Pedro was calling role before the swim to the 20 or so swimmers standing on Hyde Street Pier ready for the Alcatraz crossing. As Pedro always does when he calls a swimmers name he asks “How many crossings have you done?” There were a lot of first timers, but when he got to me, “38” was my answer. I don’t even know if it was my 38th. Somewhere around there. And, I was not enthusiastic about it. I’m enthusiastic when I sign up, but usually the day before, I question why I’m doing this and what fun is it? After well over 30 times, isn’t there something else I can do?
The weather was cold and overcast, which made the anticipation worse. I knew at least that water would be warm. The boat pulled in close to Alcatraz and the captain yelled, “Get ready as soon as we are in place jump!” Then he started motoring the boat away from the island, and quite far from the island. “What is he doing?” I wondered to myself. There was a group of fishing boats and he wanted to position us on the other side of them. We started actually quite far from the island, about 1/3 of the way to shore already. I had mixed feelings about this, a little relief that it would be a short swim stirred in with a sense of being shorted the full swim. We jumped.
I looked at the current charts before the swim. We were jumping at the tail end of an ebb and just before the start of a flood, however we got a late start. For sure it was a flood by now. I sighted off of Fort Mason.
As predicted I got across rather fast. I could see the opening to Aquatic Park very clear to my right. I knew I was almost there, maybe 5 more minutes. I looked at my watch, 25 minutes. That was hardly a workout. I start to think that once inside the cove I could swim the perimeter for a little more distance. Or perhaps I could swim to the end of the break water wall and come in inside. Be careful what you ask for!
I didn’t really know what the currents were doing, but it did not seem like much. I guessed, rather incorrectly that we were at slack tide. So I turned and pointed towards the opening. After a few minutes I looked up. “Shit” the opening was now to my left. The flood had kick in. I increased my angle to compensate, but every time I looked up the opening was getting farther and farther away. Soon I was passed the Balclultha and I could see the buildings in the background passing by.
The boat that we jumped from pulled in close to me. I didn’t want to be repositioned when I was so close … although getting farther. I could always reach the end of the break water wall and swim in on the inside. I got closer and closer to the wall and could see the end of it to my left. The boat left me. I was on my own. Pedro knew I was experienced and could make it in from there. There were many 1st timers out there that needed his attention more.
I reached the wall. I estimated I was 2/3s of the way down a ¼ mile wall. This would be the big test if I would make it or not. I turned parallel to the wall and started swimming as hard as I could, relaxed, against the flood along side of the wall looking up at it with each breath to see if I was making progress against the current. I was, about a foot with each stroke. I felt strong and not the least bit fatigued and as long as I was making progress I knew I would make it … eventually. 15 minutes it took me to cover that 2/3rd of ¼ mile, but eventually I turned the corner into Aquatic Park to greet the kayaker at the buoy. “Epic Battle!” I yelled to him. I felt so happy. I gave him my number and swam easily on into the club for a shower and sauna.