Swimming from New York to Connecticut

After swimming from Fishers island to Groton Long Point/Noank, swimmers rest near Noank Town Dock Monday morning. Seated, left to right: Steve Fagin, Rick Ely, Laura Ely, Mary Georgetti, Nickie Pettinati. Standing, left to right: Spyros Barres, B.J. Ferguson, Anne Galliher, Barry Sheckley, Vince Antonelli.

Shortly after dawn Monday, the village of Noank at first glance had the appearance of the staging ground for a Navy Seal-like invasion, as wetsuit-clad swimmers began assembling near Town Dock, along with a small flotilla of kayaks and power boats.

“What are you guys, some kind of club?” a woman out walking her dog asked me as I jammed a leg into the neoprene garment and tightened a strap on my goggles.

“Sorry, ma’am, I’m not at liberty to divulge that information,” I replied.

Just kidding. What I really said was, “Not a club, per se; just a bunch of people getting ready to swim across Fishers Island Sound.” She raised her eyebrows and said, “No kidding. Well, good luck!”

“Thanks. I’ll need it.”

Loyal readers may recall I mentioned a couple weeks ago I had been training for this event, and promised to follow up with an account. Monday was D-Day; here’s my story.

I and the other swimmers — Vince Antonelli, Spyros “Spy” Barres, Laura Ely, Rick Ely, B.J. Ferguson, Anne Galliher, Mary Georgetti, Jack Morehouse, Nickie Pettinati and Barry Sheckley — climbed into four power boats that towed four kayaks and began motoring toward our starting site at Clay Point on Fishers Island.

We had hoped to begin swimming by 7:30 just before slack tide in order to reach Groton Long Point, slightly more than 2 miles north, before the tide began to ebb about 8:30, but getting everybody on board and in position proved about as challenging as herding cats. As one of the slowest swimmers in this mixed group of amateurs and competitive triathletes I was particularly concerned about the timing — more about that shortly.

Anyway, we looked less like the Allied Forces landing on Normandy’s Omaha Beach and more like McHale’s Navy, but after all, this was to be a fun event — or so I kept telling myself.

The kayak support team climbed into their vessels, we posed for pictures on a partially submerged rock, the power boats that would accompany us started their engines, and with a whoop and a splash we were off.

As much as I enjoy recreational swimming, I vastly prefer hiking, running or kayaking because of the isolation.

For the next two hours I never saw another swimmer and only exchanged a handful of words with my “wing man,” Phil Plouffe, who paddled alongside and tried to keep me on course.

“Are we halfway there?” I asked at one point.

“Almost,” he replied.

An hour later we had this exchange:

“Head a little farther to the right.”

“OK.”

With about a quarter-mile to go I noticed I had begun drifting slightly east of our destination.

Uh-oh. The ebb had begun.

Gamely, Phil tried to direct me west, but it was no go. The harder I swam, the farther I slid east.

Spy, behind me, was having the same problem.

A motorboat skipper pulled alongside.

“Don’t fight it,” he said. “You’re like treading water.” He suggested I change course and swim east with the current toward Noank.

“Don’t worry. I’ll pick you up wherever you land,” he added.

“I’m not worried. Thanks,” I spluttered.

Truth be told I felt good the whole way and never doubted I’d make it, but I hadn’t planned to swim an extra half-mile or so, even with an ebbing tide.

Once I began stroking with the current, though, I made good progress and within 15 minutes approached Morgan Point in Noank near the mouth of the Mystic River.

“This is good enough,” I called over to Phil. He nodded.

I swam over to the rocks, touched one with an arm, and then reversed direction and steered for the waiting power boat. Once aboard I saw Spy make a similar maneuver, and I gave him a thumbs up. Moments later we rejoined our companions at Noank Town Dock.

Spy and I had swum to Fishers Island from Groton Long Point a few years ago, more or less on a lark, with Phil accompanying us in a rowboat. It was great to do it again in the opposite direction, and with a bigger crew.

