Cameron Bellamy - Around Barbados
Counter-clockwise circumnavigation of Barbados Island, from Carlisle Bay
90 km (55.9 miles)
40 hours, 46 minutes on 11-13 November 2018
Observed and documented by Alison Pile
First circumnavigation swim of Barbados
- Name: Cameron Bellamy
- Gender: male
- Age on swim date: 36
- Nationality: South Africa
- Resides: San Francisco, California, United States
Start (Carlisle Bay) to Oistins Pier.
- Allan Banfield - piloting High Hopes
- Samantha Clark - observer
- Chris Sikkens - observer, kayaker
- Karen Turner - food support
- Jamal Bennet - medic
Oistins Pier to Consett Bay
- Allan Banfield - piloting High Hopes
- Alison Pile - observer
- Jonathan Pile - observer, kayaker
- Cary Banfield - food support, kayaker
- Kristina Evelyn - food support
- Jamal Bennet - medic
Oistins Pier to Consett Bay.
- Allan Bradshaw - piloting Both Worlds
- Chris O’Neil - pilot support
Purpose: provide navigational support to High Hopes throughout leg 2 which involved navigating the dangerous South East coast, notably around the East Point (also known as Ragged Point), where the area contains shallow reefs. The pilot, Allan Bradshaw, is the most experienced pilot for navigating these waters.
Consett Bay to Arawak Cement Plant
- Allan Birkett - piloting Grey Ghost
- Dick Stoute - pilot 2
- Jimmy Clarke - observer
- Zary Evelyn - observer, kayaker
- John Mike Peterkin - observer, kayaker
- Michael Mclellan - medic, food support
- Mark Small - medic
Consett Bay to Arawak Cement Plant
- Derek Edwards - piloting Lady Joy
- Dustin Edwards - co-pilot and navigational support
Purpose: Provide navigational support to kayaker, Cameron, and Grey Ghost during the northern section of the island, known as North Point. The area contains numerous shallow reefs and when there is a northerly swell, as there was during the swim, this section is notoriously dangerous. The pilot, Derek Edwards, is an experienced pilot for navigating these waters.
Arawak Cement Plant to Finish (Carlisle Bay)
- Chris Rogers - piloting Caroline Jean
- William Tomlin - pilot 2
- Alison Pile - observer
- Amanda Garcia - observer
- John Howard - observer, kayaker
- Michael Mclellan - medic, food support, kayaker
- Kristina Evelyn - food support, kayaker
- Simon Wilkie - food support, kayaker
- Mark Small - medic
Arawak Cement Plant to Finish (Carlisle Bay)
- Jono Jones - piloting Legacy
Purpose: provide navigational/logistical support to Caroline Jean.
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: one textile swimsuit (jammer length), goggles (alternated between clear and tinted), one swim cap (alternated between two).
- Co-ratified with Barbados Amateur Swimming Association.
- Body of Water: Caribbean Sea
- Route Type: circumnavigation
- Start and Finish Location: Carlisle Bay (in front of Copacabana Beach Club) (13.091067, -59.610992)
- Minimum Route Distance: 90 km (55.9 miles)
- Start: 11 November 2018, 11:20 (Atlantic Standard Time).
- Finish: 13 November 2018, 04:06
- Elapsed: 40 hours, 46 minutes.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||82.5||84|
|Air Temp (F)||78||87|
Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
by Alison Pile
The first leg began at 11:20 am, The crew on board Allan Banfield’s boat called “High Hopes” consisted of Samantha Clarke, Karen Turner, Jamal Bennet - the medic of Medic Response, Cary and Allan Banfield. Chris Sikkens was in the kayak. Another boat - Viking, accompanied them skippered by Andrew Clarke. The official observers on this leg were Samantha Clarke and Chris Sikkens. Cam began his swim with hundreds of spectators who had just completed their swirn races. Chris Sikkens kayaked throughout the whole of leg 1 and they were accompanied by John Mike Peterkin on a paddle board until the Hilton Hotel.
