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The South Coast Swim 

 
Shakespeare Beach, Dover.............100 Yards Down, 400 Miles to Go 
 
Many times, I have been asked what comes next. Having twice swum the width of the Channel, the challenge to be the first to swim the length becomes clear. Long distance swimming can become further than a twenty mile dip. More than a one off swim at the peak of performance, on the best day of the year. Martin Strel's world record Amazon swim is distance on a continental scale. Long distance swimming is bigger than the English Channel and further than the South Coast. What of the Atlantic and other of the Worlds greatest seas and oceans? Yet new sports also beckon and dreams continue as I consider other ways to stay wet with new experiences and so continue my love affair. 
 
Somehow, it just happened that Nicky would drive the support car and Joe would pilot the boat. At thirteen years old Joe was up for the challenge of his life. His efforts and great enthusiasms offered valued support and encouragement throughout the swim. Always ready to go the extra mile to see things done, the future belongs to him and his sort. 
 
Then there was Ian. We wondered with interest, how it would be having him involved so closely, during the weeks of the swim. He provided a constant source of enjoyment (mostly at his expense), balanced only by the many irritations. Now the effort is over and the friendship restored we recognise the swim was memorable in many respects, because of his involvement. The irritations a classic ingredient found on all journeys of similar nature. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ian helped us to understand how it is. Our laughter is now able to look back without embarrassment and now the hurt is over, I am glad he came along. I think he is glad too. 
 
Sir Ranulph Fiennes lent us his name as patron to the swim. I am grateful to him for the many inspirations in his lectures, writings and support. Thank goodness there are people like him in this country, we could use a few more. 
 
The following account is taken directly from the pages of my journal with a few additions and deletions. 
 
 
Day 1 Thursday 10th August 1995 
 
‘"The best part of any long swim is when the swim is finished and you are warmly dressed and sleeping on the beach. The worst bit is knowing you have to start all over again in a couple of hours". 
 
The trip began as we travelled to Dover yesterday along the coast road. We stopped off at various spots to look at the sea, wondering how we might approach a landing at that particular spot. We purchased a few items of equipment at Hayling Island and spent £150.00. The swim has raised a few eyebrows during the planning stage and the staff at this shop asked the usual questions. 
 
Although we are hoping to raise money for Children in Need, the shop gave us no discount, even though we asked. Expenses on a trip like this are important, especially as we had no major sponsor. We needed four metal shackles and purchased them paying £3.00 each. They were blister packed. We should have known, later we found them at 75p each, loose. 
 
The drive to Dover took all day and we arrived late. After looking at the hard slipway in Dover harbour from where we would launch our rib (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and walking onto Shakespeare Beach next to Admiralty Pier for a romantic look, we realised the time was 2030. We hadn’t even sorted out our equipment, put up the tents or been fed. 
 
We were staying the night at the home of Ray Scott.. Ray and his dear departed wife Audrey, have been flag bearers of The Channel Swimming Association for nearly half a century. Certainly a lifetime of stalwart service freely given to all aspiring Channel swimmers. It is doubtful if anyone would be able to duplicate their continued efforts over so many years. That evening found us setting up our tents in his garden. Ray came over while we were sorting through our equipment and talked over old times. We were all to tired to listen properly. It was 2200 before we were ready to sleep. We really should have driven to Dover the quick way and got to sleep much earlier. 
 
The stress which goes with a trip like this builds up as the day of the start approaches. We really could do with making less stress. We need as much help in this area as possible and must be careful not to get upset with each other as we get tired. 
 
We were awake and up by 0420, having had too many late nights recently combined with early starts. Fancy swimming the Channel with so few hours rest. Certainly the mistakes were being made right from the start. I wonder whether we have done anything right. I am sure we will learn very fast. 
 
By 0545 we were launching the rib down the hard slip within Dover harbour. It was a difficult procedure down the long, narrow and steep slip. I had to tie the boat to the tow bar on the car and pay out the line as the boat tried to run away down the slip. Muscles straining. I could have done without the effort so early in the morning. Nick, Joe and Ian were positioned alongside the rib, manoeuvring into placid water. 
 
