Dawny's Cockatoo Challenge, Balmain
|Wave 2 heads across Thunderbolt's Strait.|
“It was a day… you know, it was a day, a little bit like this one… You remember how it was, Steve?...”
Thus it was today, at Dawny, on the 11th iteration of the Dawny Cockatoo Island swim, the 10th anniversary of the first inaugural Dawny’s Cockatoo Challenge… It was a day, a little bit like this one…
Quite a bit, in fact. The morning of the 1st inaugural Dawny’s Cockatoo Challenge in November 2003 was grey and damp. There was a mist over the harbour between the Dawny pool and Cockatoo Island. The kind of morning on which we’d all shun a swim in the harbour, because it looked sharky.
It was the morning after the Rugby World Cup Final at the Olympic stadium, and you could be excused – understood, at least – if you’d had a sore head. The cloud was low, on the verge of rain. It was quiet, still, no wind, and the mist seemed to hang there over Thunderbolt’s Strait, between Balmain and Cockatoo Island, and out of it could have stormed a thousand screaming Scotsmen, freeballing across the heather, their sporrans jiggling and their battleaxes a’swinging… But out of the mist instead, at the end of the 1.1km swim, sprinted Deke Zimmerman, then the usual suspect winner of many of Sydney’s ocean swim events. On that occasion, the 1.1km swim was run ahead of the 2.4km main event and you could do both.
(Randomly, we ran into Deke at Circular Quay a few weeks back: he was casually deckhanding on the river service, from which we’d just alighted. He has a beard now. He was cheerful, as usual. It was good to see him.)
|Anyone can be a mug lair.|
It was a day more than a little bit like that one…
There is something about swimming in Sydney Harbour that makes it a different experience to swims in the ocean. It's not just that it's the harbour, thus the water quality and nature are different. It's more than just that the over-riding stream of sub-consciousness whilst swimming in the harbour is focussed completely on the prospect of being taken by a bull shark. And it's not only that you're surrounded by an evocative maritime heritage and built environment blended with some of the most stunning natural topography available. In the world.
It's all those things together and more. So much more that we can't tell you. We need you to tell all of us. So, please, comment (use the link at the bottom) on your own consciousness about swimming in the harbour. What does it mean to you? What's happened to you whilst swimming in the harbour? Over in San Francisco, our cobber, Gary Emich, recently racked up his 1,000th Alcatraz swim. Swimming in San Francisco Bay also is different. A cobber at Dawny today, Susan Tutt, told us a story that she'd been told by her dad.
Susan's dad used to sail in Sydney Harbour (he worked at Garden Island). Sometimes, he'd capsize, but he reckoned there was no history at all of sailors from capsized yatchets being taken by bull sharks. Why? We thought it may have been something to do with the rigging of the yatchet -- the mast, the stays, etc -- discouraged the noahs, much like sticking cable ties on your bike helmet and making yourself look like an eejit discourages maggies in September.
The squall we mention was just one element thrown at us during this 11th Dawny’s Cockatoo Challenge. It ran anti-clockwise, as it has the last couple of years, due to a timing issue with the ferry services into Cockatoo Island. They ran us under the wharf, in fact, which was a little hairy at high tide: it was a narrow gap under the walkway out to the wharf proper, and the stream of peloton compressed as we approached the opening. Did you know, the underside of the wharf is a mess of cables. Thank goodness it wasn’t a spring tide or a king tide. We coulda bin lectrocewted.
But through the wharf, we spread out again. It kept us close to the wall, though, so we were swimming also through the backwash from the wall, through the chop from the swim. Any second now, we thought, we’ll find out what it’s like to be sliced by an oyster. Other than when it slips in our hand whilst opening with an oyster knife. It was a Melbourne-way-of-running swim, and some swimmers, like the horses, cannot handle it.
At the end of the island, we spied the squall approaching. The leaders of the peloton were into it already, and when it hit us, a little later – for we are not leaders-of-the-peloton type of people – it blotted out our views of Drummoyne and Spectacle Island, and even much of the heritage sheds towering over us on Cockatoo Island. We crossed docks, hugged stone-stacked breakwalls, slipped by formworked wharves and wove our ways through the mess of mob swimming. Every now and again, some mug would draw up alongside, and it would spur us into trying harder, for we’d decided this was a trying harder swim for us. We stopped briefly twice to adjust our gogs, but otherwise we didn’t stop at all: not for pitchers, not fer nuthin. Cept for one, and you can see that on this page.
Eventually, we spied the final turning booee, which most of the mugs around us seemed to have missed. The brief at the start had been that we should turn right at the first turning booee, but most of these eejits just seemed to keep going along the Cockatoo Island littoral. We headed on an angle across the peloton, past the booee, and lit out across Thunderbolt’s Strait.
|The crush of the peloton.|
Passing through the final bit of moored squadron of yatchets off the Dawny pool, we struck out left, a bit too far left, then had to correct, but we reached the stairs to the pontoon at the same time as this cove with the mirrored Fully Sicks. And as we entered the walkway to the shore, we remarked to each other about our gogs. And we said to him, “Where did you get them?”, expecting a response that would then lead into our sales pitch. But he said, “From you”. It’s good to know that the sales pitch works sometimes.
|Under the Cockatoo Island Wharf... Can you pick the gap?|
Another lovely morn on the boardwalk in the rain.
|Norm McIntyre won the Olympus camera as part of the fine ocean swimmers' series 2014. And Gavin Mahoney won the carton of James Squire.|
Real footnote: There was a bit of an incident in the laydees' showers at the Dawny pool afterwards when a young lass who doesn’t carry much in the way of insulation was being treated by her mother for hypothermia: mum had her under the hottest shower she could draw from the change room taps. Luckily, Mrs Sparkle, a registered nurse, and her cobber, Judy Playfair, a teacher also with a deal of commonsense, happened by and influenced the treatment. Mum resisted; thought she knew best.
Rather than throw an hypothermia sufferer under a scalding shower (we learnt the folly of this when we did it to ourselves in mid-winter Victoria once), the sufferer must be re-warmed slowly. Dry them, remove them from wind, rain, etc, wrap them in warm stuff, eg blankets, space blanket, dry clothes, a sleeping bag, shower them (without the blankets and clothes) in a lukewarm shower, warming gently. Feed them warm, sweet drinks. Warm them slowly and gently. No direct high or sudden heat.
Mums don’t always know best.
|Our GPS-in-a-plastic bag told us we swam 2.51km around Cockatoo Island.|