Chris asked Cam how he found the conditions and he said it was a bit bumpy but he was comfortable and that the wind and gusts were not affecting him. The conditions were overcast and rainy with strong gusts of wind from the east and an adverse current. The crew were bounced around a lot and the kayaker struggled at points to keep his course. Cameron changed his swim cap for a more comfortable one during this leg. He seemed to be very comfortable in the choppy conditions and had a steady stroke count of 55 for most of the leg.. For the entire journey around Barbados, Jamal Payne of Medic Response was in an ambulance following us from shore.
The second leg began at 4pm. The sea was bumpy but no rain and the wind was not bad, there was a slight adverse current. High Hopes crew now consisted of: Kristina Evelyn, Alison Pile, Jamal Bennet, Cary Banfield and Allan Banfield. Jonathan Pile was in the kayak. The two observers were Alison Pile and Jonathan Pile. We were accompanied by Allan Bradshaw’s boat Both Worlds with Allan Bradshaw and Chris O’Neal on board.
5pm Off Atlantic Shores we were encouraged on by Richard Moorjani from his verandah and Angus Edghill from his roof.
5:30pm It got dark early and we switched to clear goggles with blinky light. There were people cheering us on from Sliver Sands area.
From 6 - 10.30 the sea was bumpy and the crew were tossed around a lot. Feeding was challenging and filling the shaker bottles was hit and miss.
8.30/9pm Jonathan switched over with Cary and Cary was in the kayak from off Gemswick. Cam requested more glow sticks be attached to the kayak so that he could see it. Alison was tied up with this and forgot to record the coordinates. This was a challenging leg for the crew but Cam seemed absolutely fine. A bit of seasickness was felt by some crew members.
11 pm When we got to the Crane the water calmed - but this was probably due to the fact that we were not off a cliff causing backwash.
11.30pm We were back to cliff and there was lots of backwash off of Sharks Hole.
12.30am Conditions deteriorated and there was talk of having to abandon. Presumably we were in the vicinity of Kittredge Point. This is the point where a previous attempt at swimming around the island was abandoned roughly ten years ago. Capt Allan Banfield conferred with Capt Allan Bradshaw and they felt that it was necessary to let Allan Bradshaw guide us all through the channel which happily he knew.
At this point Gary Banfield and Jonathan Pile switched kayaking and Jonathan went back in the kayak. Jonathan had to tell Cam to follow us. Eventually they followed us out the channel. On the way out, Cam questioned our change of direction. We told him we needed to add this extra approx one km or tun around. He said that he felt fine and it we had to add then so be it
When we reached the outside of the outside reef having gone over very large swells (which Jonathan heard breaking close to where we had been) the water calmed from dangerous to just very bumpy.
2am The larger boat Grey Ghost was then in the vicinity so it was decided that the crew from High Hopes would transfer on to that.
Around 2.30 we tackled the transfer, A dinghy came to get us and we transferred bags and Cam’s food in the cooler etc. The dinghy went back to Grey Ghost and then came back for the crew. When we were just about on, the engine on the dinghy failed and it was decided that we would have to float together (in very rough sea). Somehow that was managed - but nerves were very frayed and this was not a fun experience The dinghy had to take the Grey Ghost crew member, Alison, Kristina and Jamal, along with the non waterproof expensive medical equipment and back board. We had visions of everything ending up in the water.
At around this time, we did not remember to take the latitude and longitude - there was too much going on with the changeover. Once on the Grey Ghost, Alison and Kristina had reached a level of exhaustion, that just accomplishing the feeding felt like a lot. The recording of the coordinates slipped us and by the time we remembered it, we had missed a few. However, during this period, as with the duration of the entire swim, at least one of the official observers was in constant view of Cameron. At 3am, we ware off Skeetes Bay.
Initially the crew change over time at Consett Bay was slated for 3am. The replacement crew were at Consett waiting when Allan Bradshaw made the sensible call that the sea conditions were too dangerous for a night time trip into Consett Bay, We would have to continue until day break when he could then venture into the Consett Channel. That was not music to the ears of Alison and Kristina but safety was very high an our agenda now and we gritted our teeth and continued. It was at this point that we missed recording another longitude and latitude.
We left the tool for measuring the wind speed on High Hopes so we could no longer measure the wind speed and no other boat could give us water temperature, but that wouldn’t have changed much.
5:30am It stated to get light and everyone on the boat’s spirits started to lift. We could at last take pictures again that were not just lights in the darkness- We were busy taking these pictures and missed another recording of the coordinates.
