Crazy Canucks Swim the English Channel…Part 4…Brickell Brothers and the Big Boobs

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Ray on board the Viking Princess at the Dover Marina the day before our adventure.

 

A few swimmers have set out for France from English shores across the Channel without a boat to pilot them. They all drowned.

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Boat piloting has come a long way since Matthew Webb made the first successful crossing in 1875 accompanied by a row boat.

 

We didn’t drown thanks to Ray (photo above on the left with a pint) and Reg Brickell and the Viking Princess. The Brickell brothers have piloted “crazy” people across the English Channels’ challenging waters for almost 50 years, following in their dad’s (Reg Senior) wake. All three have been honoured by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and no family is more intertwined in marathon swimming history than the Brickell’s.

Reg started work with his father just before his 16th birthday in 1967 and Ray started when he turned 16 three years later. In 1981, they took over the running of the boat from their father and escort more than 30 swimmers each summer.

With an uncanny knack for picking the right day and time to start a swim based on the individual or team’s strengths and weaknesses, the brothers are highly sought-after pilots  and first choice for anyone trying to break Channel records.

When choosing our boat pilot from among the eight certified by the Channel Swimming Association Limited, the Brickell’s amazing history and track record made it a no-brainer and we reserved our spot with them on the first tide three years before our successful July 26, 2016 swim. Good call…100 per cent. In addition to getting our sorry asses to France relatively in one piece, the brothers now will have a special place in hearts and Christmas cards for years to come. After experiencing such an intense 13 hours and 47 minutes together feelings run strong about the people who help you along the way. For example, I’ll never forget laconic Ray’s little speech to me as I readied for my third swim. “Come on luv. Let’s see a good team captain swim now. Give it your all.” I swam my heart out because of those words. (Some of his other words are memorable too. He used a lot of sailor language to keep us in line, especially if we took too long to get up the ladder.)

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It was calm for parts of our swim and this photo captures a rare time with no ships in the Channel which hosts more than 500 a day.

With almost 50  years of Channel swimmer piloting there are stories to tell. With a couple of pints in front of the brothers at the Ship’s Inn in Folkestone three days after our swim the tales begin. (There is a picture of Reg senior on the wall near the pub commemorating his remarkable Channel swim piloting).

“There was this one lady we have piloted a few times, can’t remember her name…well she was in there swimming away and would complain from time to time of pain around her mid-section when she would stop on her feed breaks,” says Reg. “This went on pretty much her whole swim. When she got out and stripped off her suit a fish and a jellyfish plopped out. You see she was pretty big in the chest area and they had slipped into her suit and the jelly was stinging her.”

Reg says his biggest peeve is swimmers over-inflating their projected speed. “They tell me they can swim four kilometres an hour but can only swim two. That changes a lot of our planning. Swimmers need to tell us the truth.”

Next to the human aquarium lady story, Reg’s favourite is one about a  guy who takes the cake where the estimation of his ability is concerned. “This fellow had a helicopter and a second boat just to film him as he was a star and they were making a documentary about his swim. He got in with huge cheers, swam about 300 metres and called it quits because it was too hard. They still made the documentary.”

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Shipping traffic is just one of the challenges boat pilots face keeping swimmers safe.

Crazy Canuck John Ostrom says he is very happy with our pilot choice. “He has huge experience, a capable boat and a diligent crew.” John, who grew up on his father’s fishing boat in Prince Rupert, British Columbia has the skinny on what is involved in piloting us.

“Reg’s job is complicated,” John says. “He has to constantly monitor weather conditions and forecasts, other ship traffic, the performance of the Viking Princess’s propulsion and electronic systems and keep tabs on the swimmer and the support team. Any one of these things can change on a moments notice. On top of that, there is the risk of floating debris or oil slicks in the water he tries to avoid. However, Reg will not dodge jellyfish.

