Kathrin (Katie) Blair - St. Lucia Channel
St. Lucia to Martinique
34.5 km (21.4 miles)
12 hours, 29 minutes on 13 October 2020
Observed and documented by Sue Dyson
- Support Personnel
- Swim Parameters
- Swim Data & GPS
- Observer Report
- Name: Kathrin (Katie) Blair
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 41
- Nationality: United States / Germany
- Resides: Huntington, Indiana, USA
- Jammain Stanley - pilot
- Will Wilson - pilot
- Cornel Clairmont - pilot
- Vanessa Eugene - feeder, support swimmer
- Eget Martyre - feeder
- Sherrie Popo - feeder
- John McLennon - photographer, observer
- LizAnne Debeauville-Jones - observer
- Sue Dyson - organizer & lead observer
|Gone SailAbout||50-foot catamaran||Rodney Bay / Reno, NV|
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, with exception of finish in ankle-deep water (details below).
- Equipment used: textile swimsuit (Dolfin uglies), goggles, silicone cap, sunscreen, Desitin (zinc oxide).
Due to COVID-19 international travel restrictions on Martinique, the swimmer was not permitted to fully clear the water on Martinique. Katie’s finish time was recorded when she was standing in ankle-deep water.
- Body of Water: St. Lucia Channel
- Route Type: one-way channel swim (part 1 of a planned two-way swim that ended after 29 hours, 10 minutes).
- Start Location: Smuggler’s Cove beach, north of Cap Maison resort (14.100365, -60.950121)
- Finish Location: Petite Anse des Salines (14.408585, -60.885095)
- Minimum Route Distance: 34.5 km (21.4 miles) (map). As established by previous St. Lucia Channel swims, measured as shortest path between closest accessible beach on St. Lucia (near Smuggler’s Cove) and the closest accessible beach on Martinique (Grande Anse). Actual finish location on Martinique was slightly further up the coast.
LongSwimsDB: St. Lucia Channel.
- Start: 13 October 2020, 01:27 (Atlantic Standard Time, America/St_Lucia, UTC-4).
- Finish: 13 October 2020, 13:56
- Elapsed: 12 hours, 29 minutes, 6 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||83||84|
|Air Temp (F)||81||85|
Trackpoint frequency: 30 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
Nutrition: Every half-hour: alternating coconut water, Perpetuem, coke, energy drink, Hammer gel packs.
by Sue Dyson, lead observer
PLANNING & ORGANIZING – by Sue Dyson
Katie Blair contacted me in August 2019 regarding the St Lucia Channel Swim. During our correspondence, Katie was interested in discussions of attempting a double or two-way from Saint Lucia to Martinique and back to Saint Lucia. She also indicated a desire to try a circumnavigation of Saint Lucia which had only been attempted in stages by Jacques Sicot during end of June into July 2017. As neither swim have been attempted, it was going to take extra research and planning. By October 2019 we were well into planning the trip dates and expenses for the first ever two way attempt of the St Lucia Channel.
My only concern was not to have her complete the swim during our annual event in July. As this was the first ever attempt of a two-way, I wanted to be sure I could provide my complete focus on this particular swim without the nuances from other events and factors. After discussions via email and Whatsapp, we nailed June 2020 as when she would attempt. Over the next few months, Katie began to train and I began to plan. We made the deposit for the boat on December 2019 and off we went to get ready for an epic first!
From December until March 2020, time passed without any interference. And then… Covid-19. The pool in Katie’s area was closed (as most of the businesses), the pond was too cold to train in, and Saint Lucia closed their borders. It went from smooth sailing to a watch and wait game. Truly, there wasn’t much you could do but just wait to see what was going to happen. By the end of April, Katie started to try to train in her pond but was concerned that 6 weeks wasn’t going to be enough. In Saint Lucia, we still had no real update as to when the borders would open again. At this point, we were on strict curfew from 5 PM until 5 AM with only select businesses open. What could we do? Wait a few more weeks.