Ian obtained clearance from the harbour authority to proceed through the entrance. The boat being crewed by Ian and Joe, was to meet me at the foot of Admiralty Pier, ready to commence the swim at 0630. 
 
Ray Scott came to watch the send off and we met Mayor Hood from Dover. Despite inviting the National press, radio and TV, the Mayor and his chauffeur were the only other visitors. Long Distance Swimming is like that. The one sport where the battle is done over the sort of hours that would make any world class marathon runner want to cry. Certainly four, six, eight and more hours. We receive no support, cheering or recognition en route. We simply attend to our athletic effort, cold and alone. It is somehow appropriate for a big swim to retain the quiet humble start. 
 
We had a prayer on the beach with the Mayor, Nick offering it. The Mayor and I , stood peacefully silent in the cool morning air as we quietly listened to the words. We shook hands. I said goodbye to Nick with a cuddle and a tear in my eye. I was ready to swim. 
 
It felt so good to have Nick and Joe with me. Although I would swim alone, I was with the best of company and happy for it. This swim would be far more difficult if attempted without special people to help. I doubt if it would be possible if she had stayed at home. I am so lucky to have eternal companions. 
 
The rib was waiting off shore as I entered the water which was pleasantly warm compared to the air. I swam the few yards to the wall of Admiralty Pier. I stopped for a minute to be alone, a little sad. I hate goodbyes, even temporary ones. 
 
My thoughts turned to Sister Powell, a dear missionary friend who had left Taunton the day before the swim. Some goodbyes can be forever. These are the worst. This goodbye and a similar one with Sister Hill a few weeks ago, were both the worst.. 
 
The swim began at 0640 with my mind dwelling on these friendships. The worst bit of sad farewells is tempered by the best of good memories, of bygone times with these special friends. To have shared these times with our missionaries is well worth the sorrow of farewell. Especially once the eyes are dry and we can remember the love and fondness without the hurt. 
 
After a while of swimming, I realised I was warm. The effort of swimming creates just enough inner heating so that the extreme coldness of prolonged immersion is kept at bay. This morning, I was warm with good feelings and a clear uncluttered mind. I was interested and a little concerned though to realise that I attributed some extra warmth to the thoughts and feelings I had for Sister Powell, I miss her. I wonder how I can have or allow to continue having such thoughts for a girl other than my wife. I love my wife, I knew that but I also love our missionaries. Somehow its different, somehow the same. Anyway, Sister Powell kept me warm for an hour or so. I wonder if its against mission rules. 
 
Shakespeare Beach and Cliff were behind us, I had swum over the Channel Tunnel and was heading towards Abbott’s Cliff. I could not feel any particular ebb tide and noticed that a mast on the cliff had appeared stationary for the last twenty minutes. I was getting nowhere. 
 
The sea state had quite a swell combined with chop and was quite unsettled. The sea temperature recorded a fine 68 degrees, lovely. Looking ahead we could clearly see the Birstin Hotel in Folkestone, silhouetted in the distance like a luxury liner against the morning sky. It looked a good two hours away. The next time I looked, I was surprised to see we were there and passing Folkestone Harbour wall. I checked my watch, it was 0840. We had reached Folkestone in two hours, despite the effort at Abbot’s Cliff. 
 
The mobile phones were not working well. Nicks hand held on shore would not raise the boat at all. The boats phone could raise the shore although its battery power always registered low. It was connected to the boats battery. We wonder whether the Mariner 40 engine was charging the battery correctly. 
 
Pleased with the early progress, I continue on towards Hythe. The sea gradually becomes rough and a little angry in the wind. I swim ashore after 4hrs 20mins, having covered 10 miles. I crawl onto a slip way which is battered by the sea and far too rough to moor up against. I swim back to the boat and we motor along the beach to a more sheltered spot. We anchor off shore. 
 
Nick had parked the car & trailer and met us on the beach. We spent the next three hours sleeping and sunbathing. A reporter from Radio Kent arrived for an interview. Two or three times, Joe and I had to place the rib further out to sea. A strong onshore breeze began to blow f4/5 according to forecast, trying to force the rib against its anchor into the shore breakers, despite a receding tide. 
 
