And so it begins …

Its April 26th. Outdoor sports are allowed especially when they are sanctioned by the National Sporting Body. In the last month or so I have been regularly training at Bull Wall where I hear other bathers regale stories of this GAA player and that GAA player returning home to a different County for club football training. The zoo is open and no politician has clarified that only people from Dublin can go to the zoo. Indeed Michael Martin who lives in Cork visited it this morning. Every weekend the canals in Dublin are filled with bank holiday festival crowds out drinking and if you are a builder, you can go anywhere.

For all these reasons and the fact that my friend who I am raising urgent funds for cancer treatment for, I don’t see any issue in travelling to Cahore on my own to resume my Odyssey. The water temperature is right for an experienced swimmer in neoprene and the closely monitored conditions in Wexford were set to be perfect today. I had feared police check points on the route south but there were none which was a great relief. The car journey was almost two hours thanks to a minor misinterpretation of google maps.

Windguru had predicted a 90% cloud coverage at higher altitudes but as I drove south there was nothing but clear blue skies. Windguru did get it right though in predicting no wind and flat calm seas. Driving through Cahore, I came upon a magnificent view in the vista of a wind farm. It was so calm that the blades were stationary but the ambience of green energy was comforting.

The plan today was to swim from Cahore Bay to the beach named Cahore South on the map. This was 2.4 Km and a distance I have covered many times without any hindrance recently. Also once I got around the head, it was straight shallow beach to the finish. I surveyed the landscape so as to know where to tell where the exit point was in the absence of landscape other than dunes. I didn’t assess the towering windmills from the beach which would have made the swim less ambiguous but there was a family on the beach at the finish with a big blue and green windbreaker.

I got togged out in my suit and talked to Jen on the phone, letting her know what time to expect a phone call that I had an uneventful swim. There will be critics who say I shouldn’t swim alone, but I must stress it is no greater risk than swimming along the beach in Killiney or along the rocks at bull wall. If at any point I was unsure, I wouldn’t proceed and that extends to only setting off when I am guaranteed safe conditions. Also if you are getting notions of doing this yourself, please bear in mind, I have been swimming for forty years and I was the eleventh fastest swimmer in my age group in the European Championships in the 3Km open water in 2018 (it hasn’t been run since due to covid). Also my partner in crime from last year, Niall, had decided to not pursue the dream any more, though he will join on any swims that interest him that he can. Coincidently, the bike ride back to Cahore Bay was a lot more leisurely without Niall racing on ahead on the bike, though it was probably more the fact that it was a short cycle today.

According to my watch it was 3:30 when I entered the water. I had an hour and a half to work with to make the phone call. There was a jet ski horsing around the bay but when he saw me and my tow float he got well out of the way. The sea was flat calm and as I got closer to the end of the pier I had to go around the water seemed brown and sewage like but in hindsight it was just churned up sand. At the end of the pier, I surveyed the headland to gauge the safety and I could see that it was safe to proceed. Looking at the headland in the sunshine, I got a sense of mirth remembering how last year we stopped and appreciated picturesque views like this. Swimming on I tried to assess if there were any currents working either for or against me, but the flow was negligible. The pace was slow however due to the fact I was still using neoprene gloves and socks.

When I got half way around the headland I felt I wasn’t making any progress but with a further five minutes of concerted effort, I could see beach. Anxious not to rest on my laurels and get cold, I studied the east coast as far as Arklow before continuing on. Swimming along side the beach I was battling with a knee deep sandy bed. I had the luxury of being able to stop and sit at any point. There were a few people dotted along the beach and I felt I would be embarrassed if they saw me stop and stand up. Why would you need a tow float in a paddling pool?

There were two fishermen on the beach but I couldn’t tell if they were winding in their lines or not. The pace seemed to pick up on the beach but I still felt hampered by the gloves. I looked forward to ditching them and getting faster. I wasn’t quite sure where the exit point was though I could see the majesty of the wind farm behind the dunes. Then I saw the windbreaker of the beach goers and saw the end in sight. There was one last burst of effort comfortable in the knowledge that I had a full half hour till five o’clock to make the call. Walking out of the water, I was cognisant that there was no Niall to shake hands with. In his stead was a green fishing line wrapped around my ankle. I lifted my foot and set it loose, back to it’s owner twenty meters away.

Then it was back to the car and back to Dublin. Police checkpoints were at the back of my mind again but the main thought was the adventure is back on . . ..

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Tilting at windmills