USO: Unidentified Swimming Object.

December 10th 2011

We meet at the boat promptly at 8:30am. Its a BEAUTIFUL day... crisp, but beautiful, and we're going swimming at the Farallones!!! Jamie, Andrew, Phil Patti, JC, Gary and I are planning to swim together at the Farallon Islands, and I can't wait!

Two uStream technicians are onboard to test video equipment and connectivity while we swim. They'll be streaming our adventure live in preparation for our September 2012 San Francisco to Los Angeles swim.

Vito starts the boat and we motor out of the yacht club. "Here's the plan" he says, "we're going to drop my crab pots off first and then head out to the Farallones where you can jump in and swim for as long as you like."

Everyone is PUMPED, but some are visibly nervous; its the first Farallones swim for four swimmers. I'm not nervous, just INCREDIBLY excited. I love the Farallon Islands; 30 miles off the coast of California, these remote islands are, simply put, otherworldly. I feel so incredibly privileged to have participated in two relay swims to these islands this year with some amazing swimmers. Its an isolated place where only a handful of individuals have ever dared to venture in the water without a shark cage or wetsuit. This year, I was one of those people. And I feel so lucky. My life is so much richer because of those experiences. 

Arriving at the Farallones mid-morning we tour around the islands… I look for my pinniped buddies aaaand... THERE THEY ARE! Dozens of seals and sea lions are body-surfing close to the rocks. "Hey buddies… let's go swimming!!" I yell. Seals and sea lions are such beautiful creatures and I love it when I encounter them during my swims. God I love this place. 

I change into my swimsuit. I can't wait to jump in!!!

We motor slowly into Fisherman's Bay, located North of the Southeast Farallon Islands. We stop about 100 yards from the buoy. The last time I saw the buoy, it was from the water, in the dark, when I kissed it to finish our all-women's relay swim on June 4th. I can't help but feel excited, adrenalin is SURGING through my body. I LOVE this feeling.

The seven of us get ready to jump. Suddenly, its a mad dash to the buoy. OMG. Lots of splashing and hurried swimming. I have my GoPro camera attached to my wrist and I take my time to swim up the buoy. Some people pass me as they swim back to the boat. I head towards the buoy. I stop. I simply want to let this experience soak in. Here I am, in these amazing yet quietly spooky waters at the Farallon Islands and there's no other place I'd rather be right now. 

I look around for my pinniped buddies… I can't spot a single seal or sea lion. Hmmm. I put my face in the water - maybe they're swimming underneath me like they did back in April. Nothing. Nope. NOT A SOUL. Even the visibility isn't as clear as I've seen it before. I can't help but wonder… no one is swimming today - except us - and, perhaps, those guys in grey suits. Hmmm. Questionable. I kiss the buoy and look back towards the boat. Four people have got out of the water already. Damn, that was quick. Okay there's three of us left. I swim closer to the boat and decide I should probably just keep moving.  The water is 48 degrees according to the thermometer on the boat. The water really doesn't feel that cold, thanks to all the adrenaline pumping through my body. I swim up to the boat, throw Patti my GoPro camera… okay, now I'm ready to swim. Woo! JC, Andrew and I start swimming East from the islands. Below me are hundreds of hand-size jellyfish and dozens of larger, basketball-size jellyfish with tentacles at least 4 feet long. OMG. OMG. Its dream-like. I LOVE THIS. I feel like I'm swimming in an aquarium. I love swimming here. I just LOVE IT!

The boat is on my left and I see Vito driving the boat. He's smiling. I yell WOO! He knows exactly how happy this makes me feel. I feel really strong and powerful in the water but stay close to JC and Andrew swimming behind me, and close to the boat. While I'm LOVING this, I have an odd feeling about today - I just can't help but think about the guys in grey suits. I still haven't seen a single seal or sea lion swim beneath me. Where are you guys??? 

Finally I lose myself in the water as I swim, mesmerized by how amazing it makes me feel. I'm pleasantly distracted by all the jellyfish below me when all of a sudden I see something much larger. Its big, really big… like an enormous shadow. My reaction is surprisingly slow. I don't freak out. Instead, I watch with wonder. Is it a whale? Maybe its just a really fat sea lion. Its an Undentified Swimming Object (USO) and I'm not sure that I should wait to find out what it is. Its time for me to get out. Seconds (that felt like minutes) later I snap into action. My swim is over. For today :)