At 1300 I noticed the strong ebb tide, it was racing. Time to commence the second swim of the day. The timing of the ebb didn’t make sense. However, Ian and Nick had gone shopping and were not back until 1500. It was my fault, I said that I wanted to sleep and that after a four hour morning swim, a four hour afternoon swim would then be enough for the first day. 
 
We eventually set off at 1530 only to get one mile before encountering the Hythe firing ranges. We had not bothered to check the firing times and were turned away by the range safety vessel. I chose to swim directly to shore and wait for the all clear. We trailer the rib and with the help of half a dozen windsurfing dudes, we drag the loaded trailer up a rather steep wooden slip. At 1800 I decide to swim on for two more hours without the support boat, aiming for Dymchurch. The ebb by now wasted. The swim to Dymchurch was uneventful as I swam just offshore the muddy shallows 
 
Hythe Range Safety Vessel 
 
I had told Nick I would leave the water a 2000 on the dot, it took five minutes to wade out of the shallow water. Once out, I had to walk half a mile along the flat beach to the car, visible by its roof sign. I was dry when I got there. 
 
Nicola drove to the campsite where the tents were already erected. We had to pay £20 to stay. No discounts were given, we even asked if we could have two nights for the price of one. We were refused, apparently they were too busy and needed the space. It didn’t look like it too me. I expect we will come across a lot of people that don’t care to help us, we will certainly appreciate those who do. 
 

£20 for a Piece of Grass 

We needed an early night. It was good to get settled quickly and we agreed to lay in until 0800. The earliest favourable tides were before daybreak, too early to push it so soon into the swim. 
 
Day 1 Swim time: 6hrs 50mins: Distance 17 miles 
Day 2 Friday 11th August 1995 
 
The coastguard advised us that the ebb would begin at 1230 and run favourably until 2000. I decided to get an early start and swim in the slack water prior to the ebb, wanting to reach the lighthouse at Dungeness. Thinking with a fast ebb, the stretch would take three hours. 
 
I wasted 3hrs 45mins swimming a lone effort. I was concerned that the crew were waiting at the lighthouse and I was already 45 minutes late. I knew I was not going to make it. I chose to swim ashore, only to find I had reached Littlestone on Sea next to a folly tower. The crew would never find me here. I was five miles short. I had ruled that in the event of a wrongly timed swim, I would leave the water if practical and safe to do so. This way the team would not need to worry about my safety. 
 
Once ashore, I asked to borrow a mobile phone. I had swum for nearly four hours and found that I could not remember our mobile number. I phoned my shop back in Taunton, gave them my location and relied upon them to get the message through. 
 
Apparently the team had both mobiles switched off and it took over an hour before they received the message from the shop. I had been missing for two hours and had by now walked in bare feet wearing only my swimming trunks and getting sun burnt to a telephone box in order to phone the coastguard. Concerned that I was overdue by two hours, surely the coastguard would have been alerted. I made a reverse charge call to the shop first and was relieved to find that they had just got the message through. Thankfully, the coastguard had not been told. 
 
By the time I was collected and dressed it was nearly 1700. On checking the chart I realised I had barely made two miles in nearly four hours, I had also caught six hours of sun. Messages from mum were being passed on to us. She was cross that I had been missing, assuming the worst as mums do. Doesn’t she know that I can swim. She was probably more upset that I had swam unsupported and without safety cover. The least I should have had would have been a walker along the beach. I realise this is naughty but I must swim. A total disaster and a bad day for all. 
 
I must have been caught in a strange tide. My swimming was smoother than yesterday though, which I am pleased about. I cannot remember thinking any nice thoughts. 
 
We drove to Dungeness, found a suitable spot to camp and asked permission of a young fisherman. We pitched the two small tents with the lighthouse and Dungeness power station in the background. Nick then returned me to Littlestone where I continued to swim another forty minutes until dark. I covered two more miles in the last of the ebb. It had taken a brisk ten minutes to walk to the shore and another fifteen minutes to walk back over the vast expanse of sand. Ian escorted the swim on foot. 
 
Two days almost gone and I haven't past Dungeness yet. We will never make Hastings for Sunday. Tomorrow I intend to catch the early ebb at 0600 and get as far as possible towards the power station. Ian again supporting on foot. 
 
