Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kealaikahiki Impressions

Jeff asked for my impressions of the channel swim. Bear with me as I wax poetic:
Sleep. sweating. wake up, water. Is it time. No. Back to sleep.

Alarm. Wake up. Where am I? Maui. Old hotel, Pioneer Inn. Shower? no, coffee? yes. Glad I packed my stuff no time.

Grab bags need to fill them from the ice machine. Meeting Syndey downstairs soon. Stumbling, old hallway. Walking dress warm. Can feel how cold the ocean will be already. Love my beanie, favorite sweatshirt, Karate pants.

Down stairs. Dad already waiting for us on the bench across from the hotel.

Waiting for Syndey. He's late? Is it 5:00, yes he's late. Text Greg, text Ceci. "We'll be late, he's not here yet".

Take pictures, talk with Jeff, talk with Dad, talk with Bill. Ice in bags is melting.

5:30, deisel engine. Big pickup. Towing boat. We put stuff in back of boat. Pile in.

Talk to Syndey. Voice so calm, so relaxed, voice sounds like trade wind breeze. Maui built attitude. Lots of laughs.

Drive to wharf on back road. I see an old tree, gnarly.

Cecilia and Greg arrive at wharf. Launching boat now. Suns not up. Flashes from cameras. blinding. Jeff and Syndey getting boards on boat. One, two, three baords? Oh no, they look short. Poor Jeff. 9'2, dare to dream: 9'6. Poor Jeff. My shoulders hurt already for him.

Truck backs boat in. Powerful engine. drifts away. People on boat, people off boat. I'm eating a banana, isn't that bad luck? Have to finish it before I step in. Ceci by boat.. talking about bananas. Greg grins ear to ear, drinking 2nd green bottle! Awesome.

Time to go, sun will be up soon, need to get there before patrols start. Small panic, we are late. Boat is off.

Water is calm in the Aau'au. Looks like sheets of ribbon. Like food? Small swells, boat rides. See some lights on the shore. People waking up. Wonder what they are doing today. Sky turns lighter behind Haleakala. Blue all around, in sky, different east to west. In water below darker blue still. Looks cold. THrust hands in sweat shirt. Stay warm now Quinn, you have all day to be cold. Heat up, keep it. Keep it inside. Start your fire.

Sky is lighter ink blue. Looks like a cloudy day. Cloudier still ahead in the Kealaikahiki. Kaho`olawe looks like a stone in a grey pool.

Currents? don't know, how about winds? Check iPhone. Pull up NOAA. Yes.. it is windy on Kaho`olawe, Syndey says though, its half of whats expected. Didn't know Kaho`olawe is always double digits.

Swells bigger, boat ride Jarring, can't read iPhone. Can't see emails, can't read weather. What are you doing? Put that away. Focus. Think warm thoughts.

Greg in back, looks like a pirate. grinning ear to ear.

Crap need to put on sun screen, need to take off warm clothes and put on cold slimey goop. Ugh.. its 6:45. Windy, jarring. Okay, okay.. don't want to get pulled later because my skin is blistered. Don't want to bleed in saltwater.

Shirt off lotion on. Beanie off, bald head. Lotion on bristely scalp. reaching. Dad helps. Thanks dad. Cold. Lotion is on. Another half hour till we are there. Put suit on. This is crazy cant' even sit without losing balance. We go faster. Get dressed again for another 20 minutes. warm up.

Kaho'olawe gets closer. Start chugging water. You'll need it, can always pee it out later. Jam a triple threat power bar down. Looking for patrol boats. Syndey sees one, "oh crap". All this planning and now.. oh crap. We can't stop now! false alarm. We are getting closer its just surf break, not a white boat. 2 miles away now.

Clothes off again, put on a second layer of sunscreen. See flying fish. Flying for 50 yards. Is that a bird, no wait, it, its a fish. How about that one.. no a fish too. See a huge whale tale in the distance. What would it be like to swim over one of those today? Scary? Emotional? Connected? Privelaged? What would it be like to BELONG here.. not just visit.

SO close now. Sandy beach at the Northwest end. What would it be like to have lived here? To be aina. To know this place. Is this island lonely? Closer now. Syndey comes about Jeff tyring to get to a board, Bill laughing. I can't wait. I need to touch it. I need to be there every second I can. Get a head start. Tell dad, perch on edge of boat.


My own power, my own self, my own heading, my own freedom. No more rocking, no more jarring, no more salt spray in the face. The water holds me. The water covers me, the water slides under my hands. I am a vector toward the island, that is all.

Coral, around a restricted island. Unbroken, unmolested. Brighter? more varied? Yes, definately. I am a forgeigner to them. The corals seem to stare back.

My feet reach sand. Sand is hard, Its over a smooth table of stone. walk up on beach. Bill isn't here yet. Walk up to brush line. Hello. Wind, wind with noise, like blowing through an old house. Small trees on brush line. They fight the wind all day long. Still leaning ready for the next blow. "Kapu" says a sign. I obligue. I am a guest. stay on the sand. Respect. Today of all days respect everything. Observe, respect.

