Friday, September 13, 2013

Meeting Kelly Gneiting and Anacapa report

Late on Thursday night I picked up Sharran Alexander and we drove to Oxnard to meet Kelly and Byamba to drive over to the boat for Kelly's Anacapa swim.

Byamba and his wife, Kelly, and Sharran all at the start, signing
the manifest and getting ready for a great swim!  At this
point the wind was practically non existent.  But that soon
would change.  
The closer we got to the island, the rockier it got.  I was starting to get seasick and many others had already lost their dinner in the ocean.  That boat ride seemed to never end, and when it did and the engine sat in idle. We took an assessment of the conditions.  I was greatly astonished to see that there were over 4 foot swells that were very close together and white caps.  It was extremely rough.  Kelly was quite ill from the motion.  I noticed the rocking of the boat was quite dramatic.

I thought to myself, "If I were to attempt this swim I would...."  and without hesitation filled in the rest with, "postpone this crossing to another date".  It was just too treacherous and I'm 100% certain that personally I would not have been successful at making that 12 mile crossing in those conditions.  No way.  I discussed the situation with Lynn and Theo and they were in complete agreement.  We were on the starboard of the ship while Kelly was still collecting himself on the port side after that long and rocky trip.  He wasn't fully grasping the nature of the water, as he has never been out in water like this and he seemed unphased by the conditions.
video

I attempted to lay out the options and the seriousness of what mother nature was throwing at us.  We talked for a good while about it.  We asked the pilots to look at the weather coming our direction to see if perhaps the winds might die down.  They checked and said that it didn't look good and that it may get worse.

Given that he had already an empty stomach and the electrolytes would need to be replenished, the big problem with having him just go for it was the realistic possibility of having to get him back in the boat.  The ladder to get back in the boat was a very sturdy solid steel ladder, however with it swinging back and forth violently with the waves it presented a very dangerous situation.  And with Kelly's large size the contingencies for getting him back safely in the boat were simply not available.  We presented these factors to Kelly and he was wise enough to listen and accept our advice.  He was extremely disappointed as we all were.   He had spent a huge amount of money getting here, hiring a boat pilot.  It is very expensive.

I was also very saddened at the turn of events. I knew that it was the right decision.  Safety is the number one priority.  No swim is worth risking life over, regardless of how much training and money went into it.

I drove Kelly back to the hotel and then took Sharran back to LA.  The round trip was about over 3 hours with the traffic.  I was extremely sleepy.   I had used up 3 buzz bites over the evening and was about ready to die I was so exhausted.

I got back to Oxnard and met up with Lynn and Theo for a swim.  We swam for about 45 minutes and the water was wonderful.  64 degrees according to my watch.  Didn't see any sea life at all.  It was kind of murky, but not terrible.  About 8 feet visibility is all.  Afterwards Theo took us up the coast to see various wonderful sights.  We stopped at a Antique store that was like a museum.  Very neat stuff.  I felt sad that Kelly wasn't with us.

Pelicans chilling on the little floating dock.
On the way back Kelly called and wanted to get together.  He was ready to talk.  When I got there we talked and he was frustrated.  We talked about several options and I suggested several things.  I felt a strong bond beginning to form.  He and I have so many things in common.  I had a great desire to mentor and help Kelly accomplish his dreams.  This means coaching him and helping him change several things to turn into a marathon swimming machine.  There's nothing you can do about the weather, but there are lots of things you can do to increase your chances on a good day.  And that is my mission, to help him fulfill his greatest hopes and ambitions in the open water.

We went to Theo's for dinner and enjoyed the company along with Lynn.  That was a wonderful evening and one that gave Kelly great comfort despite the disappointing early morning events.   That evening I slept 9 hours, but felt barely rested as I hadn't got more than an hour of sleep the night before.

Total swim: 45 minutes (about 1.25 miles)
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