Did you know that the body of water between Sister Islands Little Cayman and Cayman Brac is known as ‘The Bogue’?
It also happens to be over 4,000 feet deep in that channel, which stretches five miles from West End Point, Cayman Brac to Point of Sand, Little Cayman.
Just in case you’re wondering why we’re revealing all these facts – like you’re about to take the Permanent Residency test – it’s because a team of determined swimmers will be attempting to cross The Bogue on 15 Sept. in order to raise money for the Central Caribbean Marine Institute. At 8am on that Saturday morning, they will set off from the Brac and brave the elements over several hours in order to reach their destination.
Not many have ever attempted the crossing. In 2010, seven swimmers made the journey, led by 19-year-old Felix Ebanks and 20-year-old Matthew McKinley. Prior to that, only one swimmer on record did it, back in 1987. Dive Instructor Jeff Miller set out on 2 May, 1987 at 6:30am to make the crossing, completing it in an impressive 2 hours and 36 minutes.
If that accomplishment wasn’t enough, Miller raised over $5,000 for a Cayman Brac athletic programme as a result of his successful attempt. He presently resides in St. John, US Virgin Islands.
In 2012, five took to the water – Lorri Jongeneel, Elizabeth Berns, Alex Harling, Kerri Kanuga and Andrea Roach – reaching Little Cayman in just over three hours.
Now, a group is training for the same challenge. James Scott is one of the team members who has been working on his endurance in the sea, although such a task is not foreign to him. He swam the English Channel years ago.
When asked how the idea for this upcoming swim came to the group, he said, “When mountaineers are asked why they climb a mountain, they say ‘because it’s there’. That used to sound crazy to us water folk, but now makes sense as applied to the swim. The core of the group swam the North Sound last year and this is the obvious next challenge in the Cayman Islands. Not because of the distance per se, but because of the uncertainty related to weather, current and whatever the deep sea has to offer, over and above jellyfish.”
He said that most of the members are keen open-water swimmers who have been swimming together for years.
“Although for most of the year, we swim a mere 3 km every Sunday, we have been ramping up our distances for the last few months in training for this. We think the average training distance of each of the swimmers will be around 15 km a week for the next few weeks.”
Quite a few, besides Scott, have participated in long open-water swim events.
“One has swum 10 km between the islands of the BVI, and a couple have completed long… swims in the US,” he said, adding that two of their team were in the 2012 Bogue swim.
“Swimming is a strange sport, as the camaraderie amongst swimmers is second-to-none, despite the fact that during the actual activity, there is no talking,” Scott said. “As we have built the group and pulled everything together, it’s been amazing to watch all ages, backgrounds and mixed ability come together and talk the same language about the same goal.”
Scott and the rest of the team are hoping people will sponsor their efforts, and those funds will be donated to the CCMI.
“They do an amazing job promoting, researching, educating and protecting the amazing asset that is the coral, reef system and sea life of the Cayman Islands,” Scott said. “If we can find a way of keeping – and, ideally – improving this asset, there isn’t anyone in the Cayman Islands who won’t be better off.”
Youngest team members
When Scott said all ages were getting involved, it’s important to note that he was including two 13-year-old boys who have made it their mission to be part of the swim.
Jake Fagan and Ben Coak have been training in earnest ever since they heard about the event. People might remember them as two of the three boys who created the Kite for COVID challenge in June 2020, which raised nearly $36,000 for the Acts of Random Kindness charity.
“Their parents are friends with one of the swimmers in the group,” Scott said, “and when the boys found out about it, they asked if they could join. It’s brilliant that they are up for a challenge… especially at their age. To see them turn up, put their goggles on and just do the hard yards should be a lesson to us all.”
Jake wasn’t just excited about the challenge, he’s also thrilled to support the CCMI.
“I’ve been [to] and stayed at CCMI and was really interested in the research they were doing, so I was very happy that I get to support them,” he said.
Ben was also on board as soon as Jake told him about the idea. “I immediately said, ‘Yes!’,” he said, adding that he’d remember how much fun he’d had on his Year 6 school trip to CCMI.
They have both been taking the training seriously. “I’ve been doing long distance swims along Seven Mile from various locations, and also multiple laps from Sunset House to Eden Rock, which is a bit more challenging as the sea is a lot rougher in that area,” Jake said. “I’ve swum nearly 40 kms in preparation and still have two weeks left to train.”
“Jake and I have been training during the week together, and then on Sunday mornings we join the whole team and do a longer swim,” Ben said.
Their hope is to raise at least $10,000, but Jake is aiming higher, pushing for a $20,000 total, if possible. Considering what they are facing at their young age, it certainly should be worth some good monetary support. Their biggest concerns about the day itself are getting a stitch and the weather conditions.
Also on Ben’s radar is “… it being too rough and getting lots of water in my mouth”.
Scott is aware of the time of year, so his main worry is storms in the area around the date of the swim – those, and a fertile imagination.
“One underestimated factor is a wandering mind. When you get tired and you see nothing in the deep water below, it’s amazing what you can start thinking about and convincing yourself of. A loose Speedo cord can very quickly become a flesh-eating sea piranha.”
He also echoed one of the boys’ sentiments.
“The other factor is dehydration – it’s hard to drink mid-swim. When you do, it can give you a terrible stitch (especially when you take energy drinks). Swimming with a stitch is painful.”
There will be safety boats and a group of sea kayaks monitoring the swimmers on their journey, but everyone knows there’s some small risk involved.
“We’re all experienced athletes, even the boys, in many ways, but we will be looking out for one another,” Scott said.