Bere Island – The Actual Swim (part 2)

Bere Island – Actual Swim Report

I mentioned on my previous post how this swim came about, but now it’s time for the nitty gritty, the actual swim report.

Myself and my own support Crew (Rob, Ray, Owen), went to the lifeboat station on the Friday night to meet the RNLI crew. We went over the maps again, discussed a few ‘what if’ scenarios and talked about the start time. It was agreed we would start about 20-30mins later than originally planned, due to sunrise time.  This also gave us a little bit of a lie in on Saturday morning.!

Publicity signs in Town

Publicity signs in Town

I left the lads head off to the local pub, where of course the swim came up in conversation with the locals; they enjoyed the banter (They say!).  I was busy mixing up my bottles, recounting my gels, laying out the clothes I needed for the early start etc. I finally drifted off to sleep after playing some cards on my phone to help me wind down.

5.30am Alarm, time to boil the kettle, fill the flasks, pack up the last of the gear, load the car and head to the RNLI station. Not sure what the lads in the RNLI thought of all the bags/boxes we had, but all essentials we told them! (Including one special box of food!).


One last chat with the crew at the station and we loaded onto Marneys Rib to head over to Bere Island. 2 of the other RNLI crew (Cian & Alan) also volunteered to follow us along for the swim on their Rib, lucky me, I get 2 boats! It’s only 10mins (2km) out to the island from Castletownbere, with flat calm seas, and a sun trying to peak out for daybreak, we set off with only the sounds of the huge Fishing Boats unloading their catch at the pier.

Marney pulled up alongside the slipway on Bere Island, and I hopped out and started getting greased up and ready to go. No more standing around to be done, it was time to swim. I was going Anti-Clockwise around the island, starting from the West End. I was about 1hour before Low Water, this was crucial, as I had to clear the mouth of the harbour (4km) due to strong currents that occur on a flood tide.

Setting off from the Slipway, ready to swim 24km/15miles around Bere Island

And so at 06.52am I entered the water and started swimming, in beautiful flat calm water. It felt fresh, but it didn’t make me instantly cold. The sun was still not up, but I could see it was trying to make an effort. I love the sun!. I was happy, flat water, lovely area, 2 boats around me, you know, the thoughts we all have when we start marathon swims, all the nice things….!

A Happy swimmer, flat calm (if only it stayed like that!)

A Happy swimmer, flat calm (if only it stayed like that!)

Rob waved the fluorescent orange high vis jacket, sign for me to get closer to the boat for a feed, had it been 30mins already? I swam over, grabbed the bottle Ray threw into the water (on a dog lead!) and listened to Robs instructions. I had already told Rob, I thrive on information, I want to know where I am, if I’m making good ground or loosing ground (estimated ground), He knew he had to be quick, I drink 250ml in 6sec, so there is a maximum of 15sec from me coming to the boat and leaving again. Rob told me I covered 2.5km in the first 30mins and that the water was 14deg so I should be feeling fine. My only words back as I threw the bottle were that the water was fine. I swam on. ( I will come back to this bit of information from Rob later!!)

The next 30mins were uneventful, sea conditions were no longer flat, so I knew I must be clearing the mouth of the harbour, water was a bit messy, I could feel my arms doing sloppy pulls under the water, it wasn’t me, the water was doing it, a bit sloppy. I did think of Ray, oh dear, his first time volunteering to crew for a marathon swim, and it gets bumpy – oh well, he volunteered!

Getting my information during a feed stop.

Getting my information during a feed stop.

Another feed, more information from Rob that we were at 4.5km mark, and on slack water (no more push from the outgoing tide). Lots of clouds still around, Sun not able to make its way out yet, so on the next feed, I asked Marney for the sun, he had promised it for about 8am! And true to his word the sun appeared, for about 10mins and went away again! Tease!. At the next feed I told the crew I was seeing lots of the purple jellyfish and that if they saw me kicking or doing a sidestroke it was just to avoid them, but thankfully as the water was so clear, I had super visibility underwater, I could see the Jellyfish and avoid them in plenty of time, and mostly they were deeper than me.  This also kept me alert, I know I was only 2hours into the swim, but something as simple as trying to avoid Jellies is amusement (as long as they don’t sting!).

