Savoring how surprisingly well my body feels even as I swim at a challenging pace, I am grateful for regular feedings. Planned for every 30 minutes, I eagerly anticipate these carbohydrate fuel stops. Keeping track of each one, I estimate that at least nine of these brief interludes have occurred. Minutes before another feeding is due, I observe with great interest as my Mum and Aya prepare my drink. Seconds later Mum stands up, bottles in hand, waiting for that precise moment to deliver my sustenance for this journey. After verifying the time on her watch, she tosses a collection of drink bottles connected with a long rope over the side of the boat. As my crew cheer and smile, I am all business. Treading water, I consume my carbohydrate drink as quickly as possible. Always keen to express my appreciation, I say a quick “thank you” before continuing my swim.
I feel the energy boost almost immediately. My whole body tingles with satisfaction and my mind feels delightfully electric. A sense of time marches on, as do more feedings. Last night I informed my crew that I do not wish to know how long I have been swimming, or how far I have swum. The journey of each swim is so transformative that time is almost inconsequential. And besides, I will know when I am done; I will simply run out of water. Today, however, I have been oddly obsessed with time. Keeping track of my swim by adding the number of these feeds in my head, I have secretly held on to this last remnant of control. Perhaps distracted by fears and other thoughts, I have been unable to surrender and embrace the challenge of not knowing.
As I swim onwards, Tomo and Akira rest their heads on the rail at the edge of the boat, and smile. Making eye contact with them both, I smile back. For me these small, seemingly insignificant connections with my crew, are incredibly comforting. As they watch over the only human in the water – this vast expanse of ocean connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean – anything can happen. At the mercy of the sea and her inhabitants, I am completely vulnerable. Despite a maximum depth of only 600 feet, Tsugaru Strait is an abundant fishing area. On the list of challenges, after strong, unpredictable currents and wind, wildlife such as sharks and jellyfish feature as significant threats. The visibility of the water is so extensive, I wonder how I might react if I were to encounter a shark. Very aware that I am a guest in their environment, I respectfully wish for an unremarkable journey. A quiet whisper echoes through my mind. “I am just passing through. Please grant me a safe passage.” A variety of different sized jellyfish make several appearances. Except for a few major stings, most encounters thankfully feel as insignificant as a bee sting. At one point a bloom of tiny dime-sized clear jellyfish blankets my body for a few hundred yards. I watch with wonder as these mysterious gelatinous animals collide with my body without hurting me.
Comforted by this harmless jellyfish experience, I feel at peace with my surroundings. The sun shines generously through the scattered clouds. Magnificent rays of light pierce through the surface of the crystal clear blue water and extend into the dark depths below. Everything glistens with such beauty, I feel so alive and wonderfully spellbound. Once again recalculating the number of feeds obsessively in my mind, I realize that I no longer have an accurate accounting. Engulfed by a blissful euphoria, I have unknowingly released my grip on the passage of time. Slipping into a glorious daydream, I swim through a magical wonderland.