The Journey to Ocean Falls – GBS part II

map2I am not a big fan of seeing my swim route the night before I swim it. If it takes a long time to get there by boat you know it’s going to take a really really long time to get back by swim; and that kind of stuff can get into your head.

It’s July 12th and we are already a day behind schedule. We had originally planned to go to Ocean Falls on the 11th just after arriving, but when you are on Denny Island you do as you do and not as you have planned.

unspecifiedWe started the day with a fantastic feast and a quick planning session. Once our bellies were full we packed what we would need for our night in Ocean Falls and for the first day of the swim. With the boat fully loaded we were off.

But wait! One can’t head out of town before a quick stop in Shearwater to fuel-up and pick up last minute supplies (in our case drinking water!). I also had two people I needed to speak with: 1) Steve who manages the Bar and Grill and 2) Cameo who would be managing our social media throughout the swim.

IMG_20160712_141637While the crew made their way to the store to pick up supplies I headed to the pub to meet up with Cameo and Steve. Steve was planning a fundraiser at the Grill for both MS and the Qqs Project Society Koeye Camp for Youth. He was going to host an outdoor BBQ with a portion of the proceeds from each meal going to each of the charities. He was very excited about the event and was looking for other ways to raise money  the day of the swim. It was a very kind thing for Steve and his staff to do. I offered to swim by the pub as we made our way past Shearwater as a way of saying thank you to him and the community.

13697103_548269298693966_4036837922861233902_nI next met with Cameo. She is a lovely person who lives and works in Shearwater; very social media aware. We talked about the swim, what was important to me, and some of the messages I was hoping she could convey while we were in the water. I am so grateful she was able to help. Once she was set-up I headed back to the boat and we were off to Ocean Falls!

On board were:

Pilot extraordinaire and our host at Drifter’s Cove, known affectionately as Macgyver- Kevin Heneghan.


IMG_20160713_183846Co-Pilot Matt Piechnik a.k.a. Grizzly 2.0 and the man who can hold a boat within inches of me in the big waves without smashing into me!

IMG_20160716_140759Terry Piercey, our resident lady charmer, the super hero who calmed me down when I had a panic attack in Lama Passage on my test swim, and our small craft Pilot.

IMG_20160713_081228My long-time friend, master juggler of 1,257,432 tasks at once and Chief of Safety & Observer the devoted MJ VanBergen.

Paddler to me and Jill, our big ol bear Ray Este. Ray, my partner, has logged nearly as many kilometres paddling as I have swimming.

13769494_548175308703365_161298311661793441_nKnown to the swimmers as the thrasher, paddler to Dale and Jill, lifeguard and the man who rescued Macgyver’s dock-block – Tom Gilmore.

The most incredible couple ever and our amazing Videographers/Documentarians from, Russell Clark and Batgirl Trisha Stovel.


The three swimmer: Jill Yoneda, Susan Simmons (me) and Dale Robinson.


… and Princess, our mascot for the trip.

13718663_548174522036777_1450964183142968243_nThe journey from Shearwater, through Gunboat Passage, up Fisher Channel and Cousins Inlet to Ocean Falls took close to 2 hours. Most stayed on deck throughout the journey. I chose to hide in the cabin at the front of the boat. I kept my head down, listened to Ziggy, and with the exception of the occasional glimpse, ignored the waterway and the length of the swim I would be doing over the next 2 days.

About 20 minutes before arriving in Ocean Falls the skies darkened and it began to rain quite hard. I wasn’t surprised by this. The last time I took the trip to the historic town I experienced 4 different weather conditions along the way. It was a reminder that I should prepare myself for anything during the swim, including storms.

unspecifiedAs we passed Martin Valley and rounded the corner to Ocean Falls I could feel the excitement on-board. The storm lifted. I could see the Fairmont Hotel and the falls as we approached the dock. There is something magical about Ocean Falls. Although it is a ghost town, it is beaming with life!

Our crew began the process of unloading our supplies and headed to the Ocean Falls Fishing Resort in the old ICBC building. We were being hosted there for the night.

While they unpacked Jill, Dale and I explored the town. We walked up and down the streets looking at the old houses talking about what it must have been like living there when the town was bombing.

We passed by the location of the old pool. I thought about the swimmers and Mr. Gate and how great it must have been to be able to train in such an beautiful location. I wondered where they lived and how they got to the pool each day; did they walk, ride bikes? I imagined that their lives were far more physical than mine, with no distractions from digital media and very little influence from the outside world.

The sun sets late this time of year so it is easy to lose track of time. By the time we headed to the lodge it was after 8:00 pm. We were fortunate that MJ has prepared another fantastic feast for us. We ate, we planned for the swim and then we went to bed.

Find out what happened the first day of the swim (coming soon!)




2 Comments Add yours

  1. Bev Strueby says:

    Thanks Susan. My Dad lived in Ocean Falls for a time and I’ve enjoyed your stories very much.

    1. swimgreatbear says:

      Wow, really! That’s so neat.

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