Telling my Crew I was seeing Jellyfish, while swimming Backstroke so I don't waste time

Telling my Crew I was seeing Jellyfish, while swimming Backstroke so I don’t waste time

Nothing exciting on the next hour, my jellyfish were gone, the slack water was wavy, and I was doing ok with less than 2km covered per half hour. I could see the lads taking lots of pictures from the boat, but I now know they were for the loneswimmer, he loves his caves and arches, and we were passing loads!

I did have my watch on, ever the competitor, I wanted to know the time, but I was keeping track of the time from my feeds so I knew how long I was in. What I had forgotten was what time of the day it was. I’d hadn’t even looked at the watch while swimming. But I defiantly knew when it was 10am! Seán (one of the RNLI crew) had said on Friday night that he would be out fishing early in the morning and would join us with his fishing boat at 10am for company.  He also said he would bring the fry. We chuckled on Friday night when he said it, but when I saw only one of my crew on the Rib next to me, not long after Seán arrived, I knew he must have ment what he said…. The Breakfast Boat had arrived! 🙂

"The Breakfast Boat" (For Crew)

“The Breakfast Boat” (For Crew)

The next 2 hours were hard, it’s the mid swim SIGHHHH part of the swim, the part when the mind wanders, the stroke gets a big sloppy and you question why are you doing this. Thanks to my super swim crew, they spotted the signs and gave me one hour’s notice that Owen was going to be joining me for a ‘support hour’. For the next hour I tried to work a bit harder, I didn’t want to be slowing down and let Owen get cold swimming at my slower speed. So I kept my SIGHs to myself, and swam towards the never ending corner of the East End of the island (Sloping rocks for about 2 hours is crazy mind games of ‘where is the turn’).  Owen dived in, the sun started shining, and the water got even warmer as we were nearing the turning point at 15km. My instructions were to stick with Owen, he would guide me to the corner, he knew where he was going, having picked the points to sight from the boat.

Owen Joining me for a "Support Hour"

Owen Joining me for a “Support Hour”

Super Water Clarity at the East End of the Island

Super Water Clarity at the East End of the Island

There are some times when you have to actually stop and take in where you are. While Owen & I were doing what we know best at a corner (IE: taking it really tight over the rocks – Sandycove style), we ending up looking at fantastic underwater scenery, the clarity was the best I had seen it all day, I knew Owen would be in his element, an Ecology Student in UCC, and this is the hour he has to swim, full of things to look at. We got a bit distracted at one point and got too shallow, stood up, laughed, and flopped back onto the water again to continue checking out what was under us! This made a huge difference to my mood, I perked up, knowing that we were just about to turn the corner. Owen Left once we got around the corner and on next feed the crew told me, 8km to go, I smiled, no bother I said, home stretch.

Heading for home, Bere Island on the left, Mainland on the right.

Heading for home, Bere Island on the left, Mainland on the right.

I was on 20mins feed intervals now which were nice, having done the same during my MIMS swim, I knew this would make the time fly by to the end. BUT I had nearly forgotten that the winds were NW, that ment, head wind & Chop all the way back to the other end of the Island. I asked the crew if it was more sheltered closer to the island or to mainland on the other side, NOPE they said, the chop and waves were everywhere, may as well stay in the middle channel, OK I said, head down, time to swim on.

Just some waves and chop to content with for 8km!

Just some waves and chop to content with for 8km!

The stroke had to change during this section, I could no longer swim the ‘perfect’ stroke with bent elbow, it was now swing the arms high to clear the waves. I Was trying to think about the stroke more, but in the waves it was hard, I’d get a good stroke followed by a twisty short stroke, oh well, swim on, and in my head I knew I’d pay the price of the NW winds on my shoulders later!

The feedback from crew was still ongoing on the quick feed stops, they called out Facebook & Twitter messages to me, including that Damian (Myrtleville Damian!) even joined twitter to follow the swim!- awww thanks, that amused me for 20mins while I ploughed through waves. This is why I need information, I want to process something from feed to feed, whether it be good or bad, I need to keep the brain busy, otherwise I wander off picturing the Crew as Minions!

