Alice Ma - Tomales Bay, RT Hog Island
Clockwise loop around Hog Island from Chicken Ranch Beach
23.8 km (14.8 miles)
10 hours, 4 minutes on 25 June 2023
Observed and documented by Jillian Savage
- Support Personnel
- Swim Parameters
- Swim Data & GPS
- Observer Log
- Swimmer Statement
- Name: Alice Ma
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 50
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: San Jose, California
- John Grunstad - pilot
- Jillian Savage - feeder/observer
Board member and observer for Lake Tahoe Marathon Swim Federation.
|inflatable Zodiac boat
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (TYR Diamond fit), silicone cap, Voggs goggles, ear plugs.
- Body of Water: Tomales Bay
- Route Type: island loop
- Start Location: Chicken Ranch Beach, Inverness (38.110223, -122.865268)
- Finish Location: Hog Island (38.197073, -122.935154)
- Minimum Route Distance: 23.8 km (14.8 miles) (map)
- Start: 25 June 2023, 07:25:00 (Pacific Daylight, America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
- Finish: 25 June 2023, 17:29:35
- Elapsed: 10 hours, 4 minutes, 35 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)
|Air Temp (F)
Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: Every 30 minutes Skratch hydration + Scratch High Carb (Lemon lime) thrown from Zodiac.
by Jillian Savage
I was asked to help possibly observe for Alice a few weeks ago to help her achieve her goal of completing a Round Trip Hog Island Swim. She explained that the swim meant a lot to her as it was where she spent a lot of time here throughout the years. Normally my schedule doesn’t allow for that much time to travel for a single swim, but I made the exception for this swim because of the thought, love, and meaning of it. I knew she would work hard and do everything under her power to complete this meaningful swim.
We (John Grunstad, Alice and I) met on the side of the road in a dirt pull out at Chicken Ranch Beach in Inverness, CA around 7:00 AM. She was ready to swim. The Zodiac was already in the water and rules had been read. We transferred her feeds and she quickly got her cap, goggles, and ear plugs in. We gave her a count down and she was in!
It was overcast and drizzling outside, a lot of fog, absolutely no sun, and a bit chilly. Alice wasn’t cold at all. The water was super shallow for a lot of the swim.
Within the first few minutes, she commented about how many jellyfish were around her. At first John and I were not seeing them but when we really looked, we saw hundreds of them, all floating about a foot under the water’s surface. WIthin the 1st 20 minutes, she even saw a bat rey.
Due to the amount of fog, we were unable to see Hog Island until we were pretty close to it. The first half of the swim was pretty uneventful. Alice fed well every 30 minutes on Skratch in a water bottle. She enjoyed the scenery around her as we were surrounded on both side by trees and rocks, and hills. On feeds, she would point out different places such as the oyster restaurants, different beaches and campgrounds, etc. She really knew her way around this bay.
As we approached Hog Island, she was starting to express that she was getting tired but was still willing to keep going. She had to navigate around some crab pots in the water. As we rounded Hog Island, the water was shallow and covered in thick weeds. Alice did a fantastic job of navigating this. We got around the island just in time to be greeted by elephant seals launching themselves off the beach towards Alice. They kept popping up around her almost as if they were making sure she wasn’t going to go too close to their babies on the island. A mom and two pups curiously followed and watched her for the next two miles or so.
Alice was starting to get tired but was still doing well. She felt as though she wasn’t making much progress in the middle of the bay and wanted to be closer to shore so she could see the landscape move past her. Due to the current, making it to the west shore was a bit difficult but she was determined. She continued to feed well, urinate every 30 minutes or so, wasn’t cold, but kept commenting about how she was constantly pelted by the jellies. She did mention she was tired and would be physically and feeling frustrated that she didn’t believe she was making any progress. While she was making significant progress.
The last 5 miles were a challenge for her mentally. The physical aspect of it….she made it look easy. She swam, kept a rather consistent stroke rate, fed continuously, and looked like she was on her first mile. She didn’t look tired or sluggish at all.
Towards the last couple of miles, she was convinced Chicken Ranch Beach was never going to come and miles didn’t seem to comprehend so we started using other swims when she wanted to know the dreaded question of “how much further?”
“Alice, you only have an Emerald Bay swim left”
“Alice, you only have an Alcatraz left!”
“Alice, you have half a cove left”
“Alice, you’re at the opening of Aquatic Park!”
