Excuse me, Mr. Prison Guard, can we jump from your prison tomorrow?

June 2011

Swim TO Alcatraz? Sure. Done that. Swim FROM Alcatraz? Sure. Done that. Swim from San Quentin? Not yet. On the list for sure.

Here’s another one: Swim from San Quentin, the largest death row prison for male inmates in the United States to Alcatraz, aka “The Rock” that once held many notable prisoners such as Al Capone? Why not?! Swim from one prison to the other? Oh yes. Correction: two FEMALES swim from one CURRENTLY OPERATING prison for MALE inmates to another historically infamous prison for male inmates? Now we’re talkin’. HELL YES!

Sarah and I would swim. Neal and Justin would be our pilots, both in wooden rowboats. And so the adventure planning began.

Beginning with a beach start at San Quentin early on Sunday 19th June and (hopefully) aided by a 4.6 knot ebb we would swim 10 miles to reach Alcatraz. Careful to cover all the bases, we got advice and permission from the US Coast Guard, South End Rowing Club (SERC), and Marin Rowing Association prior to the swim.

The day before our swim, Neal and Justin rowed their wooden rowboats from SERC to Marin Rowing Association. Everything was coming together perfectly. In the spirit of our “Prison to Prison” adventure we even booked hotel rooms for that night near San Quentin purely for authenticity reasons. The only thing we were missing was permission from San Quentin Prison. Apparently its illegal for anyone to set foot on the shoreline in front of the prison. But we really REALLY wanted a beach start...

On our way to the hotel we decided to drive up to the entrance of San Quentin. It was a last ditch effort to make the swim legal and avoid getting shot. Sarah and I had some “lively” conversation with the Prison Guard at the gate.

We told him that tomorrow we would be swimming from San Quentin Prison to Alcatraz. “Um, and why would you want to do that?” he asked. There was a lot of giggling and to this day, I really don’t think he took us seriously. 

I'm not entirely sure, but we may have mentioned BIKINIS. We may have also stressed the point that two FEMALES would be "escaping."

But we definitely asked “can we jump from your prison tomorrow?” 

And the next day, Sarah and I did just that. We swam from San Quentin Prison to Alcatraz Prison!

Getting ready to swim from the rowboat to the prison for our unofficial beach start...

Illegal beach start at San Quentin Prison. Check.

Closing in on Alcatraz. Woo!