At the middle of May, we both decided it would be best to postpone until we were positive about the availability of travel and so training could get more necessary training time into each day. Saint Lucia government had announced a June opening date, but there were so many questions around it. Katie indicated she just could not train as much as she wanted. Yeah… postpone until later in the year. After reviewing calendars and options, we moved her two-way attempt to October 2020… Oct 9th arrival in Saint Lucia. Hotel and boat reservation dates were changed to the next dates.
In June 2020, the Saint Lucian government announced the specific requirements to enter the borders are a tourist. This information allowed me to continue planning and guiding Katie and other swimmers interested in coming to Saint Lucia. Katie continued to train and work on volunteers/support crew to join her in Saint Lucia.
As we entered July, the borders between Martinique and Saint Lucia were still closed. The protocols required tourists to have a PCR test with negative results within 7 days of arrival to Saint Lucia. Additionally, all visitors must stay in a Covid-19 Certified hotel for the duration of their swim. (These protocols remain in effect today.) I knew at this point, any swim would require extra time and attention to gain the necessary permissions. The real concern was more permissions to cross into Martinique waters and onto shore while the two countries are under Covid-19 protocols.
Between late July and early August, I started to write to the necessary authorities for permissions. The first response came from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) approving the swim and the swimmer to leave the hotel facility during her intended stay to attempt the swim. About midway through August, we had not heard back from the authorities in Martinique. Knowing the Declaration has to be submitted and the Prefecture of Martinique might need to provide special permission, I not only contacted the French/Martinique Maritime Affairs but copied both the French Embassy in Saint Lucia and the Consular Office for Saint Lucia in Martinique.
Patience and waiting… that seemed to be the name of the game. The local authorities for both countries were busy fighting the pandemic, creating protocols and policies. Plus due to the dry, hot days both islands started to see an increase in Dengue cases. Request types such as ours were set to the side until they had a moment to review. Finally we received a response from Maritime Affairs in mid-September and stringent guidelines were laid out. About the same time, the CMO’s office provided some updated requirements as well.
The requirements or guidelines from either side were not difficult to adhere to but needed everyone on the crew as well as Katie and her son Ashton on board. So we called our initial crew meeting on September 19th. Present at this crew meeting were our 2 boat captains and boat hand as well as an independent observer and feeder/support swimmer. The meeting consisted of the authorizations from local authorities as well as discussions of the currents for the path back to Saint Lucia. We knew this would be challenging. The requirements included:
- No one was allowed onto the shores or beach of Martinique (required by both sides)
- No vessel was to beach on the sand in Martinique (MART authorities)
- Swimmer is not allowed to bring the water below her ankles on arrival in Martinique (MART authorities)
- Registration certificate of vessel must be provided to Martinique authorities in advance (MART)
- Clear out and clear in of Rodney Bay marina as normal protocols (St Lucia authorities)
- No large reception gathering on the beaches of Martinique (required by both sides)
Around the same time, I received a formal request from Longvilliers Swim Club in Martinique for permissions for Christophe Maleau to attempt to swim from Saint Lucia to Martinique. Originally, the intended swim date was October 3rd or 4th. This would prove challenging and be pushed a week back to make sure all permissions were granted.
All the last minute items started to come together. We found the rest of the volunteers needed for the crew. All of them had experience with diving, sailing, or just out on a boat for long period of time. We had another crew meeting with the volunteers to discuss the swim, go over requirements, and make sure everyone was up to date. Things seemed to fall into place. About 10 days out from Katie’s arrival, I received the boat registration certificate from the charter company. The current certificate was about to expire but the charter company assured me we would have the new certificate in time.
Katie arrived with Ashton, her son, on October 9th. It was a little hectic that evening to try to meet her as well as meet Christophe Maleau and his crew as the both arrived at nearly the same time. Since Maleau and team would be on the quarantine dock, I stayed to get them cleared in through Immigration, Customs, and Port Health. Now on to meet Katie & Ashton. We briefly caught up after they had a chance to get to the beach for sunset. We both agreed, we would meet up for lunch and be able to have a couple Zoom interviews with local media and then the Crew Briefing with Rules reading.