“You can see how if the swim team is not doing their job (either by being unprepared or because of seasickness) in monitoring the swimmer in the water, keeping their gear organized or behaving in unsafe ways such as falling or slipping, that as captain, he could easily call off the swim just for that factor.”

 

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The little bit of red missing on the English coast is where I was in the dingy with Ray who then dropped me off in the drink and I swam to the shore and then started out in the dark. Once I joined up with the Viking Princess the GPS tracker could kick in.

 

Reg has a full suite of electronic navigational equipment including radar, two GPS-based systems with vessel identification capability and numerous radios of different types. The map of our actual swim shows the typical swim path channel swimmers have to take adding many more kilometres onto what could otherwise be a 30 kilometre swim (we swam almost 50 k). The major swings are the result of starting the swim in an incoming tide and then experiencing the outgoing tide six hours later.

Crossing a shipping lane (there are two in the Channel, one north, one south) is tricky at the best of times. What you want to do is cross it quickly to stay out of the way of commercial traffic which is not possible with swimmers. The commercial traffic know we are out there. “What Reg has to do is be predictable and the commercial traffic will slightly alter their course to avoid the Viking Princess,” John says. In fact, the Baltic cruise me and The Handyman went on in 2015 was held up two hours by a Channel swimmer.

The Viking Princess, built as a fishing trawler needs modification to slow it down to swimmer speed. While I was in the water on the first shift Reg and Ray set up a parachute drag system behind the boat. Throughout our swim we heard the boat engine pushing us forward and then stopping to let the swimmer catch up. There is no such thing as auto pilot on a Channel swim.

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Conditions start to worsen as we near France with Force 4 winds kicking the sea up and blowing at 20 plus miles an hour.

“We saw that the winds were increasing during our swim,” John says. “We wouldn’t have been able to swim the day after we did as the winds really kicked up.” At one point Reg told us that a few more miles per hour of wind and he would have hauled in the swimmer in the water and pointed us back to England. “It was medium bad out there toward the end of your swim,” he says in his understated way. None of us (save John) had experienced Force 4 in a small fishing trawler in the ocean before and the rocking of the boat caused some bumps and bruises. At one point Ray came out and told us to sit the f*** down, hold onto to something and forget about going in the hold for anything anymore. He said if anyone gets hurt, the swim is finished.

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Jaime had a run-in with the bobbing ladder and I did a triple roll while lying on the boat deck and had a meeting with the Viking Princess’ hull. We wondered why everything (anything that could be padded anyway) was padded when we did a boat tour the day before our adventure.

When the waves got crazy from a condition called wind against the tide, the water began to  look frightening but was in fact easier and more fun to navigate while swimming than it was moving around on the boat deck.

Reg’s biggest responsibility is keeping us all safe. He has the ultimate call of when to abort a swim and this power was granted to the Channel Swimming Association boat pilots after a swimmer (not piloted by Reg) pushed herself passed her limit and insisted on keeping going with France so near. She died in the attempt from a heart attack or hypothermia.

“I don’t like to see people fail in their attempt,” says Reg. “It’s no fun at all but for the sake of the swimmer we often have to end it. Our  years of experience help us to know when to make this call. We try to stop a swim before it gets too bad. The decision is made when a swimmer is no longer making good forward progress. They get cold and too tired.” Reg says they also had to pull a swimmer out who had been stung on the tongue by a jellyfish.

“You guys did really well. With the seasickness of a few of your swimmers and in particular Janet, you could have easily packed it in before your sixth swimmer even got in the water. A Channel swim is really hard. It’s hard for solos and for relay swimmers. Don’t sell yourself short as a relay. You have other issues keeping the whole team healthy and ready to get in. You was all a bit touched in the head you know but I think you did a great job looking after each other and muscling through when things got tough.”

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Helping Janet back off the ladder

Reg’s chat at the bar brought up a fear we had dismissed. “Oh yes, there are sharks in there. I caught a 25-foot basking shark not long ago. It wouldn’t eat you, only come up and give you a kiss.”

