Beth Fehr - Around Beavertail
Mackerel Cove to Fort Getty
10.4 km (6.5 miles)
5 hours, 6 minutes on 19 August 2018
Observed and documented by Michael Garr
- Name: Beth Fehr
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 34
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Narragansett, Rhode Island
- Doug Ward - pilot
- Doug Stone - pilot
- Michael Garr - observer
- Jeanne Garr - 2nd observer, feeder
- Michael Scott - photographer
- Newport Photoboat (Wickford, RI)
- Sachem, 524 (Jamestown, RI)
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Cloth tank single piece swimsuit, one latex swim cap, goggles.
- Body of Water: Narragansett Bay
- Route Type: one-way
- Start Location: Mackerel Cove Town Beach (41.488826, -71.383735)
- Finish Location: Beach adjoining the dock at Fort Getty (41.493685, -71.396964)
- Minimum Route Distance: 10.4 km (6.5 miles)
- Start: 19 August 2018, 08:40 (America/New_York, UTC-4).
- Finish: 19 August 2018, 13:46
- Elapsed: 5 hours, 6 minutes.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||72||74|
|Air Temp (F)||68||73|
Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: Chocolate almond milk and Clif Blocks, every 40 minutes.
by Michael Garr
This year’s swim involved the participation of seven swimmers: (in order of finish)
- Tricia Sawyer, Oakham, MA
- Judy Beckman, Jamestown, RI
- Mary Phelan, Narragansett, RI*
- Franklin Johnson, Narragansett, RI*
- Beth Fehr, Narragansett, RI*
- Jonathan Cooper, Newport, RI
- Matt Hull, Jamestown, RI
*(Seeking MSF certification)
The swim was organized and planned by Judy Beckman.
August 19 was chosen based on projected favorable tides.
Judy employed the services of Doug Ward, Newport Photo Boat, as lead motorcraft.
The following (astern) motorcraft was Sachem, a J24 sailboat belonging to Judy and her fiancé, Doug Stone.
Each participant was expected to contribute to the hiring of the lead boat, and to provide their own kayaker/escort/observer for the swim.
One expected participant, Christine Woolbright, a surf lifeguard, of Newport, RI, had to bow out of her expected participation, just prior to the swim, and Mary Phelan and Frank Johnson were added within ten days of the swim, as last-minute entries. Michael Scott, of Chepachet, RI agreed to provide Photographic services. Michael Garr agreed to serve as liaison to the Marathon Swimmers Federation, provide documentation, act as chief official swim observer, and consult on currents and logistics for the swim.
Judy purchased yellow swimmer warning banners for the sides of the lead and following craft.
The tracking for the swim was provided by Jonathan Cooper’s smartphone, as well as Garmins from Matt Hull, and one of the kayak participants, Lori Miller Horton. In addition, Michael Garr had loaded track.rs software to his wife’s smartphone. This was intended to be used as the primary tracking, but was discarded in favor of Jon’s smartphone the morning of the swim.
Original Planning had envisioned a kayaker for each participant, but as the event approached, it became apparent that the weather was predicted to be choppy, and one of the kayakers (Jeanne Garr) was directed to crew aboard Sachem in case the following astern boat might be needed to pick up any exhausted swimmers. This left the following configuration for support:
|Tricia Sawyer||Pat Clark||Mike Garr, Pat Clark, Mike Scott|
|Judy Beckman||Lori Miller Horton||Lori Miller Horton, Mike Garr|
|Beth Fehr||Mark Blevins, Jeanne Garr||Jeanne Garr, Mike Garr|
|Jonathan Cooper||Mark Blevins||Jeanne Garr|
|Matt Hull||Mark Blevins||Jeanne Garr|
|Mary Phelan||Dorothy Phelan||Mike Garr, Lori Miller Horton|
|Frank Johnson||Chris Digman||Mike Garr, Lori Miller Horton|
Four kayakers were used: Mark Blevins*, Lori Miller Horton*, Chris Digman, and Dorothy Phelan
* in constant contact with lead and trailing boats via vhf handheld radios
On board the Lead boat were Skipper Doug Ward, Crew Pat Clark (support of Tricia Sawyer), Mike Garr, and Mike Scott.
On board the trailing boat were Skipper Doug Stone, Crew Jeanne Garr.
