Laden with swim gear and trudging through the cool and
dimly lit car park at the Dover Marina, I take a moment to decipher the
identity of the couple walking towards us from the boat ramp.
But as they both smile, the mystery is quickly solved;
I’m thrilled to recognize the couple as fellow Dolphin Club
members, Emma and Pete Perez. In the final few
days leading up to my swim and in need of at least one additional crew
member to accompany Melissa, Emma graciously volunteered to crew for me. Her
husband Pete was waitlisted for another solo
crossing of the Channel, and so long as he wasn’t swimming on the same day, Emma offered to crew for me. Pete didn’t need to
be here this morning – at 2:30am –
he should have been resting ahead of his own upcoming swim, but he wanted to wish me luck. I was touched, as it was
an especially generous and heartwarming
With minimal exchange of words, Pete simply takes over carrying the heavy items from my hands, while I make a brief detour. Careful not to risk an unnecessary but traditional pre-swim injury, I climb the steep staircase to the Port of Dover office to purchase a mandatory 24 hour parking permit. I can’t help but ponder the many 'unexpected' odds and ends required for this swim. This certainly wasn’t on my checklist.
Minutes later I am once again risking
injury walking gingerly down the familiar though
slightly unstable, metal ramp leading down to the dock. A winning combination of
oversized Ugg boots, limited dorsiflexion and permanent nerve damage in my
right foot together with the early morning dew makes for a slippery task.
Holding the cold metal handrails, I recall my last walk down this same ramp two
years ago. In 2011 I was just as eager and excited for adventure, yet
remarkably ill prepared. I shake my head and laugh to myself recalling the
reaction of fellow swimmers when I told them I was going to attempt a solo
Channel swim – without training and a mere 2 days after participating in a
Today, September 12th
2013, I am proud of all the prior training and preparation I have completed in
readiness for this moment. Whatever the outcome, I know I can put my hand on my heart and say I was as prepared as I
possibly could be. I cannot question an unfavorable outcome, because everything
beyond this point is completely out of my control. The weather, the tides, it is
all in the hands of Mother Nature. Yet knowing
this certainly doesn’t contain the
nervousness and all consuming fear that begins to engulf my body.
As I walk across the concrete dock, I notice two other boats already loaded with solo swimmers and their crew, and are now pulling away from the marina. The boat for my Channel swim is located further ahead. My crew have finished loading gear on the boat, and I hear a familiar “WOO!” from Melissa. Noticing the boat name, Louise Jane, inscribed in white paint on the bow of the dark colored hull, reality hits: I am about to swim the English Channel.
“Hello, Kim” says my boat pilot Andy King cheerily
introducing me to his crew, Phil and his son
James. To my surprise the Channel Swimming Association official observer is
Steve Franks. Steve was our observer for our successful relay swim on
September 18th 2011.
The Louise Jane is an angling boat with a sizable open-air
deck. A couple of large dry lockers on the deck enable us to stow all my gear.
I attach my GPS tracker to the boat while Andy and Phil attach blue glow sticks
to the starboard side. Once I jump in the water, I will swim on this side of the boat.
Minutes later the boat gently leaves the dock, and as the crew lift the plastic fenders from the port side of the boat, I realize this is the point of no return.