Clockwise Manhattan Island Marathon Swim 2009

Yesterday I attempted to become the first woman to swim the 28.5 miles around Manhattan Island in a clockwise direction.

After preparing myself fully for this swim through solid training, many other long and tough marathon swims, seeking as much advice as I could with regard to the dificult currents and conditions in the water ways around Manhattan Island unfortunately I was beaten by the shear strength and pull of the currents in these awesome waterways.

My swim was documented along the way if anyone would like to read the updates they can be seen at the bottom of this blog.

I think I always thought I’d feel as though I’d failed if i didn’t complete a swim. My feelings and emotions are different to the way I expected I would feel.

I know that I prepared myself well, I swam strongly and I think I was tough and determined out there, however it was clear to me very early in the swim that the currents were going to be a factor and after swimming against very strong currents up to 2.2 knots for much of the seven hours there was zero chance of success on this swim on this day for any swimmer. I still had another two hours of swimming against a building current in the East River and was not moving even with my best efforts. I still had to get around the battery and swim up the Hudson which by this time it would have been ebbing (going out) then swim against up to seven knots of current for six hours through the ebb, an imposible task.

After talks with my crew and advisers we decided there was no possible way of making progress and to call the swim off. There was little point of swimming further and risking injury whilst going nowhere…..well backwards actually.

Do I still believe I can swim around Manhattan Island clockwise? Yes I do.

Would I like to try again? Yes, I would.

What would I do differently? My crew and I have learned a lot from this swim, we would take all the little things and recalculate the big thing the currents. We have already discussed a few ideas.

What were my thoughts while swimming yesterday? I thought to myself how much I love New York, even though my swim was incredibly tough, I loved swimming past the parks, under the bridges, beside the highways, past the UN building, the tall buildings and offices, I wanted to thank each and every face I saw peering down at me from the walkways above me, the fishermen and women who pulled in their fishing lines for me to go by, the people who stopped their busy day to clap and cheer me on. I thought how lucky I am to have the friends that I have made here in New York and the wonderful support crew I had with me on my support boats and in the kayaks that guided me through those fierce currents. Thank you New York.

On a personal note it would be remiss of me not to thank my amazing, wonderful and supportive team. My crew of Dan Boyle, Hanna Borgeson and Jodi Ford, my kayakers Bill Leonhardt and Ted Gruber and the boat captains and their team. Also on the shore Brooke Bessert who was posting the updates for my progress. Thank you all.

Thanks to all of you for your support and good wishes – Penny.

Welcome friends and family of Penny Palfrey. We thought this would be the easiest way to update everyone at once with Penny’s progress today. I’ll be getting reports from the crew and will post what I know here. Keep checking back for updates. Thanks. – Brooke Bessert
7.32 pm – Just got word that Penny’s out of the water and back safe on the boat. I don’t know the exact time she got out. I have only talked briefly with her crew, but my guess is she was not able to continue because of the tides and would have had to wait out another cycle before being able to move forward. The tides are very strong and can be difficult even in a boat. More soon…..
7.07 pm Difficult news from the boat: Penny is loosing ground to the flood up the East River. At the last feeding the crew gave her some options. Currently over the 7 hour mark, she has the juice to continue but she is just one tiny marathon swimmer against a huge swell of water going the other way. She’s back near pier 11 (Ikea water taxi ferry pier for you New Yorkers) at the moment, still trying to push forward and considering her plan.
6.44 pm. The sun is going down and it will be time to break our the light sticks soon. Penny trains in the dark so that is no problem. The trip around The Battery is one of the most dangerous parts of the swim because of the heavy ferry traffic, esspecialy during rush hour. The ferries will not wait for Penny. Cheer her on if you are downtown! She has earplugs in so be loud. I’m hoping she is catching a break and making her way around the tip of the island. I’ m on the edge of my seat for an update from the boat!
6.10 pm. Penny is slugging it out near the Downtown Manhattan Heliport pier south of pier 11 and north of Governor’s Island Ferry Terminal. Swimming strong but staying in place or losing ground to the tide. The flood is still building up the East River. Crew is looking for weakest current to help her through. She will need to get around the Battery soon to be able to make it up the Hudson.
5.39 pm. At Pier 11.
5.24 pm. Made it to Pier 17 (South Street Seaport). Still fighting hard against a massive flood current. People are on the piers cheering her on.
5.05 pm. Water temp reported be the crew 67 degrees F. Flood coming up East River is getting stronger. Penny’s current position is 100m south of the Manhattan Bridge against the sea wall. The next landmark is the Brooklyn Bridge but she’s making very slow progress. Crew discussing strategy at the moment.
4.50 pm. Checking the conditions: water temp at the Battery 70.3 degrees F. Marine Coastal Forecast from NWS: New york Harbor – 415 pm Mon June 22 2009 tonight N Winds 10 to 15 kt. waves 1 to 2 FT. A chance of showers… Mainly this evening.
4.41 pm. East River is flooding. Current has changed to .8 against Penny. 100 meters N of Manhattan Bridge ong the Manhattan side, inching alon wasll. Not making much progress.
4.04 pm. Williamsburg Bridge. Tides are changing. Buttermilk Channel is starting to flood.
3.49 pm. Passing 14th St power station. At 80 strokes per minute, she’s on her usual pace. Still has a 2 knot push with the current. Overcast skies. Crew is concerned aou what’s going to happen at the Battery with the timing of the tides.
3.19 pm. Passing UN Building. Good Push.
3.07 pm. Coming up on the Queensborough Bridge (59th St). Fairly calm conditions. Current: 2 knot push. Weather is still overcast and unsettled.
2.57 pm. A rough passage through Hell Gate. Welcome to the East River! After fighting up to a 1.5 knot current in the Harlem, the East River is giving Penny a nice push.
2.39 pm. Wards Island footbridge.
2.23 pm. Still in the Harlem River at about 116th St. Passing the Cirque du Soleil tent on Randalls Island.
1.47 pm. Passing 3rd Avenue Bridge.
1.36 pm. Approaching the MTA Bridge around 135th St.
1.31 pm. Just under the Madison Ave Bridge around 138th Street. This is where they had planned to start but the weather changed that this morning.
1.05 pm. Passed Yankee Stadium and heading to 145 St Bridge. Currrent is 1.2 knots against. Everything is on plan.
12.36 pm. Jump time is 12.36pm. They have moved the start further north between the Macombs Dam Bridge and the High Bridge to  take advatage of better water in the Harlem. We expect winds to pick up later in the day for the Hudson leg of the trip. Right now it is 72 F and cloudy.
11.00 am. Penny and Dan Boyle leave in a cab to go up to meet the rest of the group at West 138th St and Madison Avenue on the Harlem River (nr Madison Ave Bridge). Expected jump time is 12.40 pm.
9.00 am. Penny is awake. She’s busy mixing her feeds, organising her gear and having some coffee. What did she have for breakfast? “Porridge”.

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