The plan was coming together. On Saturday, October 10th the crew gathered at Bay Gardens Hotel in a special location for briefing, enforcing Covid-19 protocols of distancing and wearing masks. The team agreed after review of the weather, currents, and tide that we would meet at 11 PM at Rodney Bay Marina on Monday, Oct 12th to leave the docks at 12 midnight. This would allow Katie to get into the water and start swimming by 1 AM. The forecast looked good and clear for the most part.
Monday October 12th brought all the last minute finalizations. I still needed to have the updated registration certificate for the boat as well as make sure all other items for our adventure were in place. After a call to the boat charter company, I learned that the actual certificate wasn’t available. However, they did have a string of emails between the boat owners and the US Coast Guard approving the registration. Will Martinique authorities accept it? That was the big question. Forwarding the information over to Maritime Affairs in Martinique during the mid-morning hours, I waited for a response. While finalizing other details, no response came in.
Finally, 3:30 PM I went to the charter company for final arrangements and to clear out of Saint Lucia. I suggested again another vessel as we need to be sure we don’t get into problems on the sea during the swim. I was assured by the manager that Martinique officials would accept the information provided. With only a few minutes to get to the customs office, I left with the captain. We needed to be able to clear out before 4:30 PM.
After we finished with Customs, it was the final shopping and to load up the boat. Running around throughout the early evening, by 10 PM we had everything ready for the rest of the team to arrive. That’s when I noticed the email from Martinique Maritime Affairs denying entry on the assigned boat “Jacket Required”. UGH! Immediately, I jumped into “emergency mode” and started to reach the management team at the charter company. We would need a new vessel, the new certificate, and to properly clear customs.
After reaching Lene, the manager, I knew we needed to move quickly to remove everything off this boat and get ready to be assigned a new boat. Within an hour, the rest of the crew started to arrive. They started to assist in taking everything off the old boat. Finally, Captain Stanley arrived. We would be assigned to a larger boat named “Gone SailAbout”. We tried to move everything over to the new vessel before Katie and Ashton arrived so she wouldn’t be stressed about the change. By 12:15 AM on Tuesday, October 13th, 2020, we were almost ready for our swim adventure.
- Master Captain - Jammain Stanley
- Captain – Will Wilson
- Captain/Boat hand – Cornel Clairmont
- Feeder/Support Swimmer/EMT – Vanessa Eugene
- Feeder/Rescue Diver – Eget Martyr
- Feeder – Shernice Popo
- Independent Observer/Organizer – Sue Dyson
- Independent Observer – LizAnne Debeauville-Jones
- Photographer/Observer – John McLennon
- Feeder/Moral Support/ Son Extraordinaire – Ashton Raymond
- Extra Crew / More moral support – Shaquil Flavius
OBSERVING the SWIM
At 12:33 AM on the very early morning of Tuesday, October 13th, the catamaran named “Gone SailAbout” started to slowly maneuver out of the Rodney Bay Marina. The dark skies glittered with stars as we made our way out in the Rodney Bay. When we rounded the westward point of Pigeon Island, Katie Blair started to apply zinc and skin protection to her face. At approximately 1:15 AM we reached our destination – Smugglers Cove. The boat captains – Stanley and Will – worked together to get the stern of the vessel as close as they could to shore so Katie wouldn’t have too far to swim. At approximately 1:25 AM, Katie jumped off the stern into the warm sea and headed to shore. It was easy for her to see where she was headed as there were “glow lights” underneath the boat. As she stood on the shore, she raised her hand. The countdown started down from 10 and at 1:27 AM the boat horn and air horn sounded starting Katie’s swim.
As Katie approached the starboard side of the boat, we slowly maneuvered out of the cove. At this point we still had the glow lights on and the “feeders” worked to prep her first feed. Katie opted to feed every 30 minutes starting immediately rather than waiting until after the first hour. After about 15 minutes into the swim, Captain Stanley turned off the lights under the boat. This was to not attract any unwanted marine life. That’s when we all saw it… Katie didn’t have her flashing light for the back of her head. Thank goodness Ashton knew where her things were in her bag. He grabbed it and it was added to her first feed.