I watched Despicable Me2 over the summer - Minions make me laugh

I watched Despicable Me 2 over the summer – Minions make me laugh

I knew I was slowing at this stage, Rob told me I covered 1km since last feed, as I took my drink I could feel myself being pushed slightly backwards, and a house I picked on the island to swam to for last 20min was now ahead of me again. I had a talk with myself and decided to dig in, some boats were now following along too, I couldn’t let the tide or wind stop me, I’m better than that I thought, so I dug deep. Again, the crew saw what was going on, I was swimming well, but just not covering the usual ground I do per 20mins, so it was Rays turn to join me for support. I was waiting for the reaction from Ray, the water was no longer the temperature it was earlier, it had significantly dropped again, and then the chop, I know Ray is a super swimmer, but cool choppy water is not his favourite conditions to be in. He dived in without a swimming hat (A- because he had forgotten to bring one, B- it was sunny, he thought he’d be ok), 2 minutes later Ray swam back to the boat to borrow Owens swim hat, I’m telling you, the simplest things amuse a marathon swimmer after a hours in the water, and this made me chuckle for at least 10mins. It was great having Ray in the water, we had a flotilla of boats around us at this stage, but we were heading for a large fish farm that needed to be avoided, so again, I took the instruction of letting Ray guide me around the fish farm. Ray even decided to do a few strokes of Butterfly, not sure why, he likes Butterfly in the pool, maybe he was trying to amuse himself. My mind did wander to Sylvain though, in 2 weeks he is hoping to swim the English Channel in Butterfly — YES 21miles of Butterfly in the sea. I wish him HUGE good luck with it, A Hero for even attempting it.

Ray swimming Butterfly!  I'm Not!

Ray swimming Butterfly!
I’m Not!

My own personal Flotilla - watching this mad one swim around the island!

My own personal Flotilla – watching this mad one swim around the island!

Rays time was up, and Rob shouted a lap of Sandycove to go, now to non-Kinsale swimming people, this is a unit of measure we all know in Cork Open Water, its 1.8km. WooHoo I thought 30mins to go. I got another feed from Rob 20mins later and asked was it just around the next headland, Cian from RNLI crew piped up, no a little further, just aim for the cows as my line of sight, the cows mooved!, Cian has learned the lesson to give fixed points for lines of sight!, again a chuckle in the water from me, but also a thought of this is a really long lap of Sandycove I’m doing! Hmmmmm, I should have known better, I’ve been told I misheard the instruction; it was 2 laps of Sandycove to go, not one. Rob knew what he was doing to me, I was going for it, knowing it was only a half hour to go, I just kept swimming.  By now I had a flotilla of 7 boats around me, lovely to see the support for this pioneering swim, I was happy in the water, enjoying where I was, grateful of the support around me. And so I swam for the slipway on Bere Island and landed 7hours 14mins after starting. 🙂

FINISHED - :) acknowledging the flotilla support!

FINISHED – 🙂 acknowledging the flotilla support!

I had the usual marathon swim stagger trying to stand up, but Rob says it was a graceful wobble!, I turned to acknowledge the flotilla and the Lifeboat support, thanks for the company.

My crew bundled me up in my warm parker jacket, and after a few minutes on the slipway, I jumped onto the RIB and took a spin out to the big lifeboat, Rob and I climbed aboard and got ready to swim the last 800m back into the Castletownbere slipway where my family and friends were waiting. It was lovely to hear the hooting from all the boats as I finished back on land.

Rob accompanying me on the last stint, into CTB

Rob accompanying me on the last stint, into CTB

Thanks to Niall Duffy for taking some lovely photos of the finish :)

Thanks to Niall Duffy for taking some lovely photos of the finish 🙂

A few media shots later and the crew of the Lifeboat station opened the doors for me to have a shower and change. Then upstairs we went for a feed of Sandwiches and Tea put on by the volunteers of the RNLI. It was totally unexpected but it made a huge difference for getting me warm afterwards. This is also the place where we started comparing stories! Rob asked how I found the water, I said fine, he admitted he lied about the temperature, he had told me at my first feed it was 14.3deg at the start, in fact it was only 13.3deg (56f), and was 13deg for most of the swim, it did get to 14 for a bit and even touched at 16.0 briefly when we were at the shallow part over the rocks at the East End (Owens Hour), but finished back at 13deg again. Thanks Rob! I know I said I like information when I swim; real information is obviously only on a need to know from Rob! It did me no harm.