I hate being late for a swim. If I choose to start at 0600, I want to be in the water by then. I knew the last of the ebb would be 0830. By the time Nicola had dropped me back at last nights exit spot and I had walked the fifteen minutes along the sand flats to the water line, the time was 0630. 
Long Early Morning Walk 
I was wasting useful tide. Really, I should have been in the water at 0430 to catch the strongest part of the ebb. The sun was brighter now and I could feel its warming influence as I waded a further 100 yards into three foot depth of water. 
 
I hoped to swim until the flood made further progress impossible. This time I was armed with two Just Juice cartons down the back of my Speedos. 
 
Ian walked as I swan the muddy water. I couldn't tell if I was making progress. The features on the flat horizon were too far away, the sea bed invisible just below my finger tips. 
 
I drank the first carton of Juice after forty minutes and had a good look around. The lighthouse was much closer now. This morning, the same as last evening, I felt fish. They were either biting or blindly swimming into me. One fish swam straight into my goggles, no warning, just a split second of visual followed by a thump and no ore. On another occasion, I turned my face to breath and got hit on the cheek, a split second later and the fish would have swum straight into my open mouth. 
 
The water was silky smooth, warm and helpful. This is more like it. A lovely early morning swim while bleary eyed mortals struggle out of bed. In the afternoon ebb at 1500, I shall continue around the headland aiming for Camber Sands or even Rye. It will be a hard day trying to catch up, but quite possible if the tides run for us. I hope I am ready, I really didn't want to work too hard before our first rest day on Sunday. At least Sunday will bring rest. I am concerned that I will be unable to receive sufficient refreshment without the boat in support. 
 
During the few hours of swimming today, I had only one 200ml carton of Just Juice. The first out of 240 cartons donated by Brian Metcalfe, the President of the British Long Distance Swimming Association who also happened to be quite high up the corporate ladder at the RHM Foods factory in Ledbury. The carton was carried down the back of my Speedos as I swam. Quite effective really. I refused Nicolas' suggestion that I take a banana as well. 
 
It is now 2300. Not much fun today but a lovely clear and calm night, not a breath of wind. Everybody is a sleep. I am laying on a pebbled area under a full moon. 400 yards from the lighthouse. The power station illuminated by orange light. It is late and I must start early tomorrow, I wish I could lay in. I haven't had the right day for nice thoughts but tonight is magic. 
 
Day 2 Swim time 4 hrs 25 mins: Distance 4 miles 
Total Swim time 10 hrs 15 mins: Total Distance 21 miles 
 
Day 3 Saturday 12th August 1995 
 
Having slept in the small tent, I had a bad and uncomfortable night. Not enough room to fidget. was awake by 0500 and up twenty minutes later. Hastily getting ready to swim. A quick breakfast of hot chocolate and a banana. The sun was already rising, a large red ball behind the row of still sleeping fishing boats which remained hauled up on the shingle. On the other horizon, the full moon resting above the power station. Not a breath of wind. 
 
I was off Dungeness Lifeboat House within the hour and headed on towards the lighthouse. Foe a while I thought the tide had changed early. The view of the lighthouse refused to change no matter how hard I swam. It took ten minutes to accept the illusion. The featureless curve of the headland and the view did not change as I swam around the lighthouse. Eventually though, my effort placed the lighthouse behind me as I continued. The tide eventually turned at 0820 and I could not proceed against it. I had reached the edge of the power station. A refreshing mornings dip. 
 
During the last ten minutes, I had been swimming through floating brown froth. About 400 yards ahead of m and 400 yards out to sea, I could see a fountain of expelled water being propelled twenty feet into the air in towering jets of noise and confusion. I expected to leave the water all green and glowing. 
 
Ian had long disappeared, as I began the stony walk back to camp in bare feet. Nicola finds me half way back. It appeared Ian had fallen into a mud pool, up to his chest. Luckily extracting himself and walking back to camp, muddy and angry. I wonder if he will want to go home. Certainly a few more incidents like this will test his staying power. 
 