Prior to the swim, three of the swimmers expressed interest in obtaining MSF certification for their swims: Beth Fehr, Mary Phelan, and Frank Johnson. This Narrative will constitute part of the required documentation for their swims.
|2||Judy Beckman||4:45||Marathon eligible|
|3||Frank Johnson||4:50||Seeks Certification|
|3||Mary Phelan||4:50||Seeks Certification|
|5||Beth Fehr||5:06||Seeks Certification|
|6||Jonathan Cooper||5:10||Marathon eligible|
|DNF||Matt Hull||Safe swimmer Buoy (assisted)|
Combined Transcription of Mike Garr’s and Lori Horton’s logs and reported incidents/results
Click to enlarge
by Beth Fehr
I moved to Rhode Island three years ago, and up until that point I had never heard of open water swimming. I can still remember the warm August evening when my friend and I were walking down the beach, our eyes on the ocean. Then suddenly I saw something black out in the water-way out. Curious I stared harder, and pointed out the strange figures that were moving around buoys nearly halfway out to sea. “What is that?” I asked her. “Are they dolphins?”
My friend laughed and shook her head. She was familiar with the group that called themselves the Narragansett Ocean Swimming Enthusiasts (NOSE for short). “No. They’re swimmers.”
My interest was piqued immediately. “I want to do that,” I declared.
At that point, I had no idea that swimming was about to take on a major role in my life. The first time I showed up to swim with the group, I was so nervous that I almost turned around and went home before I even introduced myself. But I mustered my courage, grabbed my newly purchased goggles and swim cap and said a quick hello before following three other swimmers out to what they called ‘Buoy Number One’. Swimming out to that buoy I swallowed a lot of brackish seawater, my lungs began to burn, and I could already feel that my arms would be sore the next morning. And that was just the warm-up. I promised myself if I could just survive that one swim that I would never have to go back. And with a great deal of effort, I kept swimming until the others were ready to come in. But I did come back. I came back again, and again, and again. After that first swim, that was it. I was hooked.
I joined a local Masters’ swim team so that I could condition during the winter. And the next summer I was back again. The next winter I continued with the Masters’ team and the next summer I was even stronger than before. When one of the more experienced swimmers asked if I’d like to join her for a marathon swim, my answer was an immediate yes. A marathon swim seemed like such an adventure and I loved swimming in the ocean. So a 10K swim seemed like a natural progression to the one to two miles which we usually did as a group. She kept asking me if I was sure, and I kept affirming my interest. But as the days to the swim grew closer, I started to get nervous. What if I had overestimated my ability? What if the water was too rough? What if I couldn’t finish? Two days before the swim, I was so nervous that I emailed the one person who I knew would tell me the truth; my coach. I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge, but he was certain that with the long training swims we had done that I could do it. His vote of confidence was all I needed.
The swim was from Mackeral Cove Beach to Fort Getty Beach around what is called Beavertail Point. The day of the swim, conditions were much rougher than expected. There was talk about cancelling, but a lot of planning had gone into the swim. We had hired a boat, worked around seven swimmers schedules, arranged for kayakers, and despite the rough water, it felt like this 10K swim was now or never. The group came to a consensus that we would all swim out to the mouth of the cove, meet our accompanying boats, and then make a game-time decision. As we entered the water, I was nervous and excited. And I immediately began implementing my coach’s advice. “I know I can do this,” I told myself, as I would over and over again throughout the swim.
When we reached the mouth of the cove, everyone was in agreement. The swim was on. After that, I didn’t think about much other than swimming. All of the open water swims, and the Masters’ practices came into play. I still wasn’t anywhere near the fastest swimmer, but my stroke was solid, and I had developed the level of endurance that a marathon swim required. I concentrated on moving forward, and tried to take in the breathtaking scenery as much as I could. I still remember thinking to myself, that there was nowhere else I would rather be. I was in the open ocean, swimming, and the end was nowhere in sight. It was exhilarating.
Every forty minutes the kayakers would come and find us. “It’s time to eat,” my kayaker would say. Then he would toss me either my chocolate almond milk protein shake, a bottle of water, or the coffee mug where I had stashed my Clif Bloks - whatever I preferred. We kept going at a steady pace and instead of hoping for it to be over (as I had feared) I found myself savoring the moment. The swimming was going well, and I was pacing myself so that I didn’t run out of steam in the middle. I loved gliding through the water, and when I stopped and the kayaker tossed me some sustenance I got to soak in the gorgeous views of the cerulean water, the cobalt trees that stood proudly on shore, and the charcoal rocks which lined our route.