To finish up, there are many people to Thank, the Castletownbere RNLI crew and volunteers, who gave me great advice in planning this swim, and super support out on the water, especially Marney and Seán. My own swim crew of Rob, Ray and Owen, who between them, had eyes on me all day, they fed me and encouraged me along for over 7hours. To all the family and friends who were there or offered support for this pioneering swim, It was a first time swim around Bere Island (under English Channel OW rules), Someone may complete it faster than me some day, but no one can take it away from me that I was the first,  one for the record books 🙂

To View all my photos: I have made a facebook album, here is the link: you don’t need to be a member to view them!

and here are some parting photos that I really like 🙂

The family shot!

The family shot!

YIPPEE  First time around Bere Island

First time around Bere Island

Seán & Marney

Seán & Marney

I was presented this by the Castletownbere Lifeboat station. I love it. We raised close to €800 for the RNLI. thanks everyone

I was presented this by the Castletownbere Lifeboat station. I love it.
We raised close to €800 for the RNLI. thanks everyone

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Bere Island Swim (Part 1 of 2)

Round Bere Island – 31st August 2013 – How it all came about

Bere Island, Castletownbere, West Cork. A far away location to some, but for me, this area has fond memories. Mum is from Cahirkeem, north side of the Beara Peninsula, My grandparents (May & Jeremiah Murphy) lived there all their lives and we visited and holidayed in West Cork a lot, especially when younger.

I never appreciated the water when I was there as a Child, so now looking at the map of the area, I see things differently, apart from entering the Regattas on the August Bank Holiday weekend, I hadn’t really swam in the water there. So When I measured distances of some local swims Bere Island jumped out at me. A Few years ago I wouldn’t have dared attempt something like this, but listening to other Open Water Swimmers stories of places they have swam, I knew I had one up on them all; I had some local contacts that could help me find out more information about going around the island. Get all my information right, and I could be onto something I thought!.

And so the research started, over a year ago, talking with some Uncles and Aunts, asking some vague questions at first, which soon became more detailed when I told them what I was actually thinking!. To the best of everyone’s knowledge (and the locals would know!), no one has ever swam around Bere Island. I kept most of my planning to myself, just a handful knew I was thinking about it, I was nervous to say it out loud, firstly it’d mean I would have to do it, and secondly, someone might try and attempt it before me!. I had more questions to ask, this time I knew it would have to be from more expert people, and that would also mean that I’m saying it to non-family/friends, who might think the idea totally daft? I was willing to talk out loud. So on the August Bank holiday of this year, I knocked on the door, and walked into the local RNLI Lifeboat station in Castletownbere, about an hour later I was leaving with a date (a swim date that is!), and a boatman (to guide me!). It was now real!.

I got fantastic advice from all the crew in the RNLI, Seán is the tide man, he pinpointed exactly when I needed to go on the tide, (must be a neap tide, must swim anti-clockwise around the island, must not go on an easterly wind, must go one hour before low water to clear the harbour). Marney offered there and then to use his own rib to guide me, Paul the PR man was gathering details from me for a spiel,  So there, on August Bank Holiday Monday, the plan was set, I was going to attempt to swim around Bere Island on Saturday 31st August, the first person to do so, and while doing it, raising funds for the Castletownbere RNLI.

Smiling, I left the building, plan in hand, and went for a swim locally, and ran into hundreds of compass jellyfish!. Oh God – what am I doing!

It still took a few days for it all to sink in, and finally I mustered up the courage to say it out loud to my swimming friends and to put it out there on my blog/Facebook/twitter. Within a week I had 6 people offering to come and help me out and /or crew for the day WOW, thanks everyone, I went with first offered, first taken! (While making sure I had experienced, supportive friends with me!) Thanks to Rob Bohane, Ray McArdle, and to Owen O’Keefe for volunteering and not backing out when I bombarded them with emails of maps/ feed plans etc!.

The next part of my report will be the actual swim 🙂

15miles / 24km around Bere Island!

15miles / 24km around Bere Island!

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It’s done, first time Round Bere Island

Done and dusted, made it around Bere Island on Saturday 31st August. 24km completed in 7hr 14m. I had huge backup before/during/after the swim. Lots of stories and photos to be told, I am putting them all together for a proper report on this pioneering swim! More soon 🙂

Bere Island swim 3 (Medium)

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Countdown is on


Bere Island, this Saturday, it’s public, it’s in the media, it has to happen! Huge thanks to the Castletownbere RNLI for all their help and advice. It’s for them I am doing this.