I asked Reg if the piloting gets routine and was happy to hear his answer. “We get such a charge out of seeing our swimmers touch the shore in France. We get a lot of pleasure seeing swimmers succeed. Sounding the horn when they make it is amazing. I’m going to do this till I die and I’m not looking around the corner for that.”

 

Crazy Canucks swim the English Channel Part 3…Jellyfish…”Would you like salt and pepper with that?”

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Zzzzzzzzzzwat. “OK, that was definitely a jellyfish sting. You bastard, thanks for that. Keep swimming,” I say to myself and do. I don’t even consider that I may run into their pals as my focus was pretty intently on swimming as fast and as hard as I can and getting back up the wildly bobbing ladder.

There are more than 200 species of true jellyfish globally but only (only?) six species found in the English Channel: moon, compass, lion’s mane, blue and barrel jellyfish and the mauve stinger. The Crazy Canucks report seeing most of these. These bad boys are famous for their stinging cells, called nematocysts. The ‘sting’ is coiled and fired like a harpoon when triggered. All species have nematocysts in their tentacles, some also have them on their umbrella. These are some of the species we encountered…

“My fear of jellyfish and the sting they have was much worse than my fear of seasickness,” says Charlie, the first of the Crazies to encounter jellies. “Turns out I had things backwards. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a whole lot of respect for those creatures of the sea but after swimming over and around so many of them, I eventually realized they weren’t out there hunting me down to try and sting me.

“When I saw the first one early in my first swim, I freaked out and turned on the afterburners to get as far away as possible from him and he was just a little guy. (Editor’s note…the crew on the Viking Princess were watching when Charlie did her brief kick-a-thon and wondered what it was all about…) My swim coach would have been so impressed with how hard and fast I kicked. After that first sighting, it was like a steady jellyfish parade of all different sizes and colors floating by and underneath me.

When I got out of the water, I asked Elaine if she saw any and she had not (perhaps because it was too dark during her shift) ((Yup, pitch black…didn’t see a thing, yes!)). She told me not to say anything though so as not to add any more anxiety to Janet who was suffering so much already (seasick). When Janet got out of the water and said she saw some, it was okay to have the jellyfish talk.

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Here is Jaime putting on the brakes which gave us the photo laugh of the day indeed living up to the Crazy Canuck moniker. She is trying to avoid the dude you can see in the picture that brushed her thumb on the way by.

Janet reported be in awe of the beautiful creatures when she got over her initial fear of being stung.

Jaime contended with a flotilla of them, technically called a smack or a bloom. She saw John and Al on the boat deck pointing at them as they drifted by her. “As scared as I thought I was of the jellyfish, it was quite a sight to see them moving along in the deep water underneath me while I was swimming,” says Jaime. “There were sort of beautiful in a strange kind of way. I remember seeing lots of big orange-red coloured jellies. Then the little purple ones started floating by me on the surface and that’s when I got stung (actual moment recorded in photo above). “It was a weird burning sensation, not super painful but really annoying. I was freaking out a bit in my head at this point. I managed to avoid more stings and was relieved when my turn was done.”

“Poor Elaine never did see them but got a good sting on her shoulder that I treated with malt vinegar supplied by the boat pilot who also kindly offered some salt and pepper to go with it,” says Charlie.

Why I didn’t see any jellyfish? Embarrassing equipment malfunction I am eternally grateful for. Fogged up goggles. My goggles were all prepared with anti-fog for my first swim in the dark but in the excitement of the day were not sorted for my second swim. I could barely see the boat and my cheering section were a blur.The third swim I was out of luck for both anti-fog solution and back-up goggles as they were in the hold of the ship which became a no-go zone when the winds kicked up.  It was too dangerous to try to get down there. The sting was manageable…seeing them all floating around me likely may have not been. On the other hand I may have avoided Mr. Stinger Pants had I seen him but still thinking see no evil was the preferred course. I am happy to hear about how cool they looked…secondhand.