Back at camp, I changed and had breakfast. The coxswain of the lifeboat William Richardson, came over for a chat. Ian spent an hour trying to get himself and his kit clean. His clothes now rinsed off, lay spreadeagled on the ground like a fatal parachute accident. 
 
I intend to catch the best of the next ebb for the swim into Rye, a distance of about nine miles. With a good tide, it should take three hours. If it happens nicely, I shall continue a bit further. Knowing that tomorrow is a rest day, I could do with a few more miles. 
 
So much for good intentions. Having caught up on lost sleep while the flood was running, I was ready to do the business. The wind strength had by now increased from nothing to a SW f6. I was prepared to do battle with at least the ebb in my favour. However, the sea was hidden behind a pebbled dune, Having climbed the dune, all stripped and goggled for action, I was shocked to notice the state of the sea. Fierce waves were breaking onto the steeply shelving shingle beach. The whole body of water appeared to be on the move in the opposite direction of the now , two hour old ebb. 
 
I entered the water at the point of the mornings exit. Put my head down and swam. it was difficult to stay close because of the breakers, so I moved out 50 yards. After ten minutes of hard work, I realised I had travelled barely 100 yards. I stopped swimming to check the power of the tide, adjusted my goggles and prepared to move off again. I those few seconds, the tide had drifted me back to my start point. 
 
There was no point in continuing and so I left the water. Ian contacted Nicola on the mobile to stop her from driving to Rye and we made our way back to the old camp spot. 
 
The lifeboat coxswain popped by again and offered us washing facilities and his back garden to stay the night. It was clear the wind was here to stay, even if it died down, the flood tide would return and make swimming impossible. With a wasting afternoon, we went to the coxswain's house in the flat wilderness of Dungeness. I fitted the bubble compass to the rib and removed the direct connection of the mobile phone from the battery. The contacts had corroded badly and the phone could not obtain power. Our communications were proving to be less than adequate, useless in fact. 
 
The hand held mobile could not make contact with the boat phone, neither could we obtain a charger for it, to use from the car. The only method of recharging it, was off the mains. The boats mobile had much more power but it too always ran low. We did however, have an adaptor to enable recharging from the car. We realised that the mobiles were far too expensive for such a useless quality of comunications. Especially as each call cost 48p. after a month of rubbish comms, we were likely to have a £400 phone bill, for what? 
 
We had hoped the mobiles would work but thay had immediatly proved unsuitable and unreliable. Half the time they were switched off to conserve power. As an experiment, they had failed the test. We must now obtain VHF radios before our lack of sure communications gets us into difficulty. The purchase cost (around £650) would only be a little more than the phone bill, had the mobiles worked. 
 
Three days gone and we are still stuck at Dungeness. Tomorrow, being Sunday, is a rest day. Although we have really rested today. We shall be attending church in Hastings and meeting up with the mother of Sister Gibbons. The delay caused by the weather and my choosing not to swim on Sundays, places us in some difficulty. We must clear Lydd firing ranges by 0830 Monday morning. Otherwise we shall be grounded another day. There is only the Monday morning ebb tide which will allow the swim to happen in time. Following high water at 0200. The subsequent ebb will be strongest between 0400 and 0600. The wind must also be from the right directioon. I need the early start to take the best opportunity of escaping from this location. Failure to make it, will mean swimming through the firing upon the following ebb. The MOD would not approve. I cannot risk brininging this swim too critically into the minds of these people. We need to show some professionalism and keep the swim safe. 
 
Havin only swum two hours today, I am well rested and still have Sunday free to rest. I don't really care what the tides do on Monday morning, all I know is that I must try to force the six miles to get past the firing ranges by 0830. At least I will be raring to go by then. we must start getting the miles done. I can't spare more than four weeks on this swim. 
 
This swim wouldmake a great race for the worlds best professional and amateur long distance simmers. I wonder what the longest or toughest swimming race currently is and expect is is simply a one off swim, rather than a staged swim over many days. The South Coast swimwould have all the best ingredients. Strategy, stamina, speed, logistics, bravado, technical water, vagueries of nature. A race of it would make a prettty puzzle for any competitor. I must give it some more thought. 
 
