Thank you to everyone who followed our swim from Ireland to Scotland. An even bigger thank you to those who supported the swimmers by sponsoring what you could to provide support to Summer Finlay.
Thursday Morning I left Hastings with Sean to drive up to Wickford in Essex to pick up Steve and Gary.
We set off to Liverpool where we caught an overnight ferry across to Belfast. The following morning we drove from Belfast to our hotel destination in Donaghadee, Northern Ireland.
When we arrive the 1st thing I noticed was the chill in the air, I wasn’t sure if that was down to the temperature just being low or the fact of being tired after a long drive with little sleep, possibly a combination of both.
Once we checked in to the hotel we decided to have a swim in the harbour directly outside our hotel (Pier 36).
The moment I entered the water I was taken back just how cold I felt. I immediately thought ouch this is going to be a tough and challenging Swim.
We heard from the pilot and was under the impression our swim would start Saturday morning between 1am – 6pm, this was good news as it meant we could do the swim and then return to our family’s again. That soon changed as the pilot informed us that our swim would be put back to possibly Monday or Tuesday due to the weather which had been forecasted.
Saturday morning we had another swim in the harbour, again the water still felt fresh, we stayed in for around 25 minutes, later that afternoon we met up with a lovely lady and her team for another dip as she was also Swimming across the North Channel but as a solo!!
Up to this point i have heard stories of how challenging the North Channel is to swim across, not only is it a rough bit of water, but it’s also very cold and not to mention the Lions Mane Jellyfish. If I am honest the jellyfish did play on my mind a lot as I have seen YouTube clips of swimmers being pulled from the water due to many jellyfish stings and also ended up being hospitalised (Also due to the water temperature).
Anyway that afternoon we met them at a beach and went for a 30 minute swim, 15 minutes away from land, then turn around and swim back. As we started to swim out the jellyfish was playing on my mind, as we started to swim out we went over a load of seaweed which freaked me out followed by a sudden change in water temperature which I can only describe like swimming through ice, we carried on swimming and ventured further out to sea, after returning and getting changed I did have a reality check of the challenge ahead.
Later that afternoon we heard from the pilot to inform us we would be starting our swim on Tuesday Morning (Although I wanted to get the swim done I was also pleased it gave us a few more days to continue getting used to the water temperature and deal with the jellyfish situation in my head.
Nicola who was doing her solo swim was confirmed by her pilot she would be starting on Monday morning at 6am, the team walked to the start point to see her offf and wish her luck. We followed Nicola’s progress throughout the day and realised after 7 hours her swim had finished due to her crew pulling her from the water due to a continuous barrage of jellyfish stings, (her arm had swollen to twice the normal size!), also the rough conditions and cold water, again this just shows you how brutal the Notth Channel is, I also want to point out that nicola had prepared a lot for this challenge and is also an amazing swimmer who has completed 2 out of the 7 oceans swims including the English Channel and the Catalina Channel.
So Tuesday morning we are up at 5am to load the minibus (Thank you to Kileys Karpets) and set off at 5:30am to meet the pilot in Bangor Marina to load the boat.
At 7:08am Sean Collins starts the journey across the North Channel, the conditions were rough and unpleasant, after 30 minutes Sean came face to face to the dreaded Lions Mane Jellyfish and got stung across his arms and legs, at 8:08am Steve Henigan was then next in to the water to take over baton to continue the teams progress, due to the wave direction Steve swam the opposite side of the boat he is used to as it offered a bit of shelter from the crashing waves which made it difficult to breathe. At 9:08am it was my turn to jump in, again I swam the opposite side I normally breathe to use the boat as protection from the waves, it took me around 10 minutes to settle down and get in to my rhythm, I eventually came face to face with the Lionsmane which gracefully passed by underneath me minding its own business with its tentacles following behind looking for fish to catch for its breakfast. The 1st hours swim felt as though I was in a bit of a washing machine as I climbed on the boat I remember thinking to myself, welcome to the North Channel!!
The final member to jump in was Gary Wraight who continued the teams progression making our way to Scotland, whilst Gary was swimming I was then dealing with the shakes from the cold water trying to warm up.
The weather seemed to ease up which then allowed us to change and swim on our favoured sides.
Around 2pm the sun then burnt through the mist and the sea seemed to settle down and accept the 4 of us swimming in it.
Hour after hour the team continued through their rotations until we finally completed our swim across the North Channel.
The team would like to thank the group of swimmers who have an amazing community that meet everyday in Donaghadee an swim in the harbour they are known as the Chunky Dunkers, these people are amazing and made us all feel very welcome, they also see off every swimmer at the start of there swim.