Evan Morrison - Round-Trip Angel Island

Counter-clockwise loop around Angel Island from Aquatic Park

16.1 km (10.0 miles)

5 hours, 57 minutes on 12 July 2015

Observed and documented by Cathy Delneo

Contents

Swimmer

  • Name: Evan Morrison
  • Gender: male
  • Age on swim date: 35
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: San Francisco, California

Support Personnel

  • Paul Saab - pilot
  • Cathy Delneo - observer, feeding

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


Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Textile jammer-style swimsuit, silicone cap, Swedish goggles, earplugs.

Route Definition

Start @ SERC/Dolphin beach in Aquatic Park, exit through Aquatic Park opening, counter-clockwise around Angel Island, return to SERC/Dolphin beach via Aquatic Park opening.

  • Body of Water: San Francisco Bay
  • Route Type: island loop
  • Start & Finish Location: South End / Dolphin Club beach, San Francisco (37.808227, -122.421470)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 16.1 km (10.0 miles)

History

See LongSwimsDB: Round-Trip Angel Island


Swim Data

  • Start: 12 July 2015, 04:49 (America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
  • Finish: 12 July 2015, 10:46
  • Elapsed: 5 hours, 57 minutes, 44 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 61 63
Air Temp (F) 61 64
Wind (Beaufort) F1 F4

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 5 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Maxim (plain maltodextrin) flavored with Vitamin Water, 8-10 oz every 30 minutes.


Observer Log

Download PDF

by Cathy Delneo

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. Stayed parallel to the swimmer as he crossed from the opening of Aquatic Park in SF to the west side of Alcatraz. Swimmer made good progress, very little communication was needed.

Sighted on red and green buoys marking the opening of Raccoon Straight, left of Angel Island.

Inbound vessel passed behind us in incoming channel.

5:35 am – 64 strokes per minute

Wind from the west, slight texture on the water. Big dark cloud over Sausalito.

Outbound vessels (Northern Practise and another) headed for deep water channel (between Alcatraz and Angel Island). Vessel Traffic (VT) said they were likely to turn near our anticipated location south-west of Angel Island as they headed for the GG Bridge. Adjustment to course might be necessary.

5:40 am – Swimmer’s goggle straps came loose, he stopped briefly to adjust them

5:45 am – 2nd feed, remaining ½ of green bottle

VT indicated that Northern Practise outbound at the Delta-Echo span of the Bay Bridge. Paul called VT on radio to find out their course. Learned we would likely be in the vessel’s path. Tried to reach Northern Practise repeatedly with no luck.

Told swimmer to head in toward Angel Island rather than to keep westerly course as planned. Intended to get swimmer out of shipping channel despite likely addition to time in water. Told swimmer to pick up the pace, needed to clear deep water channel.

5:57 am – 66 strokes per minute

6:06 am – Northern Practise visible and pointed at our zodiac, though about 10 minutes east of our location. Paul tried again to raise captain on the radio, with success. Told captain of our location, that we would pull swimmer if necessary. Northern Practise turned its course slightly, passed behind us at a safe distance.

6:07 am – Paul spotted a jumping dolphin/porpoise.

6:14 am – Slight chop

6:15 am – 3rd Feed: blue bottle, drank about ½

Pilot instructed swimmer to sight on the white building to the left of Harding Rock

6:20 am – 62 strokes/minute

6:28 am – Positioned boat to left of swimmer. Communicated need for change due to high number of fishing boats in the Raccoon Straits.

6:32 am – Pilot put boat in neutral to check current speed. GPS app on iPad indicated the boat was moving 2.4 mph in neutral in Raccoon Straits.

6:45 am – 4th Feed: ½ pink bottle

6:47 am – A honey bee landed on swimmer’s parka. Pilot freaked out. I refused to hurt the honey bee. Blew gently on its wings, it flew away. Moving 1.4 mph in neutral at that point.

6:54 am – sea lion friend poked up head in front of swimmer, then in back of swimmer

6:58 am – 62 strokes per minute

Water conditions calm with tiny ripples

Boat still making forward progress in neutral, but slower now, just about .3 mph

7:03 am – Talked with VT and checked in a little before Pt. Simpton

7:06 am – VT said inbound tug Pacific was going in the deep water channel.