The tent is rattling in the wind. I wonder what Sir Ranulph Fiennes would do. There is no point in swimming for hours only to make a few hundred yards (even a mile), when the same distance can be covered in twenty minutes of half decent conditions. 2200 now and an early night calls. What a waste of a day. No nice thoughts. 
 
Day 3 Swim time 2 hrs 00 mins: Distance 5 miles 
Total Swim time 12 hrs 15 mins: Total Distance 26 miles 
 
Day 4 Sunday 13th August 1995 
 
The tent rattles throughou the night into the morning, another poor nigts sleep. I cannot get comfortable. I must have got to sleep though because I do wake up and the wind has dropped off. It seems that the early mrnings before dawn are the quietest. We all get up and pack away the tents by 0900. We say goodbye to the coxswains wife and drive off to church. 
 
Today is Sunday, I have until 0830 Monday to clear lydd ranges. Otherwise we risk another lost day. I decided a long time ago that I would not swim on Sindays. Preferring to attend church instead. This choice gives us only one good chance to clear the ranges. The tide will run from 0200. Two hours of good tide should do it. We choose to catch the two strongest hours to 'guarante' success and aim to start the swim at 0400 on Monday morning. This swim compromises safety due to darkness. Ian will be walking the shingle beach. I am not sure e will be able to keep me in sight. I think also that if the wind is favourable he may not be able to keep up. 
 
We met Sister Gibbons mum at church in Hastings, but we all missed being at Taunton for church. It is friendships that make a place special, a stranger amongst a group of friends is only second best. 
 
At church we are offered a couple of places o pitch our tents as we pass through the area. It is now 1800 and I am laying on a real bed inside a mobile home at the home of John & Florie Bond. We are thankful for their help in our efforts to keep Sunday special. They live outside Rye and breed Devon Rex cats. It is a bit hot and stuffy and smells of cat. I would have preferred a rough camp under the stars. Although the advantage here is the comfort and not having to pitch tents or take them down in the morning. We intend to leave here by 0315 in order to drive back to Dungeness and begin the mornings swim as soon as possible. We are all weary through keeping starnge hours, I could fall asleep as I write. 
 
Joe is bored today. We need to get the boat back in the water, to give Joe more to do. Too tired for nice thoughts. I came here to swim and haven't done enough of it. I will be happier if I can get more miles for less hassle. The swimming is proving to be the easy bit. We spend too long riving, camping and fiddling with the boat. More swimming might be donenif I was alone with a walker carrying the gear. Or swimming with a waterproof pack. I must try that out and see how it affects my swimming. 
 
I am sure if I sleep now, I will be awake by 2100 but must get a good night on this bed. 0300 alarms are not user friendly. 
 
Well I fell asleep, about 1700 and was indeeed awake by 2100 just as the others were turning in. I thought I ould never get back to sleep but I did and had a good night for once, until 0300. 
 
Day 4 Swim time 0 hrs 00 mins: Distance 0 miles 
Total Swim time 12 hrs 15 mins: Total Distance 26 miles 
 
Day 5 Monday 14th August 1995 
 
Up at 0315. We clambered bleary eyed into the car and drove back to Dungeness. We were there by 0415. Just fancy, stripping off outside a power station for an early morning dip in the dark. The wind had slackened off nicely and blew NNW, the sky was surprisingly cloudy. I fitted a blue light stick to my goggles and spent a few moments fiddling with them. 
 
Having got in, the water was warmer than the air. The swimming was tiring at first but I soon warmed up. The power station slipping behind me nicely. Although I could not feel any help from the tide. This bothered me, After a few minutes and once I was clear of the monster fountain, which was still asleep, I moved to deeper water to look for some help. It was still dark. Progress was made, but I felt no better than normal effort in calm water. I moved out deeper still, the tide wasn't there. In fact I felt slower further out. I was back insore on the hour for a drink, Just Juice from you no where. 
 
As daybreak approached, the power station well behind, the battle commenced to clear the firing ranges. It was a battle. The wind increased and became northerly. The calm turned to a cold windy chop. I still maintained a pace and knew progress was being made. The shingle bank to my right was not quite featureless, with pebble dunes and range equipment. Occasionally I could see Ian striding along the top. His silhoette clearly visible against the backdrop of a dawn sky. It would have been a poor show had he been an SAS troopper on ops, but perfect for me to easily spot him. Although at times he completely disappeared as he walked lower towards the shoreline. 
 