That first feed at 1:54 AM took longer than normal – nearly 5 minutes. The light was sent to Katie on the end of the rope after she finished the feed. She had to hook it onto her goggles and requested that she change to the port side of the boat to swim. The captains and boat hand worked out a system to know where she was located since the helm was on the starboard side.
There was lightning off in the very far distance over both Saint Lucia and Martinique for most of the dark morning hours. This is to be expected this time of year, especially as a tropical wave was located on the eastern side of the islands moving to the northwest. After about 1 ½ hours, as we moved out into the channel more you could tell we were past the point of Saint Lucia. The swells picked up a bit to just over 1 meter, the winds also started to increase.
This would continue on for another couple miles as we drew closer to the center of the channel. The feeds continued on every 30 minutes without any type of disruption. Katie commented on how energized she felt after the first few hours. She was even surprised at how quickly it seemed some of the feeds came. A couple members of the crew started to feel a little seasick from the slow motions on the waves. We provided them some fresh Ginger candied and pills to assist. All in all it was a good start to the swim.
After nearly 4 hours, we started to see first light and sun was creeping over the horizon. The sky turned clouds turned shades of pink as we made our way closer and closer to Martinique. You could see the lights on both Saint Lucia and Martinique fade as the sun continued to rise. It is always amazing to see both islands off in the distance in either direction!
At the same 4 hour mark, the captains made their first switch and feeders followed suit. The crew was following the guidance of 4 hours rest periods for each person. As the sun continued to rise, Katie commented how it was even easier to swim with the sunlight.
After about 5 hours or so, the Brown Boobies started to come and circle around. Checking out what was happening in the water, as they are not used to a white and blue person swimming across the sea. There was one or two that just continued and continued to leave and come back. As the sun rose higher and higher in the sky, the winds started to diminish.
Reaching the 6 hour mark and we also reached about ½ way across the channel. This was perfect timing! Katie was holding an easy but steady pace across the first leg. This would help her to conserve energy when she returned on the second leg to Saint Lucia. With rainbows above the boat and the mountains of Martinique outlined on the horizon we trudged forward.
Within the next hour Ashton, Katie’s son, came to give her some encouragement. She indicated that she was urinating at least 1x every half hour and was still feeling really good. At this point, Katie started to request more zinc to rub on her face and shoulders. For the next several feeds, she continued to ask for more zinc as the sun started to take its toll on her in the warm, salty sea.
With the Brown Boobies continuing to fly and circle both Katie and the boat, the seas started to calm even more. It was noticeable that Katie’s picked up as well. I would attribute this to the change in current as well as the diminishing swell size. Then our first siting of marine life – a pilot whale. Off in the distance from the port side, the whale poked its head out of the water several times to see what was going on. Even more excitement when we notice dolphins as well over the next couple of hours.
With about 2 to 2 ½ hours of swimming to Martinique, Katie indicated she felt very well. She continued on and the crew was cheering her on, keeping her motivated. We were now closing in quickly on Martinique and everyone was excited.
We saw a boat heading our way, we were still a few miles off shore from Martinique. Everyone scrambled to find their masks just in case as we knew the Martinique coastguard might pay us a visit. As the boat slowed down and pulled in line, we could see it was Christophe Maleau and his father. Plus one of the boat operators from Christophe’s swim a few days prior. How amazing the love and camaraderie among open water swimmers!
With about 2 miles from the shoreline, the captains lowered the dingy. I took a few feeds, some zinc and skin protection, and boarded with John McLennon and Capt Cornel. We started our way to guide Katie to shore. As the region has reefs as well as being a nature reserve, the catamaran was not to approach shore closer than 1 mile.
All was going well. Christophe and his father were both yelling “Go Katie, go!” The crew on the cat was also shouting and encouraging. When Katie came from her feed, we estimated after that it would take about 45 minutes to get to shore. We opted to go straight for it rather than stop to feed again. As we were making our way closer and closer, the dingy started to give some issues. It kept stalling out. Thank goodness we had a few visitors from Martinique come to cheer Katie on. As the catamaran took over guiding Katie to shore, Christophe’s team took our line and towed us back to the main boat. Captain Stanley and Cornel tried several times to get it going but we couldn’t get it to run steady… until the very last moment.
