Stepping onto the boat, I can’t help but notice the name of the boat: Tangaroa. According to Maori mythology, Tangaroa is the god of the sea. He is the God of the sea, rivers, lakes and all that live within them. I love that. I just love that. I hope ALL the gods will be watching over me today.
We leave the harbor at 6:45am. I try to remain as relaxed and as calm as possible. I look out to the East and a gorgeous sunrise is glowing just above the horizon. There isn’t even a whisper of wind, it’s a beautiful, beautiful day. Mother Nature, thank you. My prayers were answered. THANK YOU.
As we travel further off the coast, Philip tells me there’s a change of plan; we’re heading to the South Island instead, so this means I’ll be swimming from the South Island to the North Island. He reminds me that I have to be done in 12 hours. The weather is expected to take a turn for the worse later in the day. No pressure.
Two expert local mariners, Chris and Byron, captain the boat and I watch intently as they go about their business: looking at tide charts, chat, read the local newspaper and make tea. We share a few laughs as I try to relax and I proudly show them the New Zealand swim cap that I’ll be wearing today. “Oh good on ya, girl!” beams Chris.
I look out the back of the boat and watch the IRB (inflatable raft boat) tow behind. Philip and Joe will be in the IRB beside me, within arms reach, throughout the entire swim. Sharks are a very real concern in the Cook Strait, and according to the rules of the swim, if there is a shark sighting, Joe and Philip will pull me from the water immediately. I’m allowed 10 minutes on the boat while the shark hopefully loses interest and then I’ll jump in the water and resume swimming. But I’m completely at peace with that scenario. Completely.
The water looks absolutely incredible – flat and glassy. I can already tell how clear the water is. And suddenly I feel it. I’m READY. I’m ready to do this. And I can’t wait!
It’s time for me to grease up. I take off my swim jacket and stand in my swimsuit at the back of the boat with my hands on the roof. I look like I’m waiting for a pat-down by a TSA official at the airport. Except its Joe and he’s putting gloves on and reaching into a big yellow tub filled with ball bearing grease. We can’t help but laugh. How many women would do this? It’s not at all sexy, and I’m pretty certain ball bearing grease provides no anti-aging, no anti-wrinkle and certainly no antioxidant benefits. This is definitely not a glamorous sport.
Covered in grease, I feel bloated from days of hydrating and carbo-loading. I purposefully gained over 15 lbs. But I had to do that. My life literally depends upon me keeping as warm as possible. Before the novelty wore off, it was actually a lot of fun to eat ice cream at 10am. It was fun to “throw caution to the wind” and eat WHATEVER I wanted, whenever I wanted. In the days leading up to my swim, however, stuffing myself began to feel laborious and difficult. My Mum commented days earlier that I reminded her of a poor goose being force fed for foie gras. Sadly, that wasn’t far from the truth.
I’m also wearing a really unflattering swimsuit with wide straps that hopefully won’t dig into my skin after hours of swimming in salt water like the thin straps of my preferred swimsuit. I’d like to say it’s all about the outfit. But not today. Today it’s all business. Today this goose goes to market...