Bill is here, looking at watch. He looks around. "Cool!". We look at each other, off over to the North. Guffaw! Laugh! is that Lanai? Yes. I think we are nuts. I don't care. Everything worth doing is nuts. Such a privelage I imagine a day in the water alone with the blue, with my friends, with my thoughts. Bill once said, "you'll have time to think about your whole life, plan it out, then do it all over again twice". Yes. truth.

Bill encourages us with words. Looks at his watch. "Okay 7:20" we shake hands wish each other luck. Push off. We are in a hurry, get on with it before the patrol boats come. Spoil our quest.

I see the same corals. This time, they don't stare at me, instead they are sign posts. Each one reads its depth back to me, each one asks me if I am certain. Swim on. Five strokes, breathe, five strokes breathe. I think I'm starting too fast. Slow down look toward Bill.

Deeper. Is it colder? Is it the depth that makes it feel cold? Is it the blue? Is it colder? Does it matter?

The bottom drops away? I remember Syndey say something about 170 fathoms. Whats a fathom? Sounds bad-ass. I'm swimming to Lana`i. Holy shit! I'm swimming to Lana`i. I start laughing.

Hey what's that? Jeff? Jeff! okay follow Jeff. Bill on my right. He breathes on that side. This way he sees me. A triangle Jeff on top, me on left, bill on right. We go.

Another paddleboarder? Yes, Greg. Hmm, trouble there. I find out later. board is too thin. Not enough boyancy. Greg keeps with us half a mile. falls back. Boat circles back to get him.

Boat resumes 40 yards to the left of our procession. Sky is grey. follow Jeff.

Blue. so Blue. Time to think. Think about life. About decisions. About family. Look for Bill, look for Jeff, think about values. Remember, so many memories, remember. Concentrate, check stroke. Look for boat.

We are moving. water under my hands feels like balls of clay. Good rotation, good pace. Look over see Bill. Catch up to Bill. Fall back from Bill. Think too much. Catch up to Bill. I'm not holding Bill's pace consistantly. Seems to be the trend for the first half. I'm ahead, I'm behind.

Just like real life, I wander I lose course, I go fast, too slow. Be more like Bill. Keep a pace, be consistant keep your heading. Don't let Bill down.

One hour? already? I can still see Kaho`olawe. We are 3 miles away now. I can still see trees though. Everyone is happy about the pace, time to refuel. Cliff bar, Water. Okay go.

Reflect, remember, think, plan. Family, what am I doing? Where am I going? Plan reflect? Stroke deeper, stroke longer. Be water, be a current, be a force a vector, you are beyond mechanics now, you are will and water.

Tiny jelly fish, dots streak me. A line across the hip, a line across the face. Feel like electricy or a hot wire. What am I looking for. Don't panic. It hurts, that's all. Keep swimming.

Two hours already? Six miles already? Thoughts: we'll be done by lunch! The currents are with us. We are a third of the way there (almost) in 2 hours. I laugh. Congratulate Bill. We refuel. 6 gel blocks, gatorade. Jeff paddles over to Bill with chocolate covered raisins. We all have preferences. To Bill the gel blocks look like a 6 course Turkey dinner right now. To me -- its 43 grams of carbohydrates on a spreadsheet. Down the hatch. Jeff instructs us. "Stay on my right, if you are right behind me, you shouldn't be, stay behind me and on my right"

Swim, water is staling under my hands. I feel like I'm always swimming to the right. Trying to hold my poisiton behind Jeff, I feel like I'm swimming in a circle. a circle to the right. I need visual feedback to fight the vertigo. Currents are messing with me. I see Haleakala standing proud on my right, on the South end of Maui (20 miles away?). I see it clearly. I hold my course. I feel I am turning but Haleakala stays fast. Thank you Pele. I have a guide post.

Is my life like this? Yes, need to decide, need to choose. Need to hold a course. Plan think. Swim. Decide.

Hour 3. So much work. We've gone far I'm sure. Syndey says "one half a mile". Disbelief. We have swum 6 steps forward and taken 5 backward. Syndey explains. This is where the two currents start to run together. Need to push on, hold the bearing, follow Jeff tight! Throw me a Cliff bar, water. Okay go.

More the same see Haleakala to fight vertigo, stay behind Jeff, Keep with Bill. Water is churning. Bubbles like soda in the first 2 feet. Water is so light I can feel the difference in mass when I pull. Swells start to rise. Jeff is 15 feet away. Sometimes I can't see him. Can't see Bill? Is he behind that swell? wait. Yes. I see Bill. wait. I see Jeff. Where is Bill? Look for boat. Okay its there. stay on course. What course? Wait, can I see Lana`i no. Where is Jeff?

Jeff holds up four fingers. Four hours. He looks tired now. We've gone three quarter miles since the last break. Our rates: 3, 3, .5, and .75. This is madness. But wait, Kaho`olawe is far enough away now, I can't see trees, all the greens, reds, whites.. its all run into grey. Grey is good now. What to eat.. shoulders, hurt. Water with ibuporfin and acetometaphine please. Spike some caffeine.. need a power gel. Okay go!

