Kathleen Wilson - Around Coronado Island

Glorietta Bay Park to Coronado Shores Beach

18.4 km (11.4 miles)

5 hours, 12 minutes on 6 September 2020

Observed and documented by Fred Wilson



  • Name: Kathleen Wilson
  • Gender: female
  • Age on swim date: 57
  • Nationality: United States
  • Resides: Charleston, South Carolina

Support Personnel

  • Fred Wilson - observer
  • Christine Wilson Cook - co-observer, paddler
  • Robbie Wilson - co-observer, paddler
  • Taylor Cook - pilot, co-observer

Observer’s previous experience: Primary observer for Key West, Manhattan Island, Tampa Bay, Swim Across the Sound, Lake Zurich, Molokai Channel, Cook Strait (DNF), secondary observer for the English Channel, Santa Barbara Channel

Escort boat: Kingfish II - 22’ rented Panga out of Shelter Island, San Diego.

Swim Parameters

  • Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
  • Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
  • Equipment used: One porous swimsuit, one cap, goggles.

Route Definition

Glorietta Bay Park, counter-clockwise around Zuniga Jetty and Coronado Island, to Coronado Shores Beach @ condos.. Note: This route is slightly shorter than the established standard route which finishes at Gator Beach - an additional 1/4-mile beyond Coronado Shores Beach.

  • Body of Water: San Diego Bay and Pacific Ocean
  • Route Type: one-way
  • Start Location: Glorietta Bay Park (32.675060, -117.167979)
  • Finish Location: Coronado Shores Beach in front of Coronado Shores condos, 1/4-mile northwest of Gator Beach (32.675486, -117.176538)
  • Minimum Route Distance: 18.4 km (11.4 miles) (map)


Swim Data

  • Start: 6 September 2020, 11:55 (Pacific Daylight, America/Los_Angeles, UTC-7).
  • Finish: 6 September 2020, 17:07
  • Elapsed: 5 hours, 12 minutes.

Summary of Conditions

Feature Min Max
Water Temp (F) 63 75
Air Temp (F) 80 98
Wind (mph) 5 5

GPS Track

Trackpoint frequency: 15 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).

Speed Plot

Nutrition: The circumnavigation of Coronado Island was not an especially long marathon swim, therefore I kept feeds simple, as I have always done. It is difficult for a crew to mix feeds so I prepare as much as possible before beginning. I drink every 30 minutes, in this case due to very high boat traffic, that schedule was altered a little but feeds are slightly diluted grape Gatorade with the addition of Maxim and if requested, chocolate chip or Fig Newton cookies. This tried and true feed has worked beautifully for me over many years and many swims.

Observer Log

Download PDF


by Kathleen Wilson

2020 has been an unforgettable year in every way. It began with my preparations to swim around Atlantic City in August, albeit in a 25-meter pool as our 50-meter pool closed for renovations in August,

  1. (A five month project was allowed to morph into a 15 month closure). It meant that I scrambled to find pool space at The Citadel and the Medical Univ. of South Carolina until March and the shutdown of all facilities.

With the closure of all pools, I began to write off the season as a loss, moving yet again to a water-skiing facility and its lake that quietly remained open. Summer dragged along with no plans to swim, I stayed in decent enough condition and saw a post one day from Dan Simonelli mentioning swimming around Coronado Island. It hit me instantly and I began to plan for a swim in six weeks. At 12 miles, it was certainly within my semi-conditioned state.

We were due to be in San Diego over Labor Day weekend, visiting both our kids as both are stationed on Coronado. With California locked down, there was little to do and they were excited to support Mom once again and introduce my son-in-law to the sport. He has completed ultra-distance runs and understands endurance sports.

I was not comfortable with a kayak only escort, I wanted a boat as well. I know from experience how invisible a swimmer can be and how quickly a boater, when not paying attention (or even if paying attention) can come up on a swimmer and kayak, even with a visible swim float. I had a feeling about this swim and further, if my family was to come along, we needed a boat. While swimming between 28-32,000 meters/week, I began looking for a boat rental. Through a third-party website, I found Travis Bushard, contacted him and found him to be willing, very helpful and enthusiastic about my need for his boat, the Kingfisher II. Travis found a kayak for us as well. He was outstanding.

I also realized that Labor Day weekend was an awful time to be out in the bay and the tides were not good but we had one day, maybe two to make this attempt. I would probably never get both kids, spouse, son in law and water temperature in the same place, at the same time and it meant a lot to me to complete this swim. I also had the swim bug; I needed to do something and not lose another year. I’m not a newbie in this sport and can swim through a lot of varying conditions so I was fine with whatever we might encounter.

We had a belly full and a bit of everything. The swim began at around noon at Glorietta Park with warm calm water (75 dg F) and warm air. As we crossed under the Coronado Bridge, water chop began to pick up yet winds remained the same all day long at WSW 5 mph. The water temperature dropped a few degrees but still fine. As we passed the carriers, the Teddy Roosevelt and the Carl Vinson, we stayed in fairly close to the security zone buffer as boat traffic had picked up considerably. Taylor drove the boat all day and Fred and Christine were on full alert for boat traffic, things were getting busy. Robbie was beginning to get tossed around more in the kayak and at one point, a military security vessel came by on its routine patrolling. Robbie, Christine and Taylor are all accustomed to them and were easily able to point me out and say “She’s doing a long swim” with no pushback. We were not encroaching on their secure space, they were only checking on a slow moving boat, all good.