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The recommended treatment for a sting is immersion in salt water…got that covered…and vinegar which Reg had on board for his fish and chips. Good man. The next blog post is about Reg, his brother Ray and his famous father Reg senior and their long history of guiding other crazies through the jellies to France.

Crazy Canucks swim the Channel…part two…Barforma or Ray’s bet

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Ray Brickell (brown t-shirt) and brother and boat captain Reg Brickell (green t) at the Ship’s Inn in Folkestone where we stood them a pint a few days after we swam the Channel and got the real skinny on our swim.

“We had a bet about who was going to get sick first,” Reg says. “We see all of you on the one side to the boat watching the swimmer in the water and see Janet take a runner to the other side. Ray wins a fiver.” I wonder who Reg picked?

Sea sickness is no laughing matter in actual fact and has scuttled many a relay’s attempt to swim the English Channel. Reg’s wonderful Viking Princess is a fishing trawler when not put into use to take crazy people across this narrow, unpredictable, cold, jelly fish, turbulent, current-plagued body of water. When moving at swimmer speed (with the aid of parachute drag line to slow her down) the Viking Princess has some pretty significant rolling motions that began as soon as we had cleared Dover Harbour’s breakwater. A large percentage of the team’s Channel crossing is spent on this carnival ride with resulting betting.

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A dirt nap on the deck helped with eyes firmly shut. I think this is Charlie…

To get all scientific, seasickness happens when there’s a conflict between what your eyes see and what your inner ears, which help with balance sense. Your brain holds details about where you are and how you’re moving. It constantly updates this with information from your eyes and vestibular system. If there is a mismatch of information between our two systems, your brain can’t update your current status and the resulting confusion leads to a quick run across the deck or a dash to the head and all the nice calories and fluids carefully selected for energy are offered to the fish.

As this was my biggest worry about our adventure I did a lot of research on how to prevent it. Marathonswimmers.org has over 1,000 posts on their seasickness thread with their various ideas for keeping cookies un-tossed including various ginger products, patches, bracelets, Dramamine and Bonine, the later being my drug of choice. Only available in the U.S., Jaime suggested it would be worth acquiring some as it worked well for her triathlon coach. Good call or maybe the Bonine takers were lucky? Once the half of the crew afflicted got things somewhat under control the Handyman dispensed Bonine to all and sundry and things started to improve for them slightly. I wrote a testimonial on the Bonine  website and added my comment to the 1,000 on the marathon swimmers forum. No, this post isn’t sponsored by Bonine but it sure could be.

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This is the only photographic evidence that Janet ever stood up in the boat and looked around. Other than this moment she was prone, dashing madly or swimming. She wins the award for toughest swimmer on the team. Note the Handyman eating a sandwich in the background.

“I had experienced butterflies many times through the lead up to the swim especially in the last weeks. The night of the swim my stomach was once again bothering me which I put to nerves,” says Janet. When we went through out to the one water and saw the waves I thought ‘oh dear I could be in trouble’ but I was convinced focusing on the horizon and being out in the wind would be OK. As the boat went up and down with the waves, the horizon would disappear which was not a good thing but I was excited for Elaine to be off and watching her blinking light in the distance and catching up with the boat.”

“I can’t remember for sure when I started to throw up but I think the sun was up…And then it was my turn. I went down into the head with Chris to put on my suit but the unsteadiness caused me to be sick again but there was no way I was going to let the team down — it didn’t occur to me to not go in so in I went.”

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Dauntless Janet

“Strangely when I was in the water I felt OK. Everyone was watching me except for Chris which was a little unsettling but I found out later that he was cleaning up the bathroom — that’s a good partner to have in life!”

Janet’s photography from a lying-on-the-deck perspective. “Gee, I thought this was the busiest shipping lane in the world and I don’t remember seeing any ships.”

Charlie is one of the toughest athletes I know. She also had her turn with seasickness and battled back hard.