I pull away from Bill and Jeff too quick, I'm panicing, this is reduculous. We are going to slow, lets move, faster. It can't be the currents, it must be us. Jeff and Bill catch up, I slow down. We all move together. Stay together. Swells get bigger, but current stops giving me the circling feeling.

The feedings the distances.. the thoughts, the time alone, the impossible blue. I can't rememeber. Hours start to go by punctuated with feeding and water. Rate picks up for the next four hours but never over 2 mph. Its work now.

When my arms get tight I exadgerate stroke, or switch to fly for a half a minute. If I feel a big swell behind me I try to catch it.

As we get closer I can site the top of a mountain on Lana`i. This helps. Between that mountain me and Haleakala I have a direciton even if I can see the boat, or Jeff or Bill.

Hour seven. Blue. Impossible blue. At break I am drinking water, I ask for a caffeine sports-gel. Dad throws it. Jeff isn't close enough it misses. Sinks! I need that, its the last gel! I close the water bottle, put it in my teeth and dive for the gold foil packet of power-gel. Down. The bottle starts to crackle and shrink. Down. So blue down here, but not any darker. Down. The back of my neck hurts. I extend my right arm for the packet. Down have to clamp down harder on the bottle to keep it in my teeth. Reach! -- got it. So blue.. but no different from the surface, never any closer to a bottom or a darker blue. Crazy, I look up -- tiny feet, sunlight. I go that way with my snack. The bottle re-expands, my neck stocks hurting.

By hour eight I was tired but ready to finish. Our paces were varying. It was harder to move as a group, but we were all excited to see the features of Lana`i starting to take shape and color.

In the next hour progress slowed. I remember thinking, and hearing aloud Bill saying "Is it getting any closer". I look at Bill, and realize by the look on his face, how tired I must be. At this point its all about finishing.

Jeff is beat he piles back in boat. Good show.. nine and a half hours on a long board. Truly amazing. I'd rather swim than paddle that any day. Jeff looks tired, his face looks like weather, red, winded. I see him in the boat dry and wrapped. I want that for myself, worse than a chilli-dog after a bar crawl. Head down, visualize, make it happen, you ARE getting closer, one stroke at a time.

Breaks become erratic in the last half hour. Our collective pace gets too slow. I'm treading water a lot, wating, keeping my pits and back of knees folded. Something I saw on Discovery channel about keeping your body heat.

Swimming still but slow. Too slow. Can't feel my toes. Splaying feet to keep calves from cramping. Feeling kind of sleepy. I tell myself, when my fingers go numb, I have to break away.

I can't feel my thumbs and the meat of my palms go numb. Not good. I can see the island? What a mile two miles away. I have to break away from the group, have to set my pace. If I don't I might as well climb in that boat right now.

I swim over to boat, I say. "I've got a problem, my core temp is dropping. I have to boogie". Dad, Jeff, and Sydney look at me. Firm nod. "Okay". That's all I need, I'm gone. I'm going fast and hard as I can. Kicking, moving, feeling free again, untethered. I can do this. As I go my temp climbs. Soon I can feel my thumbs again. This is good.

The boat splits the distance between the swimmers. Greg stays behind with one board. As we move off out of site of the rear group, Jeff volunteers to escort me on the less bouyant board for the last half mile and puts in. I'm still swimming. I hear the boat pull away. "They are going back to stay with the others I think, this is good, I am fine". I see jelly fish, lots and lots of jelly fish. Crap I think, "I'm gonna hit a box jelly half a mile off Lana`i and shut down". I see Jeff. I think he has a halo, maybe wings. Okay, no one dies today. I fall in behind Jeff. The Jellies stay a foot below the surface.

Jeff looks for a rocky point jutting away from the island. All we have to do is make it to the island. There is a beach to the right of the point. The beach is strange. Black sand on a white sand island. It looks warm, dark.

Surf is now breaking behind me. Black rocks the size of cannonballs below me. 4 foot waves crash on me. drag me over the rocks. The rocks are round forgiving. I paddle shallow. I try to stand. My legs are useless, the rocks are large and round. I try twice to stand. I can't, I fall over, I try to catch myself. My arms give out too. The water carries me now. Shallower. I try again. I'm up on fours. I fall in a foot of water. I try a fourth time. and crab walk to the beach.

Jeff is on shore on a rock, by his board, watching like a sentinel. Taking it in. I hear him say, "that was heavy.". I look around. Dizzy tired, out of body. The sky. I laugh. I'm still laughing. like the kind of laugh when your leg falls asleep and you try to touch it and wake it up.

I am still cold. I go to the black sand. I dig a small hole as best I can. Sit in it. COver myself with black sand. So WARM. put my head back. Look at the sky. Think about what we did. Laugh smile and wait for the boat.


Koz said...

You can wax poetic on my blog anytime and thanks for letting me tag along on your adventure.

Quinn said...

an honor and a privilege Jeff

Anonymous said...

Mr Quinn that was a adventure just reading your tale. Whatever you do next please write about it afterwords so we can share.

Quinn said...

ok.. :)

Uh.. I just went to Starbucks.. I thought about getting the brownie but I didn't. I got a tall drip instead.

<---always a smartass

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