As we moved west and into NAS North Island territory, where Christine is stationed, it became a whole new swim. We were encountering significant chop, no change in wind, air temperatures were climbing with a major heat wave in San Diego and water temp dropped a little but boat traffic was substantial, big and fast. We were squarely in the middle of a Trump boat rally. They were coming from every direction and it took everyone on board to make our presence known and have them divert away from us. Fred could not manage a feed due to boaters so we skipped it; Christine and Taylor were standing in full view of boaters, asking/motioning them to slow down and take care, motioning towards me and Robbie was paddling through some fierce chop. When we skipped a feed, I figured that something was going on, Fred is like clockwork with feeds. I had no idea what they were dealing with and I was thinking back to Gibraltar and a similar wave/chop action. I swam very calmly through dozens of boat wakes and the unrelenting chop and big water action. I think my family was just about sick of my swim by then. Maggie, a good dog was wondering what we had gotten her into because she had never been on a boat and had been scared initially to jump onboard. She was ready to go home.

Eventually things began to settle down, Christine took over for Robbie in the kayak and a rogue wave immediately flipped her. I couldn’t help for fear of disqualification so I laughed at her instead. They righted the kayak and continued; I finally got a feed.

We continued around the end of the North Island runway and her squadron headquarters, Robbie and Fred neglected to take any photos because that is a long-standing fight. Years of swimming great swims and not nearly enough photos to show for it. Suddenly, I swam through a much colder patch, gave a little shiver. It warmed up, then another cold spot. It warmed up one more time and I knew the permanent cold water was coming. Our water temperature dropped substantially to 63 and I’m glad that no one told me how much it had dropped. I can deal with cold water but deep down, I hate it. I continued on and stayed in a good mindset, I only retired twice. Robbie, tongue in cheek, asked me if he could divert us over to Point Loma and go surfing. Ha, not a chance, buddy.

It was the doldrums of the swim. We were not nearly done but I wanted some info on how the day was going. We stopped for a feed and Christine later said that she could see me shaking a little. I asked her if we were paralleling the jetty yet. I’m not sure that she knew but I didn’t get much of an answer. I did know that eventually the jetty would disappear underwater and we would have to go around the far end. By this time, we had the strongest tide assist of the day. I could see decent progress as we motored along at the mouth of the bay, alongside the jetty. I knew exactly when we reached the end, making that left turn towards Coronado. Three miles left into the beach!

As we left the slipstream of the tide assist, it was a dramatic slowdown although I did not realize it. I felt pretty good, not a cardio issue at all, I have all the heart and lungs in the world. My body was a little tired and asking how many more years I intended to do this crap to myself. As usual, I told myself to knock it off and swim. It’s the same battle that rages in every swimmer and in every swim, I believe. I told myself that this was nothing at 12 miles, keep moving and it takes as long as it takes.

The water temperature was a little better and I could see the Hotel Del and the condos on the horizon. I began playing the game of Don’t Look and for the first time all day, I was staying closer to the boat than the kayak. I was having a stubborn moment as we continued along. This was a boring, somewhat aggravating stretch in pure open ocean. I knew exactly where I was and what I had to do, the crew was settling in for this final 90 minutes and we did what we do- they watch, I swim, they feed me, I drink and keep swimming. Maggie was still a good dog.

As we closed in on the beach, I was semi-staying patient and ready to finish this up. Taylor had us headed towards the condos. I really wanted to come in at Gator Beach but we were just west of that location. When getting very close, he began paralleling the beach. I put up with it for a while and finally asked what was up. They said that they were moving down towards Gator, I picked up my head for a good look around and saw a lot of people in the water just before reaching Gator Beach. We were offshore far enough but I knew that we were legal with the swim and I opted to continue paralleling for another few minutes. Finally, I said that I was heading in, I did not want to push on through those beach go’ers and people floating around in the water just 100 yards away. It was a bit less crowded at our present location. I turned to head in and it only took a couple of minutes to swim in, try to place feet, too deep, swim some more, place feet, stand and walk out of the water. Robbie followed me to the beach in the kayak.

A woman named Elizabeth immediately came over and asked if I was ok. I think that I looked a little ragged. I assured her that I was and she asked where I had begun swimming. I answered “Glorietta Park, just across the street” and it took her a moment to piece that together and her eyes flew open.

She was dumbstruck that she had come across a swimmer who had made it around the island. She asked Robbie if I was his mom and asked how long I had been swimming that day. I had no idea and said 5 ½ hours or so. She wasn’t buying it when I said that I was tired enough but this was not a major long swim for me, just a fun one with my family. Another couple came over and told me about their son doing a Catalina Island relay swim during high school, had I heard about that swim? Oh yes, done and in the bank years ago…

Meanwhile, lifeguards were freaking out a bit about the boat being too close to shore, yet the boat was well outside of the one and only marker, Taylor piloted a Navy ship through numerous South Pacific straits and Christine lands on a dime, on a carrier, they knew exactly where they were. Nevertheless, it was time to swim back to the boat and get out of there. Elizabeth cautioned me that there had been several sharks sighting along the beach that day. I said to myself “That’s nice.” I thanked her and said that I was getting back in to swim to the boat. It was a little warm down for my aging body although the 68-69 dg water suddenly felt chilly. I did the usual ugly flip into the boat, sat motionless for a few minutes, listened to the guards still flipping out and we got underway back to Shelter Island to return the boat.

It truly was a great day out there. It meant the world to me to complete this one. It’s a fairly iconic swim, I had the whole family out there, we had a little adventure and given the training disruptions, it was that much sweeter. It certainly was not boring for anyone. I treat every swim with respect and as though it may be the last, yet even though I retired a few times out there, I didn’t really mean it. Let’s get back to good solid work and go have more “fun” next year!


Click to enlarge.

Hotel del Coronado