Kevin Pollman - Vieques Sound

Vieques to Puerto Rico

11.15 km (6.9 miles)

4 hours, 1 minutes on 21 April 2024

Observed and documented by Sarah Holmes




  • Name: Kevin Pollman
  • Gender: male
  • Age on swim date: 43
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: St Louis Park, Minnesota

Support Personnel

  • Doug Holmes - Navigation, Feeding, and General Support
  • Alexei Israel - boat captain
  • Jorge - first mate


Sarah Holmes

Escort Vessel

Name Type Port
N/A 21 ft boat Fajardo, PR

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: Textile swimsuit, cap, goggles, Desitin, vaseline.

Route Definition

Punta Arenas, Vieques to Ceiba, Puerto Rico

  • Body of Water: Pasaje de Vieques (Vieques Sound), Caribbean Sea
  • Route Type: one-way channel swim
  • Start Location: Playa Punta Arenas, Vieques (18.118321, -65.576770)
  • Finish Location: Beach northwest of Cabras Island, Ceiba, Puerto Rico (18.214600, -65.610273)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 11.15 km (6.9 miles) (map)


First documented swim of this route.

Swim Data

  • Start: 21 April 2024, 07:49:00 (Atlantic Standard Time, America/Puerto_Rico, UTC-4).
  • Finish: 21 April 2024, 11:50:00
  • Elapsed: 4 hours, 1 minutes.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 82.5 82.5
Air Temp (F) 80 80
Wind (knots) 14.5 19.5

View external weather data

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Click to expand map.

Speed Plot

Nutrition: Alternating Gu gel and Cliff bars every 30 minutes for food. Hydration was a mix of water and Gatorade. I passed on food at the end in favor of only hydration.

Observer Log

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Swimmer Statement

What inspired you to do the swim?

I was planning to be in Puerto Rico for a professional engagement, and considered the swim to be a good challenge while in the area. I was not able to locate any previous attempts at this crossing, so there was a little extra incentive to pioneer this swim.

Describe how you planned for the swim?

First and foremost, special thanks to my friends Sarah and Doug Holmes who were kind enough to sacrifice their vacation time to support this project. I’m not sure we would call this fun, but all of us are richer for the experience- thank you so much!

Having never visited the area, planning for the swim logistics and locating a boat & captain proved to be a challenge. While describing the swim plan to local charter captains, it would be an understatement to say I was met with skepticism. The local weather typically calls for strong cross winds, and this results in healthy swell, chop, and overall bumpy water. The swim is not for the faint of heart, and anyone in the boat should have their “sea legs”.

Our primary plan called for us to meet at the marina on mainland PR, boat to Vieques, and then swim back to PR (this is what we ended up doing). My captain advised that we wouldn’t know until halfway through the boat ride if the swim was “on” or not. We made it to the decision point and collectively agreed to give it a shot.

From a training standpoint, I like to maintain a minimum of 12k-15k yards per week as a year-round baseline for fitness. The crossing prep started in early Feb in a 25 yard pool (winter in MN). Yardage and intensity peaked in early April at 25k weekly yards before a modest mid-month taper. This seemed to be about right; overall I felt pretty good throughout the swim.

How did the swim go, generally? Did you face any unanticipated challenges?

Vieques to Puerto Rico is definitely one of the roughest swims I’ve ever done. In a perfect world with a larger window for all of us, we probably would have preferred a different day. But it was going to be April 21st or not at all.

The channel itself was remarkably shallow for the first 3-4 miles. I could see the bottom about 15 feet from the surface, and there was plenty of seagrass on the floor to confirm we were making steady progress. However about halfway in, it got much deeper very quickly. It just so happened that we approached a channel buoy at the depth transition. There must have been something happening with the currents at this change in depth, because we made very little progress for a 15-20 minutes stretch; probably only a few hundred yards at most (as confirmed by the buoy). This was no doubt concerning and called for a real gut check- time to fight like hell or pack it in. We eventually broke free of the channel buoy, but were pushed west by winds and waves from the east. We most likely would not have been able to navigate to the planned landing spot, however our captain Alexei was thankfully able to identify a realistic alternative. We eventually made it, but we did not get there in a straight line- this swim was the real deal!

This was a fun swim for me, but probably not so much for those in the boat. Definitely a serious challenge for all involved. I’d recommend this swim for experienced open water swimmers that enjoy warm water challenges.

One final note, I mentioned I was in Puerto Rico for a work function, as were Sarah and Doug. We all attended a banquet two days after the swim, and as it was winding down Sarah unexpectedly took the stage to make some impromptu remarks about our adventure. We had an unofficial “medal ceremony” in which the attendees adorned me with their lanyards from the event. The extra gear weighed close to 10 pounds! I sincerely hope Mr. T is smiling somewhere. What a unique way to commemorate this experience- I’ll never forget it!