At 2:15am on Monday morning the alarm goes off. It’s game time.
We have to arrive at the San Francisco Yacht club and be on the boat by 3am. Everything is carefully timed so that Joe makes the most of a 4.7 knot ebb for his 3rd attempt to complete a solo 30 nautical mile swim from the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands. Joe will jump at 3:30am during maximum current, literally launching him out of the Bay and into the Pacific Ocean. The tides wait for no one, and we have to get moving.
This insanely early morning routine is now very familiar and, in fact, strangely ritualistic; I watch as Joe methodically completes a few critical pre-swim activities. First he shaves his face; shaving is really important because over the course of his 10 hour swim, as he moves his head left and right to breathe, he’ll scrape his shoulders thousands of times, chafing his shoulders, and causing major discomfort. Next, he hydrates drinking a few liters of water and eats some bananas, full of potassium to prevent muscle cramps. Anxious and nervous, I feel like the Task Master, urging Joe to hurry up. We have to get going.
As we walk out the door Joe pauses and utters the words I quietly thought of, but never imagined ever hearing: "Just in case, this is where I keep my will. My Mom knows where it is, but, just in case, please make sure my family find it." The gravity of the situation hits me. I feel my jaw hit the ground and my heart sink. THIS is reality. THIS is our reality. Swimming in the Red Triangle to the Farallones is, without a doubt, risky, and we all know that. And while carefully tracked scientific data tells us that Great White Sharks habitually leave the Farallon Islands during the Winter and Spring months, there is no guarantee.
But we are drawn to the adventure and the challenge that this swim represents and take a sort of measured risk; the decision for Joe to make his 3rd attempt so soon after his 2nd attempt is because soon, very soon, the Great White Sharks will migrate back to the Farallones in search of their favorite meal, Pinnipeds.
As we drive to the yacht club I plug in my iPhone to play some music. The first song that randomly plays is none other than “Lucky Man,” by the Verve.
“Joe, this one’s for you.”