For me, even though the water was rough, the swim couldn’t have gone smoother until we hit Beavertail Point. I had never swum around the Point before. I had never even seen the Point before. So I was uncertain how much distance I needed to leave between me and the rocky outcrop that I was now in my line of vision. I decided to cut in, and swim closer to the rocks as opposed to staying wide as I saw the swimmers in front of me doing. There were a few fishermen standing on the rocks, and I laughed to myself when I saw them. I wondered if they were surprised when we came swimming past. But just as I was getting a kick out of what those guys must be thinking, I started to see seaweed and rocks below me. And suddenly I found myself in a large school of grey fish with dazzling blue stripes. The fish were mesmerizing and I let myself take a short break in order to watch as they swam all around me. But soon the rocks started to get closer, and with the current and swells I knew I needed to get farther away from the reef.
I started treading water to try and figure out the best direction in which to swim, but the other swimmers had disappeared from view and because of the swells, I couldn’t spot any of the kayakers either. I turned towards Sachem, the sailboat which was our anchor. I guessed that it was roughly a half a mile away. Not sure of how shallow the reef was or how long it went on for, and also not totally positive on which way I needed to go, I made what I thought was the safest decision. If I continued on, I would probably find the kayakers and eventually catch up with the other swimmers, but being on my own in such rough seas made me nervous, and I decided to backtrack by swimming back towards Sachem. It was so large that I could easily spot it and that way I could redirect my course to make a wider turn around the Point. When I made it back to the sailboat my good friend from swim was screaming at me. “Beth! I need you to talk to me. What’s going on? Do you think you’re hypothermic?”
I shook my head. “No! I just got lost!”
She laughed. “We know! We were watching you.”
“Which way do I go?”
She pointed ahead. “Straight!”
I nodded, and with that, I was off. I managed to catch the two men who got ahead of me when I cut too close to the reef, and once again, I found my stride and was stopping every forty minutes for the kayaker to toss me a snack. I had tried my best not to look at my watch for the duration of the swim, and I hadn’t dared to ask how much farther. But as time passed and I logged more and more distance, I decided I wanted to know. I was getting tired, and I needed to know how to pace to make the rest of my swim successful. Popping my head out of the water, I stopped. “How much farther?” I yelled.
“One more mile,” was the response.
What? I couldn’t believe it. I had hoped against hope when I asked that question that we were more than halfway finished. But only one mile to go was amazing news. “Let’s do it!” I screamed back. Everyone laughed and I started pulling harder and kicking faster. There wasn’t the need to conserve energy anymore, so I let myself go all out. For a few minutes, I was flying, until we made a turn towards the harbor and I hit the roughest headwind I’ve ever encountered. We were a mile away, but it was the hardest mile I’ve ever swam. The water rushed towards me with such intensity that plowing through it felt like I was doing nothing more than maintaining my place in what seemed like the middle of the ocean. There was a large building in the distance that I was using to spot, but after ten minutes of battling the current, it seemed no closer than when I started. Half an hour passed and I was still stuck in the washing machine of water. I was so close but at the same time so far from the end.
Up until that point, I had been sure I would make it. But as the relentless current refused to let up, I wondered how much farther I was capable of going. That’s when I really put my coach’s advice into play. After taking a quick break, treading water, and deciding to go for it, I dove down and flutter kicked hard. When I resurfaced I made each pull deeper, and kicked and kicked and kicked. “I can do this,” I told myself. “I know I can do this.” I repeated this in my head with every stroke, and when I got really frustrated I even yelled it under water. I said it over and over and over again. And it turned out, that I was right. It took a long time and some serious swimming, but eventually I found myself swimming right next to the rocks beside the harbor entrance to Fort Getty Beach.
When I finally arrived, I saw many of my fellow swimmers already sitting on shore, waving and clapping as I finished. I wasn’t as out of breath as I expected, and even though it had been overcast when we started, the sun had come out and was shining brightly. “How do you feel?” One of the men asked me as I made my way to shore.
I smiled, remembering that first evening on the beach when I had noticed the open water swimmers nearly halfway out to the horizon line. In that moment I couldn’t have imagined how much that one night would change my life. “Great.”
Before the start: Beth Fehr, Mark Blevins, Mary Phelan, Dorothy Phelan, Jonathan Cooper.
The kayaks used during the swim. Blue: Dorothy Phelan’s, Pink: Mark Blevins’, Orange: Lorie Horton’s, yellow: Chris Digman’s
Swimmers entering water to begin the swim from Mackerel Cove. They were accompanied during the first 1/3 mile by a group which commonly swims in Mackerel Cove on weekend mornings. 8:40 EDT 19 August, 2018.
Observer Mike Garr