In her words…Theme from Gilligan’s Island. “The weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed.” And so were my cookies. When the nausea started I couldn’t decide whether I was sea sick or the nervous tension of jumping in the cold, jellyfish infested (this is not an exaggeration…they were everywhere) waters was getting to me. It did not take long to figure it out. No amount of ginger, Bonine or patches was going to help. The only cures, albeit temporary was to be in the water swimming or laying on the deck with eyes closed. Neither options were feasible for long periods of time so it was, what it was. That’s all I have to say about the barfarama. It wasn’t one of my biggest fears but it turned out to be one of the hardest parts of the day. Long day with no calories to keep you going.

Editor’s note here: When I was down in the hold helping Charlie get sorted out after her swim she made a mad dash to the head and was violently ill. She came back, sat on the bench, apologized (not necessary at all) and started laughing at my sea hair do. Hard core, right?

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Jaime smiled through the whole day.

“Either it was the Bonine pills or I have good sea legs and never knew it,” says Jaime. Felt a bit guilty at one point that I was feeling so good and others were not.” (Me too.) Would’ve made for an extremely long day. Charlie and Janet were troopers. Just relieved I wasn’t part of the Barfarama club.”

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Chris and Charlie as we near France

Chris had an associated membership in the special club. “I vomited after both swims due to taking in some salt water and being below decks to change into warm clothes just did not sit well with me. When I was on deck and cheering on the other swimmers I was fine.”

(The hold was the death zone and was avoided but for the briefest visits to change or brew tea.)

 

Me and John were A OK. Me because of the miracle drug? John, pictured here taking a sighting on the French coast during the end of our swim,  has sea legs 100 per cent and took no sea sickness precautions at all. He grew up as the son of a West Coast fisherman.

All I can say is thanks guys. Your ocean donations were gratefully accepted and my gratitude is total.

Here is a CBC radio interview about the experience:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/programs/homestretch/english-channel-swimmers-1.3706685

And newspaper articles:

http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/western-canadian-team-swims-across-english-channel

 

Part three…jellies!

 

 

Crazy Canucks swim the English Channel…part one…Holy Crap

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Viking Princess all ready for us a 3 am…we all saw a lot of FE 137 as we swam beside that lettering 

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3 am and some deers in the headlights

 

Much of this first post about our swim comes from team member Chris with a few of my interjections… Each swimmer or team gets a designated six-day window and a “tide” (which means first appropriate weather and tide opportunity to start a swim), when Elaine (our captain, and whose dream this actually was) had signed up for this way back when she thankfully opted for first tide, second tide is sometimes better for swimmers but you are second in line to go. Third tide makes it questionable if you will actually get a chance to go because you are down the lineup. There are 7 or 8 licensed certified pilots that do this. We met a Romanian on Tuesday night that is 3rd tide and has been here for 7 days waiting. (We saw him Friday night and he went Saturday…he sadly didn’t finish his swim) Weather Wednesday was a no go and it looks like the rest of the week is questionable.

Here is where the horse shit luck starts to come into play. We were in Dover all of about an hour when we make the call to our boat captain Reg which went like this…. “Hello luv…ready swim tomorrow.” Me (Elaine)…. Slight pause where I control my voice…”sure.” So only three hours into our swim window, no chance to deal with jet lag….we are a go. Our worst nightmare would have been to wait for the go-ahead day after day and not have a weather window at all…pack our bags and fly back to Canada.

So now we have the second worse nightmare…we are actually going to have to drag our asses out of bed and jump in the cold ocean and swimmer by swimmer try to swim to France.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 – We loaded the van at 2:30am, picked up our other swimmer (who was not staying at the same place) and arrived at the marina at 2:45. There was another swimmer there from Japan, he was going to attempt a double crossing. (He only made one way) Ouch. Some pictures and nervous pees then they pulled the boat up to the dock and we loaded up. Dark and breezy, in the harbour. Out past the breakwater and it was a different story, still dark, still breezy and yes indeed big waves. Nervous laughter and then quiet. Dead quiet and stark white faces… What have we gotten ourselves into? I (Elaine) compared notes with everyone afterward and even the ones that don’t generally swear agreed it was “holy fuck” this is crazy although not one of us voiced this out loud.