Captain Stanley then jumped in the dingy and took the feed bucket with the skin creams and zinc, whizzing off to shore. As Katie was just a few meters from shore, the crew noticed a man walking across the beach. Could it be we landed on “Sandra’s beach” again with the naked man? Oh why yes! The man was walking without close to his make shift camp area to put on some trunks. As the crew looked down the beach, there was several other men without clothes up and down the beach.
Katie started making her way to ankle deep water and off his boat jumped young Christophe swimming towards shore. He had the excitement of a typical child meeting his mentor. With a huge smile they stood on shore with each other sharing a special bond – of course socially distanced as Katie knew the rules from St Lucian authorities. What a wonderful way for Katie to land on Martinique with the warmth from others waiting to receive her.
The Return Leg
Shortly after Katie touched, I received a message from Mr. Marajo in French. Mr. Robert Marajo is the President of the Longvilliers Swim Club, which Christophe belongs too. I brought the message to Capt. Will who was at the helm. Using Google Translate, he congratulated us on Katie’s making it to Martinique. He also warned that if we tried to turn straight back we would be caught in rough currents and suggested we head to the light house. This was the same path the crew previously discussed.
At 2:01 PM Katie began her return leg to Saint Lucia. We knew this was going to be more difficult. As the team warmed up lunch in the galley, Captain Stanley returned with the dingy. On Katie’s first feed for the return leg, she requested Listerine and pain meds. She was feeling fatigued but was up for the fight to reach Saint Lucia.
The crew warmed up lunch and started to take turns with the various tasks so everyone had a chance to eat and prep for the long night ahead. After checking some emails and getting a little food, I noticed that we were not on the course discussed. Quickly I went to the helm to show them. We decided to try to make a push straight south and follow parallel to our path across.
Katie kept pushing along and around 3:45 PM suggested it would be a good time to have a support swimmer. Shernice Popo decided to join her in the water for about 30 minutes. After about 15 minutes, Shernice received a pair of fins to help her keep up with Katie in the water. About 15 minutes later, Katie requested her cheeseburger on the next feed. We warmed it up, cut it in half and went out with it at about 4:30. At this point, while Katie enjoyed her cheeseburger, Shernice came out of the water.
Over the next few hours, as the sun starts to set, the jellyfish float to the top of the water. They are small yet still stinging a little bit. Katie would change back to her clear goggles around 5:45 and Vanessa would jump in to swim for while with her. The two kept a good pace with Katie always ahead of Vanessa. After about 30 minutes, Vanessa came out of the water. Night was falling and darkness was coming when Katie could hear whistling under the water. She commented about how it was a little creepy. The captains told her it was just whales talking to each other.
With the flying fish jumping on the boat or over Katie’s head, the whale breeching at the bow of the boat, and the stars in the sky, Katie pushed on for the night swim. She was doing ok with keeping going and always seemed more motivated when Ashton was there to give her a feed. Vanessa jumped in for another support swim as we headed towards midnight. This did seem to help pep Katie up some as well. Vanessa commented about the jellyfish and also explained that being near the stern was making it more difficult for Katie to push forward.
In the end, I took a rest around 1 AM on Wednesday, 10/14. When I woke up after about 1 hour 20 minutes, I realized we were now drifting even further west. I spoke to Captain Stanley about correcting and started guiding him from the port side stern area of the boat. In the end, we continued to drift west despite trying to correct it due to the swifter currents. Katie’s tongue and nostrils continued to swell – most likely a combination of the saltwater and jellyfish stings.
While we tried to push on, it was concerning as the sun rose again and Katie couldn’t swallow much of the feeds. While the antihistamine helped some, it didn’t totally correct the swelling. At 6 AM, Katie and I discussed to keep going and see how it goes in the next 30 minutes. We gave her more antihistamine but it really wasn’t helping at this point.
At 6:30 AM on Wednesday, 10/14, Katie agreed it was time for her to come out of the water. She was unable to swallow and without replenishing nutrients/electrolytes it could lead to further medical issues.