7:07 am – boat moving .00-.03 mph in neutral

7:15 am – 5th Feed: protein drink (entire bottle) and 2 Advil

Swimmer asked for dark pair of goggles, made switch.

Found thermometer in dry bag: 63 degrees F on east side of Angel Island

Water texture: smooth in the lee of Angel Island with tiny ripples

7:42 am – 6th Feed: pink bottle, about ½ of it (it had been refilled) just before Pt. Blunt

Vessel (Yasa Golden Phosphorus) passed Pt. Blunt in the deep water channel as swimmer fed

7:51 am – encountered chop as soon as we left the lee of the island.

Sighting on the west side of Alcatraz to get to the east side

7:55 am – chop lessened after a few minutes, seemed like it had been caused by currents meeting on two sides of Angel Island.

7:55 & 7:58 am – Dolphin/porpoise spotted

8:05 am – Realized we were being pushed east far harder than we had realized. Sighted on Palace of Fine Arts to get back on course

8:10 am – seal floated by, seemed to be playing with a fish as he ate it

8:15 am - 7th Feed: 1/3 green bottle

8:18 am – 60 strokes per minute

Wind was strong and was pushing the zodiac toward the swimmer, so the boat fell back slightly from the swimmer, still able to be seen easily when he breathed.

8:34 am – Tiny white caps, west wind. Pilot and observer added coats and blankets to keep warm.

8:39 am – 8th Feed: 1/3 green bottle

Small chop

8:47 am – 60 strokes per minute

9:00 am – 9th Feed: ½ bottle

Water temperature: 61 degrees F

9:07 am – 58 strokes per minute

9:10 am – Sea lion spotted behind swimmer

Due to the strong Flood current, the swimmer was carried further east each time he stopped (to feed or discuss course) after leaving the shadow of Angel Island. Pilot noted that to keep a straight line course as originally planned, the swimmer and pilot would likely have needed to sight on the north tower of the GG Bridge or even Sausalito. (The pilot noted that previous day’s flood had also been very strong, he had piloted a SERC club Alcatraz swim that day.) Planned to encourage the swimmer to swim straight at the island when parallel with the sign to take advantage of the decreased current in that spot, which is protected from the current in a floor tide.

9:16 am – Evan stopped to ask a question about the course and sighting points and quickly lost ground. Humor still high, jokingly asked, “Are we there yet?” as he began swimming again.

9:19 am

Ferry approaching island, swimmer pointed straight at Alcatraz.

9:22 am - .4 miles from Alcatraz island (per google maps)

The swimmer was making steady but slow progress toward Alcatraz during this time.

Only when the swimmer got into the lee of Alcatraz Island (almost parallel with the Ferry dock) did he begin to make good progress toward the island.

9:30 – 10th Feed: 1/3 bottle

Abeam sign, sighting on Palace of Fine Arts.

Water temperature 62 degrees F.

9:43 am – 56 strokes per minute

Paul called the Spicer, another SERC club zodiac, on the radio to find out about the current along the shore. Barry Maguire, piloting Bobby O’Malley Daley and Jeff Everett in a 6 hour qualifying swim, indicated that he couldn’t talk because he was busy, “I have to feed the animals.”

9:47 am – Barry called Paul on the radio from the Bravo tower of the Bay Bridge, reported strong flooding there. No end to the flood in sight.

10:01 am – 11th Feed and the well has nearly run dry. Combining dregs of bottles to make up next feed, and supplementing swimmer’s feed with observer’s favorite flavor of Gatorade, Lemon Ice. Great sacrifices were made.

Pilot and observer noticed a giant shadow on the water and became concerned. Soon realized it was a Geico banner being dragged by a tiny plane, which had been inaudible initially. Danger averted.

10:05 am – Swimmer now heading straight for shore with intention to crab along the waterfront, where the current should be less strong. Abeam Pier 39.

10:06 am – Barry called from Spicer to say that there was an ebb on shore close to the Ferry Building, west of our location. Encouraged swimmer to head in directly.

10:07 am – 58 strokes per minute

10:22 am – Swimmer close to the USS Pampanito submarine, which is parked between Pier 39 and the USS Jeremiah O’Brien (J.O.B.)

10:25 am – Final Feed at the bow of the J.O.B.

