Round Trip Blackaller

Sunday 03/28/10

With the switch to daylight savings time, it’s again quite dark at 6a. A 20 knot wind is streaking rain from the west. At this early hour, one four-hour parking place remains open directly across from the Dolphin Club and that is good news. I’ll need an extended-term parking spot because today is the day for a three-hour Bay swim.

Once again, I’ll be swimming with Ralph Wenzel. Barry C will drive the inflatable and Ralph’s nephew, Benjamin, will assist Mr. C. We plan to swim west into a swelling flood for about two hours and then return to the club. The tide chart says that the maximum current at the Golden Gate will be 4.5 knots at 11:25a. That means we should wind up almost swimming in place by the time we turn around and shoot back to the club beach. It will seem as if we were snapped back at the end of a long rubber band.

At 7:20a, the pilot boat is loaded, launched, and waiting. Ralph and I wade into the surging water and head for the Aquatic Park Cove opening. Unusual for this early hour, the storm-driven wind has already roiled the water in the cove and it takes a few minutes for us to find our stride. When we turn the corner into the bigger Bay, the chop increases and begins to batter us from three sides.

The wind creates a surface current that flows directly against us and we creep westward past the opening to Gas House Cove where we have our first feeding. We agree to stick close to the shore to try and take advantage of any back eddy available and strike out again into the west.

At the third feeding, Mr. C insists that we both respond verbally to his simple questions. He pronounces Ralph fit for duty and says to me, “Well, you’re shivering, but you can talk. I guess you’re ok.” He’s right. I’m a little uncomfortable from the cold and the constant sloshing and pounding has scrambled my brains a bit. By the time we reach Crissy Field, both Ralph and I get driven to shore by wind and current. We wind up scraping our hands across the sandy bottom where we alter course and start crabbing more northerly.

Just before the fourth feeding, a complete rainbow breaks out over the Golden Gate. It unfurls its full spectrum of colors over the entire span of the red bridge. The arch is unbroken and both ends are clearly visible. It beckons us to keep stroking even though we’re beginning to gain ground literally by inches.

About even with the Blackaller buoy, we chug down our fourth feeding and agree to head back. Oh, what a difference! The sea is no less choppy, but swimming in the same direction with the current and wind feels more like surfing and less like getting bludgeoned. The landscape scoots past. We decide to skip the last feeding and just enjoy the ride.

We arrive back at Aquatic Park with a little time to spare, so we swim a small loop to complete a full three hours. By this time, I’ve regained equilibrium and have stopped shivering. Ralph and I step ashore, shake hands, and grin at one another. This was yet another swim that was definitely worth the effort.

Back in the shower, Ralph and I compare notes. We both found that the second hour of the swim was as cumbrous as the trip home was joyous. Ralph speculates that the English Channel swim promises to have its own share of emotional ups and downs. From everything I’ve read, I’m sure he’s right.


  1. Well done on that swim
    What was the temperature this time and when fo you plan for four hours.

  2. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your support. The water temperature was around 55 degrees Farenheit. I'm tentatively planning a four hour swim for April 13, depending on business travel.


  3. Larry:

    I had to read your blog after our conversation yesterday at the club. Keep up the good work; swimming and writing.