Crewing for Michelle Poole's Anacapa Swim

I was invited a while back by my friend Michelle Poole to come to California to help her with her second attempt at swimming from Anacapa Island to Silver Strand Beach.

I got in really early on Friday morning and spent most of the day just messing around. I went to the LDS temple in Los Angeles and also checked out where we would be meeting on Saturday morning.

I met up with Michelle Friday afternoon and she got me checked into a room. I had been up since 4am, so I took a nap while we waited for everyone else.

I got a text a few hours later that the crew was mostly there. I went down to meet Ray (physicians assistant), Beth (interpreter) and Diane (Deaf Services Unlimited, who was sponsoring Micki's swim). We talked for a bit, then headed to dinner where we worked out some of the details. After picking up some supplies, I went to bed.

The next morning I got up at 3 am so that i could be ready and drive to the starting point by 3:30.  Beth and Diane were banging and kicking the door to Michelle's room, trying to wake her up. Finally she got up and ready and we were off.

On the way to the harbor we found out that the observer, Cherie Edborg, was going to be late.  The plan was for Micki to start swimming around 6 am, but it ended up being around 8am.  The ride over on the Tuna Thumper was gorgeous; flat water and an amazing sunrise.  I felt a bit queasy, so I laid down and slept for a bit on the couch.  When I woke up, Tom (the paddler) was getting his stuff ready to go. I got up and was surprised to see how close we were to the island.

Micki got ready and I helped her with the grease on her back. She lowered herself slowly in the water and then started to swim to the cliff. The water was about 66 degrees at the start.

After touching the cliff, she started her swim and Cherie started her time. My main job was getting feeds ready and keeping track of time between feeds.

It was nice to talk to Cherie and Beth while Micki was plugging along.  Cherie has swam Anacapa in the past and has observed many swims.  She was one of three swimmers featured in the documentary Driven (which I highly recommend watching). She saw the Great Salt Lake shirt I was wearing and mentioned she wanted to come do the swim.  It would be awesome if she comes!  I asked her a lot of questions about the Anacapa swim.  I think I'm sold on doing it myself.

Micki's feeds were almost exclusively Maxim, but she mixed in a few other things like cookies and a banana. She took feeds every 30 minutes from the start.  She didn't drink a whole lot when she stopped, but it must have been enough to keep her going.  She never complained about being cold or being in pain.

The weather and water were amazing. For most of the swim, the water was in the 70's and pretty smooth.

We saw a small shark that we kept a close eye on. We also saw sea lions, a small whale, and a pod of dolphins.

Micki was swimming fast with a 3-5 mile current for the first part of the swim. After about 6 miles, I got in to swim with her. Captain Bob wanted me to push her pace so that we would be clear of a freighter that was headed towards us. I only planned to swim for an hour but ended up staying in for 1.5.  The water was warm, super clear and blue. I never saw any animals while I was swimming, but got stung several times by small jellyfish.  This was a new experience for me.  They felt like mild, pulsing bee stings.  I was stung probably 10 times while I was in the water.

When I got out, she was starting to slow down a bit. She also got sick and threw up a few times. She was taking a long time to get going again at each feed. We kept trying to tell her to speed up and keep going.  It took longer than normal to communicate at feeds because everything had to go through Beth, the interpreter.

As we got closer we could see the waves break on the shore. The Harbor Patrol pulled up and escorted her in to shore. We had to stay a ways back in the big boat, but could see a big crowd walking over to where she was going to be landing. She had a crowd of about 50 people when she finished and we could hear them cheering from the boat.

Micki became the first deaf person to swim Anacapa.  I can only imagine what her face must have looked like when she got to shore and how excited she must have been. Her time was around 7:02. If she hadn't taken so long during feeds, she could have broken 7 hours for sure.

I highly recommend crewing for a swimmer if you get the chance. It's really rewarding and inspiring. I have been thinking about swimming Anacapa, and crewing for Micki inspired me to do it (probably in two years, depending on if I go to Spain next summer).  I hope that the conditions are as good for me on the day I do it.

Congrats Michelle on a great swim!

Here are some photos:

Micki getting ready for the boat ride to Anacapa Island

Observer Cherie Edborg and interpreter Beth Koubsky going over the rules.

Beautiful morning!

Damn! No that's a sunrise!

The arch at Anacapa Island.

Greased and ready to go!

Getting in the water.

Smooth and warm water.

Stopping for a feed.

Calling to the dolphins.

Awesome conditions.

Getting closer to the finish, still swimming strong.

Harbor Patrol escort in to shore.

Finished! With a big crowd of spectators.

She made it!

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