Its 1:30am early Saturday morning, and the alarm goes off. “It’s time to get up Joe. It’s time.” We have to be at the boat by 2:30am. And, while there isn’t much left to do, it’s very important that Joe continues to hydrate and eats something before he swims.
Joe had organized pretty much everything he needed for his swim yesterday… when I walked into his house that night I was blown away; the floor of his living room was LITTERED with little piles of equipment for his swim; Themos for warm water, pre-mixed bottles of a carbohydrate and protein drink called Perpetuem were lined up next to extra water, extra feeding bottles, extra swim caps, extra goggles, and lanolin. With his attention to detail and supreme organization we shared a few laughs. “I don’t know who you are anymore Joe… WHO ARE YOU?”
We pack the car and begin driving. I flip through the radio stations. “A Beautiful Morning” is playing. “It’s a beautiful morning… I think I’ll go outside for a while…”Oh God, I think to myself… I hope that didn’t just jinx the swim. Arriving at the San Francisco Yacht club promptly at 2:30am, I can’t help but notice what a beautiful morning it is. The sky is lit with stars and the air temperature is fairly mild. What a great day for a swim. We waste no time, and begin loading all the gear onto Vito’s boat, Sequel. Not expecting anyone to be on the boat, I inadvertently wake Steve Munatones and Paul Lundgren. Vito arrives and we all snap into action… one by one, the rest of the crew arrives: Patti Bauernfeind, Phil Cutti, Darrin Connolly, and David Holscher. It occurs to me that for the very first time, the entire San Francisco to Santa Barbara relay team, is together. It’s an amazing crew and pretty awesome.
Vito calls Paul and I over to the helm. Vito opens a draw under the seat and asks rhetorically, “Now, we all know what this is for, okay?” I gasp as my eyes focus on the rubber coil lying on top of the medical equipment. A tourniquet. The gravity of Joe’s swim hits me. We all know what that tourniquet is for. We all know the risks inherent to any swimming adventure near the Farallon Islands. We just don’t talk about it much. Instead, we quietly prepare for that which we all hope we never have to be prepared for.
This is because the Farallon Islands are the breeding grounds for some of the biggest Great White Sharks in the world. Joe’s swim is timed specifically during the narrow window of time in the year when the sharks have, for the most part, migrated towards Hawaii. A winter vacation, if you will, for the “guys in grey suits. “ But we all know there’s absolutely no guarantee that ALL Great White Sharks vacation at the same time. Just like humans, these guys may choose to stay behind and “work” an extra week or two, taking their vacation time during the "off season." A swim near the Farallon Islands is – at best – measured risk. But we all very willingly signed up for this adventure; an opportunity to give Joe all the support he needs to attempt something incredibly epic and truly inspiring...