A group of swimmers in the Cayman Islands recently attempted to negotiate a significant stretch of open water.
An anxious group assembled on the dock at the Brac Beach Reef Resort in Cayman Brac. Five swimmers, including Lorri Jongeneel, were about to brave “The Bogue,” the local name for the channel between Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Four of those swimmers, Elizabeth Berns, Alex Harling, Kerri Kanuga and Andrea Roach, were then planning to do something never before attempted: swim immediately back to the Brac.
The weather was fair, but sea conditions were not ideal. Despite rolling swells and strong currents, the swimmers reached the beach on Little Cayman’s Point of Sand after about three hours and 15 minutes. After a brief rest on shore, spent mostly eating, drinking, and re-applying sunscreen, the quartet stepped into the water again to swim back to the Brac.
The second half of this double-crossing was immediately difficult. Even though the swimmers had to fight the current through the channel to reach Point of Sand, it seemed the current was against them on the way out as well. The waves were even bigger and the swimmers, including Roach, often lost sight of each other or the boat.
“Progress was very slow and it was a struggle to stay positive as the hours dragged on,” Roach said.
The swimmers could stop to rest or rehydrate, but open water swimming rules dictate that they mustn’t touch a boat or any flotation device. So, a “rest” would mean treading water with one arm while using the other to catch a bottle of Gatorade thrown from the boat. As Berns said, they tried to swallow more of its contents than the surrounding sea water.
“It was like swimming in an industrial washing machine,” Lizzie recalls.
The trench between the Sister Islands is more than 4,000 feet deep, so for most of the swim, the likes of Kanuga saw nothing but water beneath them.
“It was impossible to tell how fast we were going and sometimes difficult to know even which way to go,” Kanuga said. “We are very grateful for the support of the people on the boat – even if they weren’t always completely honest about how much further we had to go.”
On the boat were: Erbin Tibbetts, his son Erbin Jr, Charlie Kirkconnell and then Jongeneel, who joined the support team after her single crossing was complete. All told, it took more than six hours to complete the return swim back to Cayman Brac.
After The Bogue swim, Harling, Roach, Kanuga joined Jill Zadny to complete a stage swim around the entire island of Grand Cayman, which included a swim across the North Sound from Rum Point to Barker’s Head in West Bay. Harling states there will be more swims to come.
“We are always on the lookout for more challenge and adventure in and out of the water,” Harling said.