6.30am The third shift crew arrived in Both Worlds, and John-Mike switched into the kayak replacing Jonathan and then the rest of Crew Two got on to Both Worlds. During Crew Two’s shift no-one swam with Cam. He was always fine and always accompanied by the kayak
The third leg on Grey Ghost consisted of Zary Evelyn, John-Mike Peterkin (who attempted to swim around the island roughly ten years ago and was pulled out at Kittridge Point due to deteriorating weather conditions), Jimmy Clarke, Michael McLellan (Cam’s emergency doctor friend from Australia}, Mark Small — the new medic accompanied by the crew of the cruiser Grey Ghost Including Alan Birkett and Dick Stoute. The official observers were Zary Evelyn, John-Mike Peterkin and Jimmy Clarke.
During that leg various crew members took turns to swim with him an hour on and an hour off, and kayak.
At 9am, Jimmy swam with Cam. Jimmy was the person in charge of writing down the coordinates, so while he was swimming, they did not get recorded.
The current was favourable and they kept to the straight line between Ragged Point and North Point. While far out to sea as they were, they went through anchored buoys - probably for nets or fish pots. Cam ended up near the cliffs at Cove Bay and between the ocean swell, current and backwash off of the cliffs, his progress was slowed somewhat.
However, the Edwards’ boat called Lady Joy, joined at this time and could stay close to the swimmer while the larger boat, Grey Ghost, had to stay offshore due to the shallower water and heavy swells. North Point was challenging enough and this was the area where Cam pulled out during his first attempt physically exhausted, so this must have been mentally challenging.
Zary and Jimmy took turns to swim with him around North Point with John-Mike in the kayak. The current turned in Cam’s favour after the Animal Flower Cave and crossing his former end point seemed to give him a boost of energy. The water became shallower and clearer—this was presumably the Archers Bay reefs. Off Animal Flower Cave, Cam said he thought that the mixture he was drinking had gone off. John-Mike tasted it and it tasted OK. Derek Edwards made a new batch but it still tasted bad to him — maybe after 24 plus hours of drinking this stuff his stomach was rejecting it. Between 4 and 4.30pm Crew Three ended and Crew Four started just north of the Arawak Cement Plant.
The fourth leg consisted of: Kristina Evelyn, Alison Pile, John Howard. Amanda Garcia. Michael McLellan, Mark Small. Boat skipper was Chris Rogers on William Tomlin’s boat, called Caroline Jean, with William there as well. Simon Wilkie came on and swam and kayaked. The official observers were Alison Pile, John Howard and Amanda Garcia The north west coast was slightly bumpy but that calmed down and it was a very smooth trip down the west coast. “All downhill from here” was an appropriate term.
Just before 9.30 Geoff Farmer, Mark Farmer and Ray Thornton came on board and they swam with Cam for an hour. When they were finished they got off. Lady Joy was there to facilitate this.
Jono Jones made contact to see if we wanted his company. The answer was two boats are better than one, because Lady Joy could not go the whole way. Jono in his boat called Legacy, kindly brought the crew of Caroline Jean, two Cheffette pizzas which were much appreciated.
7.30pm We were off Speightstown and the water was very smooth. John was kayaking then. Chris said that the current was going south, so in the right direction.
10pm Off Coral Reef. Chris said the current was now heading north - so not in the right direction.
11.30pm Paynes Bay. We seemed to sit off of Paynes Bay for a long time.
1.30am Off Batts Rock and Cam seemed to be struggling. We could see the lights of the harbour and were avidly encouraging him about how close we were - (but still a long way away). At this point we were watching Cam carefully to make sure that he didn’t just sink. Michael was in the kayak - he was the best person to keep an eye on him and he knew him the best. John Howard and Amanda Garcia swam for an hour with Cam off Spring Garden Highway but came out before we reached the harbor.
3pm The joy of reaching the Harbour Wall is indescribable. We warned Michael to keep him close to the wall as we did not know what the conditions would be like. Fortunately they were excellent, apart from the strong adverse current, and they managed to get up the Harbour Wall. When we rounded into Carlisle Bay and we, the crew saw the lights of the Hilton, we knew that he was going to make it. Everyone was ecstatic. This was soon tempered with having to manage Michael and Cam along Trevor’s way with rocks and the jetty. We all thought that Cam must be delirious by now, but he pulled up and asked to change caps to the Barbados one - so said, so done.