I was getting tired but cleared the ranges at 0810 having swum for 3.5 hours off the shingle beach. It was pretty montonous stuff. The water was awful. Sometimes a storm can cause a sandy beach to muddy the water so much that you cannot see your hands as you swim. On this stretch I couldn't even see my arms. 
 
As daylight had increased, I realised thst the top few inches of water were clear. Underneath the surface, however, were various layers of coloured soupy mess. Patches of foam floated upon the surface. The smell was unusual, I tried not to consider the taste. Four hours of sewer stuff from Jury's Gap Sluice. The worst I have ever swum in, I will never swim it again. 
 
The wind was cold, I was tired and it was early morning. The combination can make a swim very hard. The sun was up but not warming. Sister Powell failed to warm me up, although she tried a couple of times. I must get these thoughts sorted out. Do they really belong here? The trouble is that thoughts of good friends really do help make the cold hours pass more quickly. I doubt if we will ever meet again, maybe I haven't got used to the idea. 
 
I could see Camber Sands in the distance about one mile off. Too wrecked ships are visibly stranded in the shallows. I tried to enjoy the early morning but was too cold. I swim past the wrecks. Both stood as sad sentinels, covered i green. Soon they too were behind me. I eventually reached the spot where the car was parked. The time was 0840 as I began to wade the 100 yards through the hallows and walk 800 yards up the deserted and wind blown beach. Traditional English breakfast, cooking on a camp stove, greeted me as I approached the car. Just the business. 
 
I plan to swim again at 1420 to head for Hastings about ten miles away. I may be too tired, considering the early start this morning, but I must start to increase the water time. After a sleep in the car, I prepared to get wet once again. The wind had changed direction. The tide was high, giving me an extra half mile to swim. The red flag flew. 
 
The soft sandy beach was crowded by holiday makers, herded into the ever reducing beach by the incomimg tide. Impossible to drag the trailer to launch the boat. I decided to swim un escorted rather than waste the afternoon. We arranged suitable vantage points for the crew to keep an eye on my progress. I set off with three Just Juice cartons. 
 
Swimming with the ebb at 1440, almost directly into wind, I aimed for the outer edge of Rye Harbour arm, one mile out to sea. A red marker tower stood proud a further 400 yards off the arm. 
 
I felt awkward though, a hazard to shipping, swimming out in the bay alone. It is certainly easier on the mind swimming just offshore and paralell to the beach . A speedboat came close for a look. A yacht motored out of Rye entrance flying the Tricolour and passed 50 yards ahead. We waved, I swam on. Against the wind, I judged thirty minutes would get me to the tower. Spot on. 
 
After one hour, the tower was well behind and I headed for a mast above Fairlight Cove, about four miles distant. I now felt good swimming alone, no longer within the jaws of Rye. I felt no longer required to raise my head every fifty strokes to watch out for shipping. I swam over the first big jelly fish, missing it by two feet. 
 
Gradually, I realised progress was slowing. I had been using a shoreline house as a marker and it had remained in the same position after ten minutes. The ebb by now should have been runnung its strongest. I was one mile out to sea, swimming stationery. With four hours still to swim, I knew I would never make Hastings accoirding to our plan. 
 
I increased my stroke rate and made greater effort. Another ten minutes of hard work gave some reward as I saw distance from the house. The wind was almost head on and I knew I could never maintain such a pace of effort. I turned away from the mast and headed inshore. Progres was slow. Time was short and I was already two miles short of where I should have been by this time. I wondered whether the team had monitored my progress and knew my location. 
 
Once I had reduced my seaward distance by half, I again headed towards the mast. The sun beginning its descent behind the cliff above the cove, casting a sparkling golden pathway, beckoning me along. I spent the next hour swimming directly into the light, not needing to look ahead for direction as I bathed in gold. If I hadn't been lacking in miles, it would have been a glorious swim. 
 
