One of the things I love about open water swimming is all of the stories I run though in my head, and my thoughts around how to share them. I encounter so many interesting people and see so many beautiful things, not just when I am at the site of my swim, but also along the way. The start of my journey to Namu this year was no different.
My trip up-island started on Friday, June 1. Ray, MJ and I left town about 8:00 am and started making our way toward Port-Alberni where we would stay overnight. It was MJ’s granddaughter Sophie’s 9th birthday and we didn’t want to miss it – the last of the single digits. We stopped along the way in Ladysmith for a pre-arranged face-chat with Marilyn Bell for another project I was working on. I have never spoken with Marilyn before but have been fortunate to have been supported by her on my swim across Juan de Fuca last year via Facebook. She is an extremely kind, giving and wise person and i am extremely humbled and very grateful to have her as a guiding light on my swims.
Now that I am here in Heiltsuk territory in the Great Bear Rainforest I can’t thank Ali Weinstein enough for arranging the call with Marilyn. Since arriving it has been raining and cold – not ideal conditions for a swim in 10C water. But I will take with me something that Marilyn shared with me about her own swim journeys during that call, and that is the importance of attitude. I must show up on the day prepared to swim – and prepared to succeed – so I have been working on mental focus and the plus sides of swimming in the rain and wind since arriving.
After spending the night with Sophie, her brother Kesler and their mom Eryn we headed the rest of the way up-island to meet 4 other crew members (Claire, Colette, Corey and Pam) at the ferry terminal in Port Hardy. Check-in is 2 hours prior to the 6-hour ferry ride to Bella Bella.
The Ferry Ride & Our Arrival in Bella Bella
Loading a ferry is like playing a tetras game. There is a place potential spot for every vehicle but if one little square is left empty or in the wrong row or column, not everything will fit. Respect to those who patiently try to make it all work; and greater respect to the boat pilot who had us arrive on time even though we left one and a half hours late.
We found a space toward the back of the boat where we had plenty of room at tables and on the floor and a great view of the waterway. Helly Hansen https://www.hellyhansen.com kindly donated vests for the crew to which we added our logo. It created a great opportunity for us to share the story of the swim with ferry passengers as they curiously asked about the Great Bear Swim.
We arrived in Bella Bella at approximately 1:00 am and were off the boat by 2. The gear onload from the ferry and reload to Kevin Heneghan’s (our host) was quite the adventure, but with a crew of 7 plus Kevin and Matt who had been waiting for us we were able to quickly unload from the ferry, load to Kev’s boat and then unload again at Drifter’s Cove approximately 30 bins and bags rather efficiently.
It does not matter what time I arrive at Drifter’s Cove, be it mid-day or the middle of the night, I always feel a sense of peace when I arrive. The late Saturday night / early Sunday morning was no different. We arrived Drifters at 4 am Sunday. The water was flat as could be, the air cool and I could smell the sweetness of the ocean and trees around me. We quickly unpacked the boat and, organized the cabins and headed to bed…at least some of us!
Decompressing at Drifters
It was nice to wake up in my little home on Lama Pass Sunday morning. MJ started the crew off with a very healthy breakfast, we super organized our cabins and gear and then headed to Bella Bella to pick up our human powered boats. It was clouded over with sporadic showers and some fun wind gusts. It was a fun ride over in the dory and I think Pam and Corey were both thrilled to paddle back from Bella Bella to Drifters. Corey brought his outrigger; I think it was the first time there was a boat of that kind in these waters.
Our next stop was Shearwater. We had a few things up and wanted to see if we could tap into a bit of local knowledge about recent water conditions. So happy to have run into my good friend Terry. He was instrumental in my first swim in Lama Pass, helping me remain calm in the water way and then later in my second swim from Ocean Falls to Bella Bella.
There were few people around but the local sea bus driver who has been boating through the area for years offered a few insights. He has mentioned before that the water runs both directions in Fisher Channel. My crew recons this is because of the back eddies. He also mentioned that the water rips out of Burke Channel with the tide is funning. I have been told this before so was not surprised.
That evening I spent time with my crew sharing the bits I learned and we went through the map and some of the protocols around the swim. It was good to get things moving. Our real planning day was to follow.
More to come …