We had to go around the jetty and met them back up going along Trevor’s way. Suddenly it was time to pack up our things and think of getting off the boat and onto the shore before Cam and Michael. We scrambled to do that and just made it to shore to join the crowd which had gathered to welcome him home!
by Cameron Bellamy
In early 2017, I visited an old university friend, Adam Cripwell, who was living in Barbados at the time. I was training to swim the Molokai Channel in Hawaii and a quick training week in Barbados felt like a great opportunity to prepare myself for the long swim in warm conditions.
After doing numerous swims in the crystal-clear water, I chatted with Adam regarding swims, and the swimming community in general, on the island. When I brought up the question of whether anyone had ever swum around the island he said no, but that there had been several attempts. This really struck my interest, but it was not until a couple of months later when I was chatting to my London based swim coach, Ray Gibbs, who had a swim friend describe the around Barbados swim as the “Impossible Swim”, that my interest really spiked. With help from Adam and a number of locals from the swim community, notably John Mike Peterkin, Geoff Farmer and Alison Pile, we started the planning process. The timing would be based around me completing the rest of my Oceans 7 swims (the Cook Strait and the Tsugaru Strait) and the best weather months for swimming in Barbados (especially on the notorious East Coast, which faces the Atlantic) of August/September.
With my Cook and Tsugaru Strait swims set for March and June respectively, I started training in December 2017. I never got into great shape for the Cook Strait. Steve Walker and I did it in tandem, and we eventually managed to battle some very adverse currents to get through in just under 13 hours.
I visited Barbados again in May for a solid 2 weeks of training, swimming up to 14 hours a day. When I arrived in Japan I was feeling great. We had to beg our pilot to give us a shot at the swim as the weather for our 3 day window wasn’t looking very good. He gave us a shot on the 2nd day and we managed to get across in just over 11 hours. I was the 11th person and 1st South African to swim the Oceans 7.
I did one more training camp in Barbados of 2 and a half weeks at the end of July. I decided to take a 1.5 week taper before the swim. When I arrived back on the island mid-August we were greeted by some adverse weather. We weren’t able to make an attempt for another 2.5 weeks, so by the time we eventually set off with a good weather window it had been just under a month since my last big training swim.
I wasn’t feeling good during this first attempt. Just 4 hours into the swim, I was in a bit of pain. However, I managed to stay in the water and complete 2/3 of the swim (about 66 km in 27 hours) before I pulled myself out around the North Point. My thinking at the time was based on my current condition and feeling like I couldn’t manage another English Channel, which was the distance I had left.
A couple of days later, while chatting to a few of the locals, I decided to give the swim another go when I made a return trip in November to attend the Barbados Open Water Swim Festival. The feedback I received was that it was unlikely I would get a weather window in November, but I wanted to give it a try none the less.
I went to Australia for 3 weeks in October. I was planning on going anyway to attend an awards evening at my alma mater, so I just added a couple of weeks on to the trip, which I spent on the Gold Coast swimming 9 hours a day 5 days week. This time around I tried to minimize my taper.
I arrived back in Barbados on Tuesday November 6th. The swim festival would run till Sunday and the window would start from Monday 12th so as not to interfere with the festival. However, getting closer to the weekend, suddenly a potential weather window opened up, starting on the Sunday. On chatting to Kristina Evelyn, who runs the festival, and also miraculously managed to run the logistics for my swim, we decided to give the swim a shot straight after the last of the 10k swimmers were finishing their swim.
I had an amazing send off from a large crowd of hundreds of people on the beach. We left at 11:20am.
Leg 1: Copacabana to Oistins
Weather was due to be poor for the first 12 hours of the swim. This was definitely the case. After swimming around and out of Carlisle Bay we were greeted by a stiff headwind and adverse current. There were a few big rain squalls in the first 5 hours, I recently heard that Bridgetown actually flooded during this time. Swimming through the squalls made me consider that we had made a big mistake leaving when we did, in the back of mind I told myself that the conditions would improve, especially into the next day, and that I simply needed to crunch out this difficult portion of the swim. I remember after 3 hours looking around to see how far we had gone, I saw the Hilton Hotel (close to where the start of the swim was) still very close.
