Amber Baker - Round-Trip Angel Island
Clockwise loop around Angel Island from Aquatic Park
16.1 km (10.0 miles)
6 hours, 22 minutes on 27 June 2019
Observed and documented by Carol Sing
- Support Personnel
- Swim Parameters
- Swim Data & GPS
- Observer Log
- Name: Amber Baker
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 34
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Lakeside, California
- Marino Cacciotti (SF Boat Support) - pilot
- Kris Berglund - crew
- Alice Ma - crew
- Miguel Melendez - kayaker
- Carol Sing - observer
Escort Vessel: Tango (San Francisco / Hyde St Marina)
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Swimsuit, cap, goggles, earplugs, bag balm, sunscreen.
Start @ SERC/Dolphin beach in Aquatic Park, exit through Aquatic Park opening, clockwise around Angel Island, return to SERC/Dolphin beach via Aquatic Park opening.
- Body of Water: San Francisco Bay
- Route Type: island loop
Start & Finish Location: Beach between SERC & Dolphin Club docks, Aquatic Park, San Francisco (37.808145, -122.421402)
- Minimum Route Distance: 16.1 km (10.0 miles)
LongSwimsDB: Round-Trip Angel Island
- Start: 27 June 2019, 04:06:15 (America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
- Finish: 27 June 2019, 10:28:29
- Elapsed: 6 hours, 22 minutes, 14 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||60||62|
|Air Temp (F)||58||64|
Trackpoint frequency: 10 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: 6oz Accelerade every 30 minutes
In 2017 my mom signed me up for Sharkfest Alcatraz as an early Christmas gift. It was my first event outside of Southern California, and it was a little bit longer than swim events I’d participated in before. I had fun being a tourist in San Fransisco with my friend Meli. We rode the cable cars, ate at Boudins, and filled our hotel room with full belly laughs. The swim itself was fun, and it felt like such an accomplishment. I placed second in my age group, and I was so proud.
Later that year I was in Two Harbors on Catalina Island sitting around a picnic table drinking wine from a camping mug and talking about swimming. I had just met Alice Ma, and she was talking me into the 24 hour relay in San Fransisco in February. It must have been the wine, but I agreed. The water in San Fransisco bay in February was cooler than any water I’d ever been in (I’m a San Diego native), and the night was long. I loved, though, how hard it was for me. I came back again for the relay in 2019, and this year I noticed the city lights more, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the camaraderie. I loved it.
Around the same time I was looking a swim relatively close to home, but still unfamiliar enough to make me uncomfortable, something that would work with my school and work schedules, cooler water temperatures, the potential for snotty conditions, and very tidally effected. With all of that in mind I found Round Trip Angel Island. I called Alice and we talked about it. I told her I didn’t think I was experienced enough. How would I pick a date and what about crew? I knew the tide was important, but that’s about it. Alice suggested I reach out to Evan Morrison.
Once in touch with Evan he told me what to look for (a tide of less than 2), and he referred me to SF Boat Support. We stayed in touch over the next few months, and he mapped out a route for me based on my average swim pace.
The day before the swim I flew up to San Fransisco with Carol Sing. She was an observer for my Catalina crossing, and I was so happy I’d have her smiling face watching over me on this swim as well.
Alice picked us up from our hotel early in the morning around 3 on Thursday June 27, and we went to South End Rowing Club. Alice, Carol and Kris Berglund had big hugs for me and words of encouragement as we expertly applied my sunscreen and bag balm.
Carol, Kris, and Alice left to Hyde St Harbor and I met Miguel Melendez on the beach.
Once we got the go ahead via radio from the boat and they were at the opening of Aquatic Park my toes met the water. I felt good swimming through Aquatic Park. My doubts diminished and my breathing was steady. As soon as we exited the opening though, I felt a rush of water moving perpendicular to the direction that I was to be swimming in, and I got smacked in the face by wind chop. I stopped swimming and whined to Miguel “I CAN’T DO THIS! IT’S TOO HARD!” He reassured me that I’m a swimmer and that we were in fact doing this.
Face back down I started swimming again. I made a deal with myself to make it half way and then if it was as awful I had made it out to be in my mind I could quit.
I made it just past Alcatraz and it was time for my first feed. The sun hadn’t risen, but the sky was changing color and it was beautiful. I was still scared and I still thought this swim was going to be too hard so I started repeating encouraging things to myself with three syllables (to go with a bilateral breathing pattern). Calm. Strong. Can. Yes. I. Can. Over and over. I think if I tell myself something enough times eventually I begin to believe it. Once at Angel Island it was gorgeous. The sun was rising and the island in contrast with the city scape was incredible. I asked Miguel at least a dozen times, “am I doing ok?” “Am I swimming really slow?” Each time he reassured me with a lighthearted laugh in his voice that I was in fact doing fine.
I don’t know where on the island we were, but I felt something swimming under and around me. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel the water sliding underneath me and at times to my sides. I reminded myself that it was probably just a seal (it always is). I later found out it was in fact a little harbor seal and he was following me and checking me out for a while.
The whole swim around the island was amazing. It confirmed my love for swimming in the San Fransisco Bay. Looking back I wish we would’ve booked a ferry ride over to see Angel Island. I wondered about the islands history, and what was on it.
We reentered the channel shortly after a tanker went by. The water had more chop to it, but it wasn’t bad. The closer we got to Alcatraz, though, the more the wind kicked up. “I just want to be done!” I said slapping the water. My goggles had tears in them and despite Miguel telling me I was on pace for a 6 hour and change swim I didn’t believe him. I was still sure this was going to take 10 plus hours. I’ve swam for 10 hours before, but I had Kevin (my coach) and Becky (my training partner) with me then. Now I didn’t. My discomfort was all mental, and it was for many of the reasons I wanted to do this swim.
“Do you want your last feed? Or do you just want to go in?” Miguel asked. We were close, but I needed a drink. Chug-a-lug and we kept going.
6 hours and 22 minutes later I walked up the shore at South End Rowing Club. Miguel was ahead of me filming my landing and Alice was behind me, bless her heart, to make sure I’d be ok.
Round Trip Angel Island was incredible and difficult, and I’m so glad I didn’t get out half way through.
Click to enlarge.
Amber Baker - Round-Trip Angel Island from MSF on Vimeo.
Via NOAA Station FTPC1 - Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
(gust = dotted line)