Patricia Sener - New York Bight
Sandy Hook to Atlantic Beach
11 hours, 5 minutes on July 22, 2015
Observed and documented by Lori King
- Support Personnel
- Swim Data
- Observer Log
- Navigation Notes
- Photo Gallery
- Supporting Data
- Name: Patricia Sener
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 51
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Brooklyn, New York
- Bodies of Water: Western New York Bight, Atlantic Ocean
- Description: Sandy Hook, New Jersey to Atlantic Beach, Long Island, New York
- Category: one-way, non-stop
- Start: North Beach, Sandy Hook, NJ. 40.470079 N, 73.994938 W.
- Finish: Silver Point Park, Atlantic Beach, NY. 40.584056 N, 73.747140 W.
- Route Distance: 16.1 statute miles
- Observer: Lori King
- Pilot: Robert Hayes
- Vessel: Karen II (Tamaqua Marina, Gerritson Beach)
- Kayaker: Margrethe Hørlyck-Romanovsky
- Navigator: Rondi Davies
- Feeding: Alan Morrison
- Social media: Lukas Wolf
MSF Standard - no exceptions or modifications.
- Start: July 22, 2015, 11:03 (Eastern Daylight)
- Finish: July 22, 2015, 22:08
- Elapsed: 11 hours, 5 minutes
- Stroke Rate: 54 to 61 SPM
- Nutrition: Carbo Pro and Ultima Replenisher, every 30 minutes
- Historical Claims: First swim across the New York Bight
Summary of Conditions
- Sea Temp: Mostly 68F to 70F, drop to 64F at finish
- Air Temp: 73F to 86F
- Wind Speed: 10-17 mph
Full track not available due to malfunction of GPS device.
Compiled by Lori King
Download original (PDF)
Compiled by Rondi Davies
New York Bight Swim — Sandy Hook to Atlantic Beach
Swimmer: Patricia Sener
Route Distance: 16.1 statute miles, 14 nautical miles
Tides at Sandy Hook: HT 1:12 PM 4.59 ft; LT 7:05 PM 1.16 ft; HT 1:12 AM 4.34 ft
Tide differential: 3.43 feet
Tides and Currents
A tide with a very small differential was selected for this swim in order to reduce the impact of the strong ebb and flood currents that move in and out of the New York Harbor and which the swimmer had to cross. The small tide also placed lesser importance on positioning the swimmer at ideal locations on the course with respect to avoiding the strong currents. At the same time, using the current assist would have made for a faster, easier swim.
Patricia’s swim started on a flood current at North Beach Sandy Hook, 2 hours and 15 minutes before high tide. The swimmer used the last two hours of the flood current to swim northeast across the Sandy Hook Channel, and to ideally position herself about 2 miles south of Breezy Point in anticipation of the ebb current out of the Narrows and Raritan Bay.
Studies of the Stevens Institute NYHOPS current model from a similar tide (June 23, 2015) suggested there would be significant current assist for the swimmer from the ebb out of the Raritan Bay (which has a heading of about 60˚), once the swimmer was in the vicinity of the Ambrose Channel; ideally this was to take the swimmer in the exact direction she wanted to go and provide up to a 1.5 knot current assist. Thus the challenge of modeling the swim was to position the swimmer near the Ambrose Channel when the ebb current started. If the ebb had started earlier, or the swimmer had arrived at the Ambrose later in the tidal cycle, she would be pushed southwest and into the middle of the lower bay.
At about 3PM, a dominant current out of the Narrows pushed the swimmer east and offshore. The 10-12 knot northwesterly wind also contributed to the offshore push. The current maps show the swimmers pace increased to 2.5 mph for the next three hours indicating a generous current assist. However, the paddler had to angle the swimmer northward to prevent too much of and easterly/offshore push. The small tide proved the ebb current assist out of the Raritan Bay was less than anticipated.
For the last 90 minutes of the swim an offshore current of 0.25 knots slowed the swimmers approach to Atlantic Beach. The combined wind and current direction created coastal upwelling (we assume, though it’s shallow water) which caused the water temperature to drop by four degrees Fahrenheit.
It was assumed the swimmer would hold a pace of 1.7mph. This was calculated from her time for Stage 4 of 8 Bridges two months earlier. For the first two hours a strong pace was held. After this the pace dropped off due to swimmer fatigue. In retrospect the pace calculations should have accounted for impact of the wind, chop and cross currents on the swimmer.
The kayaker had a compass mounted on her kayak for navigation. Calculations suggested the kayaker would need to hold a heading of 80˚ to magnetic north for the majority of the swim. She would move the swimmer in an easterly direction while the NW-SE currents in and out of the harbor would move her left and right. However, since the currents were weaker than expected and the wind played a greater role than expected, we had to adjust the kayakers heading immediately. She started at 70˚ and we slowly adjusted this to 30˚ throughout the first nine hours of the swim. Once we were about four miles from our destination, the heading was changed (to about 50-60˚) so we were in a direct line with the finish point.