I managed to get into a good rhythm very early on, breathing every 4th stroke at a rate of around 55 strokes per minute. Whereas after 4 hours in the previous attempt I was feeling poor, I now felt like I could swim forever. We got to Oistins for the 1st crew change after around 5 hours, an hour slower than expected.
Leg 2: Oistins to Consett Bay
Getting to the light house, just off the South Point, seemed to take forever, but we eventually rounded the corner and onto the notorious South East coast, where all 3 of the previous attempts before my first had failed. The current in the section is strongly adverse and with a big swell, as there was today, waves break on the numerous reefs and also against the coastal cliffs causing substantial backwash.
At various times in this section, I looked over to the support boats to see them tilting dangerously up to 60 degrees. I noted to myself how happy I was to be in the water and not in a boat. In light of the current, swell and backwash I was maintaining my rhythm really well, still at 55 strokes a minute and breathing every 4th stroke.
The sun went down, and I started enjoying the peacefulness of the stretch that runs along the airport where there were no lights on land. There were a few occasions where conditions got progressively worse. Eventually, moving around the East Point of the island, the most dangerous section caused by shallow reefs and steep cliffs, the kayaker stopped me and said we may need to abandon the swim. The pilot of the main support boat was deeming it too dangerous. Gutted, I told them that I was completely fine, but that it needed to be pilot’s decision. Luckily, we had Alan Bradshaw in the guide boat, who is exceptionally experienced in navigating these waters. He led us out, perpendicular to land, through a channel between the reefs, and we eventually made it out of the dangerous section. Rounding the East Point, we had successfully navigated the most difficult part of the swim. I could feel the current starting to move in our favor. We were about 14 hours in and about 2 hours slower than I expected.
It was about another hour to Consett Bay, where I thought we would have another crew change. However, the conditions were too dangerous to try attempt to get into Consett Bay at night for the 2nd support boat to pick up the new crew members. Thus, the tired members of leg 2 would need to stick it out a bit longer.
Leg 3: Consett Bay to Port St Charles
The East Coast of Barbados is an exceptionally beautiful part of the swim. The conditions were starting to get better and suddenly I saw the first ray of light come up across the Atlantic. I felt like I sailed up the East Coast, still maintaining a 55 stroke rate and breathing every 4th stroke. A couple of swimmers joined me along this section, an hour on/hour off.
Getting closer and closer to turning the corner to start going up the North East section I could see waves breaking against the cliffs and sending water spraying 20m up into the air. This was not a good sign as I knew our pilots would need to divert us around North Point’s 2nd or 3rd reefs, adding a great deal of distance (about 3km) on to the swim.
Getting closer to the North Point we started moving extremely slowly, clearly stuck in an eddy/adverse current of some kind. Eventually we got around the North Point and back in a slightly favorable current. With the big swell and backwash off the cliffs this was an incredibly difficult part of the swim. I was also starting to feel fatigued. For the first time I started having some negative thoughts made worse by the fact that this was the same section where I gave up the first time.
Reflecting on the amount of support I was receiving and the number of people who were actively helping me to get around the island, I plugged on through this difficult mental part of the swim. I asked for a couple of gels in my next feed to give me a boost. Sometimes I find that when you’re in a difficult mental battle within a swim the best thing to do is focus on other people who have helped you get to where you are and then decide on a short-term distance goal. I decided that goal would be to get to the cement factory before sunset.
Getting to the North Point had taken 27 hours, which is similar to what I had expected.
We eventually rounded the Cement Factory and I was officially on the West Coast and in the lea of the wind. The sun was setting, and I knew that the next 10 -12 hours were going to be the most difficult of the swim, and of my swimming life.
Leg 4: Port St Charles to Cocacabana
The crew change happened slightly earlier than planned, at the Cement Factory, rather than Port St Charles.
