This was a truly special swim. I put down my deposit for it back in 2018 (intending for 2021), so I have been anticipating this swim for a long time.

The Cook Strait (or Te Moana-o-Raukawa in Maori) is a dynamic body of water, it can have big tides and the weather can change quickly. Sometimes the ferries across can get cancelled due to adverse conditions.

The swim is between the North Island and the South Island, but depending on conditions, the swim starts at either. I believe South to North is the more common route. For mine, the crew made a game-time decision just before we left the docks to go North to South.

The setup here for the Cook Strait is there’s a bigger boat (with a bathroom!) and then a skipper Corey and my crew Amanda in a small inflatable boat (they call them IRBs), about the same size as some of the boats we have at SERC.

Conditions were fog and light (but consistent) rain. It’s summer here with 15-hour days, so it was light the whole time. The crew in the inflatable got soaked, I’m glad I learned from past swims and had only plastic and mesh bags, no paper bags.

The Swim

Everybody told me that for this swim, I needed to swim strong the entire time. Other swims give you a chance to take it easier between bits, but since things change so quickly, you can’t take that chance on the Cook Strait.

The water temperature was nice and refreshing, something in the range of 64ºF when I hopped in, much more comfortable than the 51.5ºF that we’ve got in San Francisco right now, the season flip across the equator really did me a solid this time. The water itself was very clear, and had a really fun dark blue color to it.

The first thing I noticed was lots of tiny little things on my hands as I swam. The best analogy is that it was like a “light pulp” version of orange juice in terms of feeling. In terms of actual density, it was much lighter. I never was able to figure out what they were. Plankton, or some sort of sea life? Or just the displacement from raindrops? I could see things floating in the water, but I couldn’t ever catch one to see, so maybe it was just displacement? Either way, it was a pleasant distraction.

I quickly lost track of time. My first two feeds are always 45 minutes apart and the rest are 30 minutes apart, which is good to take advantage of some starting energy, and also good to confuse my sense of time.

Distractions

I felt pretty good the whole time and just kept swimming. Since my crew was in a small inflatable, I had a really good view of them, but I tried not to watch them too much.

At one point, I did see both Amanda and Corey in the inflatable pointing at something behind me so I asked what it was, and they reported it was a sea lion. They weren’t concerned by it (our sea lions in San Francisco can be a bit terrorial), so I just kept going.

The big boat told me I was halfway! It felt fast! But I had been trying very hard not to pay attention to where I was, and I’d already lost track of time, so I didn’t really know how long it had been.

There was tons of fog. The crew couldn’t see either island at a few points. I could sort of see land on the far side, but it kept disappearing. In the middle of the fog, a ferry approached from behind! They told me after that the interisland ferry had to route around the swim! In every other swim, commerce gets priority over swims, so it was such a treat. I saw a second ferry pass by, I asked if it was the same ferry, and they told me yes, it was another ferry but that I should stop looking at it. A while later, a ferry came from the other direction. I knew we were north of the ferries, and I’d seen the ferry route on a map, so it gave me a sense that we were close to that center line between the islands.

Finishing

In general, Corey was pretty light on information. From how big land was getting ahead I had a feeling we were close (but I knew better than to ask). At one feed, I asked, “any news for me?”” He said “no, I’ll have something for you at the next feed”.

When it got to be that feed, my guess is that was it was going to be my last feed. Corey asked, “do you want the numbers?” and I told him no.

We kept going, and this rock I was centering on kept getting bigger and bigger. I had no idea how large it actually was.

Corey pulled the boat ahead of me. He let me know that the tide had turned, and it was pushing me away from that rock. He said, we’re going to do a very quick feed and that he needed me to give it everything I’ve got. I’d been trying to push for a lot of the swim, so I put my best sprint brain on, and went for it.

It still felt like a long time to finish! But, I made it. I touched the rocks, covered in kelp, and hopped into the inflatable.

We got back to the big boat, and I cleaned up, and then I realized nobody had told me my time! I asked and they told me: 7hr6min. An really awesome time, better than I ever imagined! I thought maybe we’d be in the 8 hour range, which would have still been great. Conditions were amazing and I’m so grateful for them.