These statements seemed to work really well with her as she was able to relate to them better than “Alice, you have 5/4/3/2/1 miles left” When we used numbers, it was usually followed by a grumble and moan and when we used landmarks, it was followed with a smile and a “That’s it? I can do that in X amount of minutes”
As we rounded the last bit of land sticking out she finally saw Chicken Ranch Beach and was thrilled! She finally realized that there was an end to the swim! We pulled in a bit before her so we could film the finish for her records. Just over 10 hours later, she stepped onto dry sand and was amazed with herself. She was full of smiles and good cheer.
Alice immediately rinsed with fresh water, changed, and even came back to help pack up the boat before heading back to her accommodations for a nice, long nap!
In all, Alice had a fantastic swim and she earned every bit of it. I hope that this swim, the swim that meant so much to her, helped solidify the confidence she should have in herself. She should be proud of what she did. Ten hours of getting jiggy with the jellies is not my idea of a good time but she made it look easy. I hope that she remembers this swim every time she thinks she can’t finish because she proved that she can. Congratulations, Alice, and thank you for having me along!
by Alice Ma
Very thankful for a wonderful crew, both John and Jill for keeping safe, no drama, all smiles during the swim, and very well organized. Prior to the swim everyone was working together to coordinate. Thank you both for making the long trip up to Tomales Bay to make this swim happen. THANK YOU!
Thank you Van Cornwell for taking the time to meet with me at the Southend Rowing Club to share your knowledge of the tidal flow and logistics on doing this swim. Very thankful for helping set the date and time. As I wanted an honest swim and that’s what I had - THANK YOU!
Why Swim Tomales Bay:
When Van Cornwell first mentioned this swim, and shared with me his wonderful swim adventure in Tomales Bay. My eyes lit up and my mind drifted to the wonderful memories of hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore over the last 30+ years. Tamales Bay and Point Reys National SeaShore become always been a very special place for me in my heart.
The morning of this swim journey was a beautiful morning, misty, drizzling, fog and wind. I couldn’t have asked for a better morning or a better crew. John and Jill, who were going with me on this adventure were extremely well organized, and ready to roll. As I entered the water I was excited and terrified as this was a very special place in my heart. The water was welcoming, clear, choppy, not cold, and the bottom was very thick mud. It’s the kind of mud you get stuck in so you really want and need to start swimming as soon as possible. As I started to swim the water quickly got deeper, but I could see the bottom (couldn’t touch the bottom) and I saw what looked like streamers. These were part of the giant the clams.
It wasn’t long before my buddies - the jellies were all around me, they would keep me company for most of the swim. I rather enjoyed my new besties and found peace with them. They were beautiful to watch as they moved toward me and past me. In the beginning I tried to avoid them as I didn’t want to harm them but soon realized, they are everywhere and that’s just how this swim will be. I saw both moon jellies and sea nettles too. Ouchie - when I ran into the sea nettles (assuming these were the more painful ones).
As I continued to swim heading toward Hog Island, which we could not see due to the fog. I saw a beautiful bat ray sweeping along the bottom. It paid no attention to me. It was a beautiful sight to see. Then the sun came out for a bit and the fog dissipated as we got closer to Hog Island.
After awhile I could see Hog Island (left side) and Duck Island (right side). Duck Island looked like it had a smiley face with hair (the trees sticking straight up looked like it). This made me smile and laugh.
While going around Hog Island I was focused on swimming and I was surprised to see the seals. My goal was not to interrupt them and give them as much space as possible. As I love nature and respect this is their home and I’m the guest who never wants to intrude in their space.
On my way back I swam closer to shore so I could enjoy the beautiful scenery and reminisce of the many hikes with my husband we had done to the various beaches along Tomales Bay and in Point Reyes SeaShore. Another fun annual event was the annual potluck and poetry reading at Heart’s Desire Beach. Plus I remember the time I came up to with El Sharko’s (aka Christopher Blakeslee) at Shell Beach.
It was onward back to the start. This was tough as I had to swim against a current that was trying to push me away from the shoreline to the opposite side of the bay. I was determined to swim along the shore as this was my happy place due to the beautiful scenery.
Completed the swim. This was very much an honest swim - no push from the current. Plus I didn’t tapper prior to this swim as I had swam 6 hours, 2 hours and 2.5 hours earlier in the week. This was one of my favorite swims and I look forward to hiking and swimming nearby.
My feeds were good, and were consistent and I no issues with them. I did get a headache but I believe this was due to the jellyfish stings, I’ve never been stung so many times in my life. Afterwards I was extremely itchy and some stings were much worse than others and I have lots of red lines (almost like burns or cuts) on my skin to remind me of this swim. They will soon heal.
Click to enlarge.