John Howard joined me for an hour and I felt like I got a great boost. I had done so much training on this part of the island that I knew how long each section should take. My half an hour feeds kept coming and going and I was miraculously keeping to my 55 stroke rate, breathing every 4th stroke. Having this amazing rhythm was a huge benefit especially considering I was reaching 30 – 40 hours of swimming with no sleep. I started feeling irritable and tired. Suddenly John jumped in again and pointed ahead to the distance saying the lights up ahead were the harbor wall, and just beyond Carlisle Bay, and the finish. I know from experience how lights in the darkness can be very misleading when trying to guess and measure distance, so I decided not to take too much stock of this.
It felt like it took us an age to eventually reach the harbor lights and I realized we were in a strong adverse current again. Unfortunately, the current was pushing extremely fast along the harbor wall. I felt like the island was giving me one last test. It took all my strength to get around the harbor wall. For the first time I increased my stroke rate significantly and started breathing every 2nd stroke. Once we got around the harbor wall, we still had about 40min – 1 hour to go, but I knew I was almost there. I kept my stroke rate high. At one point I realized I was wearing my comfortable Tsugaru Strait swim cap, and I preferred to swim in with my slightly too small SwimAroundBarbados cap. I asked to exchange and heard to few laughs from the crew.
Swimming into the beach was extremely emotional. It hard to find words to describe the mixed feelings of gratitude, pain and joy. Trying to stand while exiting the water resulted in me falling over numerous times. Once I was on land I managed to stand. I was amazed by the number of people on the beach. The sun wasn’t up yet so it must have been between 3 and 5am. The paramedics took me to the ambulance to run some tests. Very emotional, I wanted to get back to the hotel, but also wanted to stay and talk to the welcome crew. However, after over 40 hours of swimming my tongue was literally double its normal size and my lips the same. Its hard to describe the pain. As I couldn’t speak I walked around a bit and shook hands with every one I could before getting in a car and heading back to the hotel.
I need to extend a big thank you to everyone that helped me in this endeavor. Everyone from the pilots, to support swimmers, kayakers, on land logistics and assistance, weather forecasters, the list is endless.
I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone, but in no particular order: the Farmer family, the Seale family, the Cripwell family, Angus Edghill, Kristina Evelyn, Zary Evelyn, Allan Banfield, Allan Birkett, Dick Stoute, Allan Bradshaw, Derek Edwards, Dustin Edwards, Chris Rogers, Jono Jones, Greg Ward, Andrew Clarke, Alison Pile, Samantha Clarke, Jimmy Clarke, Amanda Garcia, Chris Sikkens, Jonathan Pile, John Mike Peterkin, John Howard, Karen Turner, Cary Banfield, Michael Mclellan, Simon Wilkie, William Tomlin, Jamal Bennet, Mark Small, Cheryl Small, Peter Gibbs, Christine Richards, Chris O’Neil, Ian Milne, Stuart Bellamy, Janita Bellamy, Patricia Dass, Jacqui McDermott, Rachel Pilgrim, and to all my swim buddies and support from the South End Rowing Club.
Looking back, the swim was harder than I ever could have imagined.
An island swim of this nature is extremely complex, where you have to battle so many more variables than a standard channel swim, including:
- Strong and unpredictable currents
- The fact that no matter which direction you swim around the island you will need to have a prolonged swim into the current. In this swim I calculate I swam against the current for 24 hours and had 17 hours with the current.
- Swells breaking on reefs
- Swells breaking on coastal cliffs and causing backwash and adverse temporary currents
- Consistent and strong trade winds However, some of the benefits include:
- The ability to refresh the support crew
- The moral support of having people following and cheering you on
- The visual of the island always being in view, especially one as beautiful as Barbados I have learnt many lessons regarding training
- For the initial attempt, I was very cavalier in my training, opting to not swim with a watch and doing swims up to 24 hours in length without any thought about my intensity or heart rate.
- My training up to the 2nd attempt was much more specific, where I focused almost solely on heart rate and trying to get my average heart rate for my target speed down to below 100 beats per minute. My longest swim was 9 hours, albeit I probably did about 15 of these.
- Swimming at a slow heart rate allowed me to enjoy the swim so much more and get into a maintainable rhythm from the first minute
- There isn’t much need for a taper and the preference should be for a shorter, rather than longer, taper.
Click to enlarge.
South / Southeast
Northeast / Northwest
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