We motored west up the coast towards Folkestone (where some pilots are based) to Shakespeare Beach. Elaine gets ready and into the dingy she goes, gets dropped off on the beach – rather she has to jump in and swim the last little bit. Some boats sound the horn to start the swimmer but she just got in and they radioed the observer that she had started. Still very dark but she had a couple of strobe lights on so we could see her flashing as she approached the boat.

(Elaine) This all happened so fast I was in the water, on the beach, back in the water and swimming before I could process any of it. Swimming in the dark was fine but I think I was In shock that this was actually happening….The Handyman (my husband) said, “No matter how bad it is in there when you finish your turn say it was fine…you have to set the tone.” Good advice I thought and lied when I got out.

(Chris again….) Once she was beside us the dingy gets hauled up and we are away. Pretty wavy to start but I think we all settled in and cheered her on. Lots of people with one eye on Elaine and one eye on the horizon trying to ward off seasickness. This was one of our biggest fears so we had all sorts of ideas and means of staying away from that. Fail…more on that later.

So, the way this works with a team is that we have a designated line up of swimmers. You have to follow that sequence the whole day, no subs or changes. The other big rules are you can’t touch another swimmer or the boat while in the water and you have to have the swimmer in the water swim past the next swimmer when changing. Makes sense and relatively easy to do. So, the ladder was at the back of the boat. Swimmer #2 climbs down the ladder, they slow the boat and the Swimmer #1 (in water) swims up to the back of the boat. Swimmer #2 jumps in, Swimmer #1 swims past them to the ladder and grabs ahold which became an interesting challenge when the ocean got mad later in the day. Swimmer #2 swims to the side of the boat and once Swimmer #1 is aboard away we go. The observer from the Channel Swim Assoication gives you the jump in cue etc so really not hard. But – tired cold swimmer in the water, excited somewhat seasick second swimmer and a rocking boat and noise and cheering and cameras and… I (Chris talking here) almost landed on Charlie (a she) the second time we switched.

Part two…Barforama to follow when back in Naramata at a real computer with many more photos to choose from….

 

Canadian grit, team chemistry and horse shit luck

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This is what seasick looks like

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Yipeeee the boat horn blows the story of our success 

 

 

 

Just a few pics for now…here we are boarding the Viking Princess at 3 am. Chris taking a turn and making some good tracks. Out of order…but had to post a bit. Still stoked and proud of the Crazy Cannucks. It wasn’t pretty but we got it done!

 

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Shit eating grin on our way back to  England…death grip on the boat to rocky seas

 

 

Crazy Canucks take on the English Channel – next week!

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The Dover Strait/Pas de Calais is the busiest shipping lane in the world. As the crow flies it’s a mere 22.5 miles but strong currents make some Channel swims as long as 56 miles.

Three years in the planning and training preparation have come down to one week before our swim window of July 26 to August 1 where, fingers crossed, the Crazy Canucks will don goggles and approved “swim costumes” and take turns launching ourselves into the salty drink so one of us get plant our feet in France. My pulse is racing as I type this in the mixture of excitement and trepidation that accompanies all crazy schemes like this.

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Some or a lot of our swim may take place in the dark.

John, Chris, Charlie, Janet, Jaime, Elaine (me) and alternate Al are the Crazy Canucks. We arrive in Dover on Sunday and then wait for the call from our boat pilot Reg Brickell that the weather is favourable for our attempt. We head out on Reg’s boat…the Viking Princess and I take a quick swim and then clamber on a rocky shore to the high water mark on a Dover beach and with the sound of a horn we are off. Al and Chris (Janet’s husband) will help us as Reg, his brother Ray and an English Channel Observer coax us on as we take our hour turns avoiding ships, jellyfish and seasickness (good drugs and good wishes).