Wind strong in our faces

10:28 am – Swimmer at the stern of the J.O.B. heading across to the creakers (east end of Aquatic Park Breakwater)

10:30 am – Swimmer at the creakers

Water temp 62 degrees F.

Swimmer at Opening: total time elapsed in swim 5 hours 51 minutes

56 strokes per minute abeam the Balclutha

Swimmer on the beach – 5: 57’44”70 stood on beach, cleared water

Swim complete.


Narrative

by Evan Morrison

After documenting Cathy’s RTAI swim in August 2013, I became fascinated with the route’s technical challenges and aesthetic charms, and resolved to plan and execute my own attempt. Cathy had been the first woman to complete the swim, and only the fifth overall since 1995 - so whatever wisdom existed about planning a RTAI swim was limited, and certainly not written down anywhere. Cathy had learned and iterated over a couple years and several unsuccessful attempts. Mike Tzortzis (RTAI #3, 2009) helped plan the tide and timing for Cathy’s 2013 swim; and this in turn provided the model for my own planning.

Due to scheduling limitations, I unfortunately didn’t have the luxury of choosing an “ideal” RTAI tide. I was using this as a last-long-swim-before-taper for a different swim project in early-mid August, so basically it came down to finding a weekend day in mid-July that my pilot (Paul), crew (Cathy), and boat (SERC inflatable “Big Red”) were all available. And that day was Sunday, July 12th — tides be damned.

0117 3.8E | 0552 slack | 0825 2.6F | 1126 slack | 1406 2.4E

On an ideal RTAI tide, the numbers next to the ‘E’ and ‘F’ (representing knots of ebb or flood current) are all less than 1.5 during the swim window. A good tide - less than 2.0. Above 2.0, and especially above 2.5, it becomes much, much tougher to cut across the shipping channels without getting swept far east or west of the target.

So, this was not the best day for a RTAI swim - and definitely not a day to challenge Hendrik Meerman’s course record (4:45) - but it was what was available to me in the timeframe I had.


Cathy, Paul, and I met at SERC at 4:00am for a planned 5:15 jump. We set up Big Red, the largest of the SERC inflatables, and Paul called in to check on the vessel traffic situation. They informed us of a large inbound freighter scheduled to traverse the south lane at 5:30, which would put us right in their path between Aquatic Park and Alcatraz. So, we had no choice but to jump earlier and get out of the shipping channel before the freighter came charging through.

Shipping traffic is just one of those uncontrollable variables - like fog, heavy wind, or currents that don’t do what they’re predicted to do - that make the RTAI such a challenge to pull off. Several factors must align in your favor.

I quickly suited-, greased-, & sunscreened-up, and entered the water between the SERC and Dolphin docks at 4:49am. I knew I would pay for the early jump on the back-end, and would be crabbing across max flood. And that’s exactly what happened. Training swim!

In the meantime I made quick work of the outbound leg, flying through the Raccoon Strait and reaching Point Blunt in 3 hours flat (ahead of Hendrik’s record pace). The water was smooth and I felt light and relatively effortless. The twilight, dawn, and island scenery were just as beautiful as I remembered from Cathy’s swim.

The return trip was a grind, as expected. The flood smashed us as soon as we entered the deepwater channel from Pt Blunt, and my inconsistent training began to reveal itself. For about an hour (9-10 am) I swam nearly parallel to the city-front, to counteract the flood. The tidal shadow of Alcatraz finally allowed me to make some lateral progress.

I reached the city-front around 10:20am, near the USS Pampanito submarine. From there it was another 15 minutes along the J.O.B., past the Creakers and along the outside of the Hyde Street seawall, and to the Aquatic Park Opening. Around the corner, into the Cove, a final cool-down lap to the beach, and I was done at 10:46.

It was a great swim, challenging and beautiful, and fulfilled its training purpose. Perhaps I’ll try again someday on a good sub-1.5 tide and see what happens. For now I’m grateful for the success - never a given on the RTAI. Of the five swimmers who preceded me on this route, I’m the first to finish on the first try - benefit of standing on the shoulders of giants!


Photos

Click to enlarge.


Video

Evan Morrison - Round-Trip Angel Island from MSF on Vimeo.


Weather Data

Via NOAA Station FTPC1 - Fort Point, San Francisco, CA

Water Temperature

wtmp

Air Temperature

atmp

Wind Speed

(gust = dotted line)

wspd