While Katie did not touch land, she did prove it is possible to attempt a two way in the Saint Lucia channel and get close to Saint Lucia. The entire crew is very proud of what she has accomplished. Katie trained to be in the water swimming for up to 30 hours and 65-68 KM. She definitely succeeded in both!
Original handwritten log (from boat):
by Katie Blair
Inspired by the feasts of the great ones in our sport in 2019, namely Sarah Thomas’ unfathomable quadruple English Channel swim and Cameron Bellamy’s surreal swim from Barbados to St. Lucia, I found myself longing for another adventure. With about a decade of openwater marathon swimming experience, combined with my Ironman triathlon background, and my early swimming days, reaching now 30 years back, I felt ready to challenge myself by trying to go further. I have never been particularly fast, and my stroke resembles a combination between steamboat and windmill, but I know I am exceptionally hard-headed. And so, itching for adventure from the couch of my rural Indiana home, I contacted Sue Dyson inquiring about options for “a really long swim”. An initial idea was the circumnavigation of the beautiful island of St. Lucia, about 77 miles, and after some realistic conversations, it was decided the endeavor was probably a bit out of my league. Sue suggested tackling a double St. Lucia Channel swim, 41 miles from St. Lucia to Martinique and back, an adventure that had not been completed before.
It didn’t take long until official bookings were made, and our swim was scheduled for June of 2020. Little did all of us know what the beginning of a new decade would hold in store. Frankly, had someone told me what we were in for on New Year’s Day, I would have laughed out loud. Fast forward to March, just as the world was shutting down in an unprecedented epidemic that was accompanied by an eerie and surreal feeling for us all, I also encountered some private tragedies and found myself going through a divorce. Working from home, but at least working, my beloved pools all closed, the openwater still partially frozen, the dream of swimming in the Caribbean seemed like a distant fantasy. Sue does not only have an exceptional talent for organizing adventures at sea, she also does overtime providing mental health counseling services as needed, which is ironic because that is technically my chosen profession.
We endured and postponed and hoped for our October window. We navigated special permissions and travel requirements of the new normal and on Oct. 9^th^, 2020 my 15-year-old son Ashton and I arrived on the island. Ashton had never been able to accompany a swim before and having him be part of the adventure just warmed my heart. Used to the year’s uncertainty, the swim did not seem to be “really happening” until our catamaran set of for the start in the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 13^th^. At 1:25 am, I left a small cove on the island of St. Lucia to set off into the warm, dark, wavy ocean with a breathtaking array of stars ahead. I have always found the night intimidating but as my hands pulled through the water some of the plankton lit up making little golden specs. Night swimming at its breathtaking and slightly intimidating finest. Whenever I swim at night, I cannot wait for the light to return so sunrise came as the usual relief. By then the crew and I had settled into a nice rhythm of 30-minute feeds and steady progress.
The sun quickly began to gain in merciless intensity, making me reapply Desitin and Zinka sunscreen several times as I could literally feel the spots I missed or that had rubbed off since the start. The noon sun brought relatively calm water but had an unwavering and merciless sting to it. Progress remained steady and I was torn out of my daydreams by a little voice with a French accent screaming “Katie go, Katie go”. A small boat had joined us and I spotted 13 year-old Christophe Maleau, who had swam from Martinique to St. Lucia just days prior at the age of 12, accompanied by his father and swimmer Julien Panevel, all from Martinique, coming to welcome me to their island.
We had obtained special permission for me to briefly enter Martinique, still on lockdown due to COVID-19, under the condition that I was to remain in ankle deep water. As I stood in the surf Christophe swam up to me and we were able to take a few photos. Christophe stands 4 feet tall with a footlong smile and even though we do not speak the same languages, we had a great moment of smiles and shared love for our ocean and our sport. My stop in Martinique lasted all of 5 minutes and included re-applying sunscreen, switching goggles and a quick feed before I was off again. The afternoon was still quite easy, but I began to dread the night, knowing this would be what makes or breaks this swim.