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“We are going to need a bigger boat.”

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“I cannot command winds and weather.” Horatio Nelson

Collectively we have many fears but our biggest is that we end up in England and the weather gods conspire against us and we go home without dipping a toe in the Channel. Long-term forecast is looking pretty good to me although I’m not sure what wind speeds are safe to swim in… The sea temperature is 16.7 C (62.1 F) today which is not too bad considering the 12 degrees we braved in May.

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Half of the Crazy Canucks met for a training swim this morning in Lake Okanagan.

Here are some Qs and As from team members as the countdown begins…

How does this rank on your life achievement scale?

Jaime — Ironically, when I was young, I got stuck on my grey Red Cross badge as I could never complete the continuous swim. Who knew I’d ever be swimming across the English Channel? Not to take anything away from my marathons and triathlons but the swimming takes the cake. I took adult learn-to-swim lessons in my late 20s and for a long time dreaded the swim portion of my triathlons.

Janet — This would be number one on my life athletic achievement scale. I never would have thought I would be involved in anything like this — not in my wildest dreams! I have had to overcome a lot mentally to get this far but with Elaine’s and my Chris’ support I believe I am ready although the butterflies are certainly there.

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It all seems better with our eyes closed.

Do you dream about it?

Charlie — Hard to dream about it when I can’t sleep worrying (freaking out) about it. Yes I am sick of swimming but I do use the time to plan mental strategies on how to get over hurdles that I anticipate. As of now, my theory is that the water is too cold for jelly fish and no matter how cold I get swimming, I know I will get colder when I get out of the water and so far, I have always warmed up eventually. Waves are just waves, roller coasters of the sea.

As scared to death as I am, I refuse to think of failing. We can do this! I committed to my sister that next year I will be normal again…..so, don’t anyone talk me into anymore crazy shit, ELAINE!

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Charlie looking strong this morning.

Why do we humans need to do this shit?

Chris — I honestly believe that “normal” life has become too easy/boring/humdrum and we need to find something to scare the shit out of ourselves to get a rush. This ought to do it! (Editor — yup)

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Chris is rocking the speedo this morning. Part of the Channel Association rules stipulate swim suits with no leg coverage.

Why do this?

John — I’ve always been fascinated by the English Channel. I’m a bit of a history buff and there’s a personal connection with Isabel’s father having landed at D-Day with the Canadian Scottish regiment. I’ll be thinking of that on our swim day. The channel was viewed as a barrier to overcome – initially, for Hitler’s plans for invading England and then subsequently the immense challenge of conducting the Allied landings at the Normandy beaches.

Chris — I have always viewed swimming the English Channel as a great challenge taken on by very dedicated, driven folks and never dreamed that I would be able to have such a unique experience. I would not have organized such an opportunity myself so I feel very fortunate to have been included in this group of Crazy Canucks.

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Lucky to have Canadian lakes like Quarry in Canmore to train in.

Share your innermost fears with us.

John —  I’m a bit worried how my body will respond to the colder water. I’m not the most flexible guy and I’ve noticed that my back gets “tight” in cold water. Add that to the list of “things” !!

Elaine — I feel responsible for dreaming up this scheme and want an all’s well that ends well scenario. I hope we all have a great day out there and that one of us has the privilege of touching a French beach. I can’t even think of the possibility of trying to convince five people to have to try this again if we don’t get the call from Reg that we are good to go. It would be a bonus if we are all still friends afterwards as well.

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An unusually calm swim day.

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Charlie, Jaime, Al, Elaine, John

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Chris, Charlie, Janet, Elaine

Some random quotes…

“Acupuncture is my friend,” Janet.

“I’m back and forth between thinking this is the coolest thing ever and wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into,” Jaime.