Having watched two swimming colleagues become marathon swimmers last night on their 24km swim from Sandycove in Kinsale to Myrtleville Beach, I know I’m next. Bernard and Damian swam superbly to cover the distance, in good conditions under the watchful eye of great crew.

My crew for Saturday will be Marney (it’s his rib), and then I have 3 swimming Friends, Rob Bohane is there to have eyes on me all day, Ray McArdle is my Feeder (he will have my master plan) and Owen O’Keefe is my support swimmer (it’s an island, he has to go around it, Owen loves islands!).

I do hope to have the Sandycove Spot Tracker (TBC), I will post the link on my page when I actually get the tracker in my hand. Ray is going to look after my twitter account for the day, so will hopefully be posting pictures or updates throughout the swim. I will end up back in Castletownbere, after I (hopefully) complete a full lap of the island. I hope to start at 6.30am, and depending on the conditions on the day, I could be approx 8hours (I could also be 9hours! – weather dependent).

Right now the winds need to die off a bit, looking at the 5 day forecast ahead, it’s going to be lumpy and choppy on Saturday, but then this is Ireland, our forecast is not always 100% accurate, it may be a sunny, calm, clear, warm day.. a girl can hope. 🙂

We accomplish in proportion to what we attempt

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Steve Redmond & feed bottles

Here is a lovely little write on a random Wednesday – From Damien ONeill (Myrtleville Swimmer!)..

Myrtleville Swimmers

On my few long swims in the wetsuit last year, I used cold drinks in milk bottles.  In togs this year and needing warm drinks, the milk bottles don’t work, so I took Carol Cashell’s advice and went to The Edge to invest in a Contigo bottle.

Much to my surprise, Steve Redmond – as in, “starting his swim from Ireland to Wales at 11.30pm tonight”, Steve Redmond –  was standing at the display counter, pondering which of the bottles to choose.

Being an expert in the field, I gave him sterling advice.   I was literally off the phone to Carol being told what to get: she even sent me a picture.  I sounded like I knew what I was talking about, because Carol does and I was just parroting her.  Mr. Redmond chose what will now be known as Carol’s Bottle.  So, when he reaches Wales, I will claim the credit for the advice and…

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English Channel swim 4.8.13: The story From EllaTheMermaid

Such a fantastic Read… A Brilliant account of Ellas English Channel Swim 🙂

English Channel swim 4.8.13: The story.

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Next Challenge – Around Bere Island

As I said in my other Blog note, I’m setting my sights on Swimming around Bere Island in West Cork (15m/24km).

Mum is from Castletownbere area (Very West Cork!), and I still have plenty of cousins, Aunts, Uncles living there, so when looking at a map and wondering where I can swim next, Bere Island jumped out at me. I’ve been looking at this map for over a year now, it is 15miles/24km to go around the island, but with some the island heavily exposed to the Atlantic, it required thoughtful planning. Enter the Local Castletownbere RNLI!. These guys have been brilliant with advice, knowledge etc. So the idea has now become a reality, having listened to the advice on local tides, I have earmarked 2 weekends when this can be attempted. First option is Saturday 31st August – yes that close, 2 weeks time!. To me, the training is done, I’ve spent the winter months getting ready for the 28mile Manhattan swim in June, closely followed by the 2-Way Channel Relay in July, the training mileage is in the bag, now to keep fit and healthy over the next 2 weeks. And if the compass Jellyfish would just bugger off too, I’d be much calmer about it all, I swam in Castletownbere last week, the Jellyfish are MUCH bigger than what we have in Cork Harbour at the moment, must be something in the West Cork water!

With some other personal challenges from local swimmers going on over the next few weeks, I’m happy to setting my sights on Bere Island.

Good Luck to Owen O’Keefe on his 60km onslaught of the River Blackwater (From Fermoy to Youghal). Steve Redmond is taking on the monstrous Irish Sea from Rosslare to Wales. And the local swim that I just can’t manage to do this year, the crew of 3 swimmers taking on the 24k swim from Sandycove to Myrtleville… It’s going to be a great 2 weeks of local marathon swimming if we can all pull it off!.. Good Luck Everyone! Swim Safe & Have Fun. 🙂

Castletownbere RNLI are all set to support in any they can - in return I will support them with donations.

Castletownbere RNLI are all set to support in any they can – in return I will support them with donations.

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