The Mermaids visit the Farallon Islands, Part 1

May/June 2011

Two days after completing our relay swim to the Farallones, I was still awestruck. On Cloud Nine and completely amazed. I really couldn’t believe what we had accomplished. I just couldn’t believe it. And all I wanted to do was go back there. I wanted to go back to the Farallon Islands. I wanted to relive the adventure.

Thankfully because there had been 3 prior unsuccessful attempts, we had another permit to swim again, on June 4th. I couldn't let it go to waste. The tide and currents would almost be identical to the May 20th swim.  All we needed was a team and some decent weather. How cool would it be, I thought, for 6 women to swim to the Farallon Islands for wounded vets and Navy SEALs?? The idea was hatched.

Vito immediately sent an email to Steve Munatones:

“Steve ...Kim is looking to put together an all female crew for a relay to the Farallones June 4th tides ideal permit in place. Any way to get word out let Kim know directly”

“Kim, 6 total females, correct? From GGB to South Farallones Island, correct? Any other specifics that needs to be shared?” Steve asked.

“Correct. Please help me find 5 tough ladies.” I replied.

And so the recruiting began.  A mere 5 days later we had a team: Patti Bauernfeind, Laura Vartain Horn, Lynn Kubasek, Cathy Delneo, Melissa King, and me.

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After checking multiple references and swimming together 5 miles outside the Golden Gate Bridge for a test swim, I was confident that each of these women were nothing short of amazing, and extremely compatible together.

This was a team who – without a doubt – could spend hours together in the confined space of a 43ft boat at sea, miles from land, were comfortable swimming in 50 degree water for multiple hour-long shifts (without a wetsuit), who wanted to swim through the Red Triangle, without a shark cage or shark shield (just as the co-ed team had done 2 weeks prior) and were comfortable swimming in the Red Triangle at night.

This last requirement was important.

One of the many challenges of a relay swim is that it only takes one swimmer to drop out, for any reason, for the entire swim to be canceled. For this swim, hypothermia, sea sickness and/or fear were very real reasons. If someone freaked out and didn’t want to get back in the water, the swim would be over. The high probability of swimming at night at the Farallons, in the Red Triangle, definitely upped the ante; a challenge few would dare, except of course (I hoped!), the Farallon Mermaids.

Our co-ed relay had finished just before dusk and assuming the women’s team was not quite as fast, I calculated that at least one of us would be swimming in the dark at the Farallon Islands.

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The day before our swim, advice from Phil, a swimmer from the first relay, was simple:

“It will be a swim of a lifetime.  Embrace the challenge and live in the moment.  It's amazing how fast this all came together for you and you will be equally awed by how quick the hours tick by.  My advice to you is simple: control what you can control.  Don't worry about the tide, the water temp, the weather, etc.  You can't control any of that.  You can control your focus, your mind frame and supporting your teammates.  Look out for each other.  Swim for them and they will swim for you.”

These words meant a lot and I’ll always remember how much they helped.

We met on the boat at 4pm on Friday 3rd June for last minute preparations, just 13 hours before the swim would start underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a lot of nervous chatter and organizing.

One thing was certain: we were on the verge of making history.