“Because it challenges us to push ourselves. Because it scares us. Because we can say WTF, let’s do it! Make it so. And so it was,” Chris.

“Are we there yet?” Elaine

“Next sport I choose will have more clothing involved and less cold…” Elaine

“I dream of octopus,” Janet

“I will be dedicating this swim to my mom and to my life buddy Chris,” Janet

“My swim is for Al and our kids,” Elaine

“Swimming for Ian and Ella,” Jaime

“I will be thinking about people who cannot do something like this. I’ll think about family members and team members,” Chris

 

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Stay tuned for the end of our story eh?

I gave my love a cherry that had no stone

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Balaton cherries ripe for the picking which I did just after I took this shot.

In a karma exchange I acquired 30 pounds of the most beautiful sour cherries known to man from Forest Green Man Lavender Farm in Naramata. I started some white lavender from cuttings for the farm in the spring and traded for these coveted puckery babies. The farm takes names every year for these Balatons, which originally hailed from Hungary, and they sell out. The catch, which really wasn’t a catch at all, was I had to pick them myself.

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This was my view as I picked cherries.

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I’m a big fan of the raspberries and blueberries we grown but don’t you agree that cherries are the prettiest fruit going?

Then it got messy. Hot tip…wear something red.

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Cherry pitting the old-fashioned way. It took about four hours to pit the 30 pounds. I did it outside and the deck looks like a CSI episode.

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This is about 15 pounds of cherries.

I made four pie fillings and froze them and then went on a jam-a-thon with a recipe that couldn’t be any easier. After pitting all the cherries they went into two large pots. I added the zest and juice of two fresh lemons to each pot and cooked them until wilted and soft, which takes about 20 minutes.

At this point, measure how many cups of cherries you have, including the juice and add them back into the pots with 3/4 cup of sugar per each cup of cherries. I added a dash of Kirsch to each pot as well because more cherry flavour is cherrier and one package of pectin crystals. The jam may have jammed without the pectin but I didn’t want to take any chances.

While the cherries are cooking, stick a small plate in the freezer to use to test the doneness of the jam. Remain on alert and stir often. Once the jam appears a bit thick and looks like it is beginning to gel put a small amount of the jam on the frozen plate and return to the freezer. After a few minutes, when you nudge it if it wrinkles, it’s done. If not, cook it some more and re-test…

Load your jam into sterilized jars. You can either decided to store your jam in the fridge and use it up within several months or boil it in a canner for 10 minutes, which I did as it’s pretty hard to use 24 jars in a few months. No half measures here.

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I marked my jars with a Wine Glass Writer pen which is super cool. I can wash my label off and recycle my jars without dealing with the left-overs of a sticky label. Genius. Wish my hand-writing was prettier.

Carpe Diem berry farm blueberry ginger lime sorbet I say

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What to do with soooooo many blueberries? 

Adding fresh lime and ginger zings up the blueberries in this summer sorbet in the most amazing way. You need a bit of technology to make this one…a blender and an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker I highly recommend getting one. There are a million ice cream and sorbet recipes to choose from and it’s easier to make than you can imagine.

Makes 8 1/2 cup servings.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups fresh, washed and stemmed blueberries (I picked my own from our farm but it’s blueberry season and they are everywhere at the farmer’s markets and supermarkets.)
  • 1/4 cup honey (Penticton Farmer’s market purchase)
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 6 limes)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

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Add all ingredients to a blender and liquefy about 2 minutes until the mixture reaches a deep purple colour. Refrigerate for about 2 hours until cool. Taste and add more sugar if you desire but I like it a bit tart so didn’t add any more sugar.

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I store my ice cream maker vessel in the freezer so it’s ready when I am.

Follow the instructions of your ice cream maker. Run the ice cream maker for 20 to 25 minutes — until the sorbet thickens to soft serve consistency.

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Loaf pans work great to freeze and store your sorbet in.

Transfer to a container and freeze for 4 hours or overnight. Scoop and serve.

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Summer!

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