Courtney Moates Paulk - Chesapeake Bay

Kiptopeke to Grandview Island

28 km (17.4 miles)

10 hours, 39 minutes on 27 May 2021

Observed and documented by Heather Fairbanks

First of this route



  • Name: Courtney Moates Paulk
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 51
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: Richmond, Virginia

Support Personnel

  • Matt Paulk - crew chief
  • Amy Frick - crew, backup kayaker
  • Lauren Hasselquist - crew
  • Arne Hasselquist - kayaker
  • Heather Fairbanks - observer

Escort Vessel

Name Type Port
Smokin’ Gun II 2008 custom-built 40’ Evans Hampton, VA

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: textile swimsuit (TYR Durafest Elite Diamondback), latex cap, goggles, adventure lights

Route Definition

  • Body of Water: Chesapeake Bay
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Near the end of Pickett’s Harbor Drive north of Kiptopeke, VA. (37.188029, -75.998171)
  • Finish Location: Beach south of Grandview Island Grill (terminus of Riley Way), Hampton, VA. (37.073744, -76.278181)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 28 km (17.4 miles) (map)


While I believe there have been some attempts (successful and unsuccessful) across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, I have found no known attempts across the Chesapeake Bay from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Virginia’s “mainland”. In the History of Open Water Marathon Swimming by Capt. Tim Johnson, it is reported as follows:

The late summer of 1916 provided quite a few distance swims. Charles Durborow next swim put him in the record books alongside Robert Dowling, with a swim across the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. His course took him on the ocean side of the present day Chesapeake Bridge/Tunnel, itself a course for a swim organized in the early 1980s by Fletcher Hanks).

On June 23, 1916, at 9:25 pm, Charles left from Fisherman’s Island on the southern shore of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and began a nighttime swim to the Virginia Coast some 13 mile distance. He had tried this swim the previous summer but gave up after 12 hours. This year’s swim went much easier. He landed at his planned location the Cape Henry Lifesaving Station at 6:08 am on June 24, 1916. The elapsed time was 8:43 and the distance between the start and finish is 18 miles. Charles used the trudgeon stroke for the entire swim, not taking any food or drink for the swim. A small party of residents greeted him upon his arrival. This is the first recorded crossing of the Chesapeake Bay entrance and as far as I can tell the only night swim.

I also understand that Anders Jakobsson has said that he swam across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay – but I do not believe he submitted any information to have the swim ratified. However, it is reported that Anders swam from Fisherman’s Island (as did Charles Durborow) to Chic’s Beach in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

As mentioned previously, The History of Open Water Marathon Swimming also reports that Fletcher Hanks completed a swim across the entrance/mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1993, the 13 mile swim across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay merged with The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim. I have been unable to find any additional information about the swim completed/sponsored by Fletcher Hanks across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The Great Chesapeake Bay Swim website also is ambiguous about the history of the swim in the lower Chesapeake Bay.

There is, of course, the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim in Maryland – a 4.4 mile swim using the Route 50 bridges across the Bay as a guide. Thousands of people have completed the Great Chesapeake Bays swim. There may be other swims that have been completed in the upper Chesapeake Bay rather than the lower Chesapeake Bay.

I have been unable to find any reported swims from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Hampton, Virginia – in the area of the lower Chesapeake Bay above the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Swim Data

  • Start: 27 May 2021, 09:21:18 (Eastern Daylight, America/New_York, UTC-7).
  • Finish: 27 May 2021, 20:00:42
  • Elapsed: 10 hours, 39 minutes, 24 seconds.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 67.6 73.5
Air Temp (F) 73.7 80.9
Wind (mph) 0.4 10.7

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 20 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: CarboPro, Tailwind, Endurolytes, applesauce, egg salad on bun.


Observer Notes

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Log Sheets

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