As the sun set, small jellyfish made their way to the surface and I was stung, not severely, but continuously. The wind picked up and it became challenging to navigate feeds off the catamaran in the dark while fighting the waves. The water underneath me seemed so alive and I kept hearing loud whistles that finally had me sprint to my support boat and inquire what might be causing this. I learned the unknown sound coming from the ocean was caused by whales and shortly after, in the faint light beam that penetrated the water I swam in, I saw two whales swimming several feet underneath me. First a larger, than a smaller whale, just passing by calmy and steady and disappearing into the dark as if I had dreamt them. I briefly wondered what natural predators whales may have and what else may be out there that might mistake me for a menu item but was quickly distracted by crew member Vanessa Eugene joining me a second time as a fierce support swimmer in the dark.
I had difficulty staying close to the boat that just seemed to consistently be drifting away to the west and much later learned that somewhere in the dark we had gotten of course. Feeds became more exhausting in the currents and the night seemed to be getting longer and passing slower by the hour. I told myself that surely, if we made it to daybreak, we would have to reach land. Around 4 in the morning on Wednesday, Oct. 14^th^, I began asking the question that swimmers out in the open should probably generally avoid. Looking at the hotels on the St. Lucia coast, the beach seemed close, an hour or maybe two away. I was told we were still four hours away. Frustrated, I decided to focus on one feed at a time. I was also beginning to experience more and more discomfort as my tongue had continued to swell throughout the night and felt like a large dishrag that had no place in my mouth. Swallowing went from being painful to being difficult causing me to choke and cough during feeds.
I later learned it was at this point my crew became concerned. I finally shared that I had been stung quiet frequently, a fact that I did not mention prior due to the minor nature of the stings. Nothing compared to the Hawaiian Man-o-War that I have experienced before. My crew decided to give a liquid antihistamine and to my great surprise my tongue seemed to unswell just enough to find a little relief. The relief did not last long and a few stings later the same issues of struggling to swallow and breath returned. I saw the faces of my crew and their concerned look and most importantly the worried look on my son’s face. We had some conversations over how far we had left to go as I knew that without proper fluid and nutrition intake, I was on borrowed time.
It was right around 6:30 in the morning and after a few hours of swimming five miles parallel to shore, that I told my crew I think I did not have the time left in me that it would take to bring this swim home. It was not a very hard decision as I mumbled fractions of words as I could no longer speak. The infamous ladder extended into the water and I climbed on board. I quickly became quite nauseous and my crew was busy trying to help me find relief. A disappointing moment but I was in too much discomfort to care and managed to find some pride in how far we had come and my son having enjoyed the adventure.
Of course, a few days later, and feeling better, there is a little bit of nagging regret and a slight dissatisfaction, but we quickly began focusing on planning my return to St. Lucia in July of 2021 to attempt a circumnavigation. We analyzed the learning points, and we all have homework to do. But there was no blaming, pickering, or arguing. It is the nature of our sport that we set out into the unknown and this means we do not have any guarantees. It is what I love about the openwater. Often, in our everyday lives, we became so focused on the bottom-line, the outcome of an endeavor, we forget the joy of being out in the adventure, wildly alive and enjoying unforgettable moments. My gratitude goes to a relentless crew that made an unforgettable swim happen:
- Sue Dyson – organizer, ocean lover, emergency mental health service provider
- Shaquil Flavius- extra crew, Sue’s exceptional teenage son (two peas in a pod with Ashton)
- Ashton Raymond- feeder, son extraordinaire, the funniest guy on the boat (last note added per Ashton’s request)
- Will Wilson – captain, comic relief
- Jammain Stanley – captain, dingy hero
- Cornel Claimont – captain, boat hand, calming presence
- Vanessa Eugene – feeder, support swimmer, cheerleader
- Shernice Popo -feeder, support swimmer, adventurer
- Eget Martyre – feeder, strong woman
- Liz Anne Deabeauville – observer, sea sickness victim
- John McLennon – photographer, swim enthusiast
Thanks for all your hard work.
Click to enlarge.
Reading of the Rules
St Lucia Star: Katie Blair’s historic open water swim