and continued swimming as I knew I would eventually reach the sand.

0947 HRS Swimmer sighting for finish with Hotel Del Coronado and Coronado Shores in the distance

1000 HRS Hotel Del Coronado and Coronado Shores in the background (getting closer)

1022 HRS Kayaker John making entry onto swim log

As we approached the last tall building, the kayakers prepared for a rough landing in the surf. I swam ahead and exited the water and raised my hands once I cleared the water to signal the end of the swim at 10:52 AM.

1052 HRS Swim Finish at the end of Avenida Lunar between Coronado Shores and NAB San Diego

I watched with worry as I looked back out in the water and saw two upside-down kayaks. The first upside-down kayak was the blue one, which had previously been occupied by Cathy Harrington. I waded out to retrieve the unattended capsized kayak and was relieved to see Cathy wading through the surf with her paddle and a huge smile on her face. Dan Simonelli then furiously paddled through the surf and made a successful landing, and I asked him to please go help John, who’s Hobie is considerably heavier and was upside down and he was in the water trying to make his way in through the surf. Dan and John made it to shore with the Hobie, but they had drifted down past the boundary of the Naval Amphibious Base, and the enlisted guard came out and asked me for my military ID. I assured him that my husband had our military IDs in his pocket, but he was still in the water trying to land the kayak after he and my two friends had just escorted me as I had just swam around the entire island. When John came ashore with Dan and the Hobie, he produced his wallet and handed it to the guard with our ID cards. He took one look at my ID and swiftly rendered me a sharp salute, which I proudly returned as I stood there shivering in my swimsuit after the most enjoyable 7 ½ hour swim possible.

R to L: Cathy Harrington, Dan Simonelli, Tiffany McQueen, John McQueen

Download full report in PDF format.