“What’s next?” I asked B.J. Ferguson, the organizer of Monday’s adventure. “Block Island?”

He laughed.

“I can scratch this off my bucket list,” he said. “But there’s always something new to do.”

Amen.

B.J. and most of the others swim regularly at Giants Neck Beach at Rocky Neck in East Lyme, in an informal but hardcore group organized by Barry Sheckley. They typically hit the water at dawn and swim for a mile or two.

I hope to make it out at least once this year before the snow flies so next time I’ll be able to reach Groton Long Point before the tide turns.

Great job, guys and gals, and thanks for having me along.

 

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

What Snow and Ice? The Maple Sap Is Running!

Every year about this time, after having spent the past few months shoveling tons of snow from the driveway, lugging tons of firewood from the shed, getting out of bed dozens of times at 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, hauling countless buckets of...

Finally! A Worthy Snowstorm -- Maybe Even a Bombogenesis!

Just when we winter worshipers had resigned ourselves to another snowless season, and only a day after the temperature climbed ridiculously into the 60s, our prayers have been answered not just by an ordinary storm but by a meteorological...

Animal Tracks in the Snow: They All Tell a Story

If you thought most forest animals hibernated in winter, or at least slept through the night, take a stroll through the woods the morning after a snowfall.

What Does the Fox Say? Yip-yip-yip! Chance Encounters With Creatures Great and Small

While I lugged logs from the woodshed the other morning a yip-yip-yip! pierced the still air. First reaction: Did the neighbors get a dog? No, they were out of town for a few days. Yip-yip-yip!

Ringling Bros., SeaWorld and the Columbus Zoo: Pitfalls of Keeping Elephants, Orcas and Gorillas in Captivity

Large, wild animals belong in the wild, not in a circus, aquarium or zoo – a point reinforced by events involving three prominent, unrelated institutions in the last couple weeks.

Our Debt of Gratitude to President Obama, the Environmentalist-in-Chief

As we prepare to inaugurate a president who has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax," appointed as Environmental Protection Agency administrator an Oklahoma attorney general who is suing that agency, named the CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary...

Call of the Wild: A Clash Over Cellphones in The Great Outdoors

"Yeah, I’m standing on the summit now! … The view is incredible – I can’t believe I’m getting a signal up here!"

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Plunging into Icy Fishers Island Sound at the Annual New Year's Day Run-Swim

Look, I’m not going to lie: While some longtime participants in one of southeastern Connecticut’s most enduring, challenging and madcap traditions insist that plunging into icy water after a run on Jan. 1 is a refreshing and...

No Such Thing as Too Much Fun: A Great 2016; Hopes for an Even Better 2017

When it comes to adventurous fun my philosophy has always been too much is never enough, so when I look back at the highlights of the past 12 months, as I typically do when the calendar is about to flip, I can honestly say that 2016 was a...

Hey, Has Anybody Else Noticed It's Gotten A Little Chilly?

I guess I first realized the temperature had dropped a few degrees when I went out for a 5-mile run this morning and noticed that my eyelids had started to freeze shut, which loyal readers will recognize as Level IV on the Fagin Frigidity Index,...

Granola Munchers Vs. Snickers Gobblers: Conflict Over Plans for a Hotel on New Hampshire's Mount Washington

The first time friends and I trudged up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in winter the frozen peak might as well have been Antarctica – hurricane-force winds and blinding snow battered us, the only climbers that day atop the highest...

How to Build a Stone Wall in 14,863 Easy Steps

I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.

Just in Time for the Holidays: Fagin's Annual Gift Catalogue for the Discerning Outdoorsman and Outdoorswoman

How often does this happen to you: You’re merrily tearing through the woods in your four-wheeler and come to what looks like a shallow stream but turns out to be a deep, water-filled ditch, so your beloved machine sinks like a stone beneath...