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Video by Lukas Wolf
NOAA Buoy Data - Station SDHN4 (Sandy Hook)
- NJ.com - Woman makes ‘unprecedented’ swim from N.J. to N.Y.
- Patch - Brooklyn Woman Dives Into Sandy Hook Bay for ‘Unprecedented’ Swim Across New York Bight
- NBC New York - Brooklyn Woman Completes Historic Swim Across New York Harbor in Support of Clean Ocean
NBC-NY local news segment
Interview with H2Open Magazine
Protecting the whales of New York
|by Jonathan Cowie
|Sunday 09 August 2015
Last August, Patricia Sener was amazed to watch humpback whales feeding and playing within sight of the Empire State Building. But ten years ago even the idea of whale watching cruises was laughable – the New York Bight had been New York’s dumping ground for hundreds of years. It was blighted by spoils, sewage, acid waste, wood incineration, construction rubble, incinerated toxic waste and industrial waste. That all changed a decade ago when organisations such as Clean Ocean Action succeeded in getting marine dumping banned from the Bight. Although still threatened by pollution and the contamination after-effects of centuries of waste, the New York Bight today is host to not only increasing numbers of humpback whales, but a rich and varied marine life.
Inspired by the sight of whales frolicking so close to New York City, Patricia committed herself to an historic and unprecedented swim to publicise the regeneration of the Bight and spread the message that good conservation policies can make an enormous positive impact on marine life in a short period of time. The 17-mile crossing between Sandy Hook and Long Island across the New York Bight had never been attempted before. It also looked like a pretty amazing place to swim.
Fortunately, Patricia is an experienced marathon swimmer. A founder member and executive director of Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers (CIBBOWS), she also made the first double crossing of the Beagle Channel from Chile to Argentina and back in 2010 – 38F [3 degrees Celsius], 3 miles, with two other CIBBOWSsers.
On 22 July Patricia entered the water at North Beach at Sandy Hook. More than 11 hours later she reached Long Island. We spoke to Patricia after her successful crossing of the New York Bight.
I not only wanted to swim because it was beautiful, clean, and wild, but I wanted everyone to know how special this area is, and why everyone should be invested in protecting it. Beyond that, I also recognised that we have our own ‘English Channel’ right in our backyard! This is wild, open ocean – there are whales, dolphin, porpoises, turtles, critters of all kinds! You’ve got tankers to tangle with, tricky currents, water conditions of all sorts. This is exactly the kind of swim my community travels all over the world to do – why not do it in our own backyard?
We crossed three shipping channels, including the Ambrose, the busiest shipping channel in the US (if not the world). I had to tread to wait for a tug towing a huge barge before I could cross, and then hustle before the next one came. We have had some sightings of Portuguese man o’ wars, along with our regular red lion jellyfish. Also, the area is suspected to be a breeding ground for great whites. There are large fish of all kinds coming to feed in the Bight.
Rondi (my navigator) and I had been looking at current models for about 10 months, but she found a favourable current rather last minute. I had just finished training for Stage 4 of 8 Bridges in mid June – 15 miles, so I felt fairly comfortable in taking this on. I do think on some level years of marathon swimming has a cumulative effect on your body. In hindsight, I wish I had more opportunity to prepare, I think I could have been faster. I reached out to Clean Ocean Action, put together a crew a fundraiser for their ‘Clean Ocean Zone’ initiative in about a week. Luckily, because I am the executive director of CIBBOWS, I have a good track record with the Coast Guard, and they fast-tracked my permit and supported my swim.
About two hours into the swim I began to taste the baitfish. I popped my head up to ask the captain, and he confirmed we were in whale country. Soon after my crew spotted a whale breaching about 400 yards from the boat. It was nice he came by to wish me well on my journey! At one point my kayaker turned to me and said “thank you Patricia for bringing me out here – it’s truly amazing”. Which is exactly how I felt when I first voyaged here a year ago.
The swim took a lot longer than expected. We had projected seven hours, but I ended up swimming into the night, for a little over 11 hours. My longest swim to date. I was in a massive amount of shoulder pain at the end, and I was cold. By the time we finished and got back to the dock, it was past midnight.
The water was very rough, there was a lot of wave and chop, and my shoulders got pretty beat up. But I had so many fans and supporters following my swim, I just could not quit. I didn’t realise I was at the beach until I got hit by a wave and my kayaker gently told me to stand up. I was never so happy to feel dry sand beneath my feet! I am actually extremely proud of myself and this swim. It’s incredibly powerful to be able to persevere past what you thought was possible. I am so grateful I was able to do what I set out to do – bring attention to the importance of keeping our backyard ocean clean.
My next marathon? I think every marathoner hates that question. Ask me when the pain in my shoulders subsides and I start slacking off at the pool. Then it will be time to plan the next big adventure.