The time was late, the efoort hard and slow. I could not guarantee a sfe landing behind the cliff within daylight hours, the extra distance too far. I came ashore at the RNLI slip at Pett Level and drank the last Just Juice. My mouth and tongue were a little swollen and did not approve of the citrus tang. I was thirsty though, having swum for three hours fifty minutes on just 400ml. I put up with the stinging drink. The juice had until now, been refreshing and desirable. Obviously, eight hours of salty mouthwash damages the palate and spoils the taste. 
 
I am feeling stronger and have had a glimpse of the swimming I am looking for. All I need is a fair tide, helpful wind, a little more strength and ten miles of clear water. The early mornings offer paceful and enchanting felings spent swimming through the dawn. 
 
I left the water and knocked on a ladys door and asked to make a phone call. The lady was old and reserved. I doubt if a wet an half naked swimmer had ever knocked on her door before, dripping pools of water. One minute later, I was in the car heading for Hastings to our prearranged camp spot (the back garden of Valerie Spina). 
 
I felt the boat was vulnerable parked outside in the street. I prepared to sleep in the car. Valerie cooked pasta, lots of it. It was good to be sat at a table and waited on, although tough at such a late hour. 2300 talking to our new friends. I had been up since 0315 and after the effort of the day, was now falling asleep. 
 
Day 5 Swim time 8 hrs 15 mins: Distance 13 miles 
Total Swim time 20 hrs 30 mins: Total Distance 39 miles 
 
Day 6 Tuesday 15th August 1995 
 
The car was uncomfortable, a poor nights sleep after being so tired. The car is full of kit, a real mess. We must sort it out and dump half the gear. Camps need to be set up and ready as I leave the water each evening so that I can sleep without hassle. 
 
This swim would proceed more quickly if we used the boat and camped on the beach where we stopped. Just two of us, carrying the equipment in the boat. I had hoped to swim, sleep, swim. Not swim,set up camp, rubbish sleep, organise boat, swim. Certainly, if I were swimming six hours on six hours off, I would be too tired to do other things in between. 
 
There was no way we could catch the early morning tide today, far too tired. So we are resting and reorganising the car. I aim to catch the 1500 tide and plan to swim unil 2100. We have arranged to sleep at Eastbourne with a dear friend Valerie Firman. A quick transition from swimming to resting would be good but unlikely. Another night beckons burning the midnight oil in catch up talk mode. 
 
This trip was billed as an expriment. We are certainly finding the things that don't work or don't happen right. It is about time we find things that do. 
 
So much for catching the 1500 tide. I needed a hair cut for weeks and was getting fed up with wet hair, it takes ages to dry. I asked Joe to cut my hair, thinking that I would get three more weeks af growth, enough for a barber to sort out later. Joe did a hatchet job and Nicola insisted that she tidy it up beforev we left. Joe enjoyed himself though. 
 
We said our goodbyes to Valerie and drove back to Pett Level slip. Horrified, we studied the state of the sea, whipped by the wind. In Hastings it was calm. The wind was now fierce, head on. It would remain this way until I could swim around the headland, a distance of one mile. I didn't think that any progress could possibly be made. 
 
We launched the boat down the steep slip, using the car as an anchor to hold the boat from running away down the slip. There were sharp waves buffeting the stern and breaking over the transom, threatening bto swamp the boat, as we edged the trailer into the water. 
 
Ian sat in the boat as we pushed it off the trailer. He is not at all confident mixing it with the urgency of the surf. Indeed, he has great difficulty getting into the boat in a flat calm. Especially if onlookers are interested. Today we had collected a few and Ian sat proud. It simply made the task more difficult for the rest of us. Nicola got wet holding bthe boat in chest deep splash and spray. 
 
For the few minutes gettingb the boat in, I should have been swimming. This is my sole purpose. I really do not expect to have to organise the boat while Ian sits high and dry. Joe in control, proudly took the boat out of a tight situation as the adrenalin fuelled shallows , surf, strong wind and a barnacle encrusted groin waited to tear hapless skin aprt and make waste the inflated rubber of the rib. Off Joe went, at full throttle to clear the danger area and kept going, to warm the engine I supposed. Although judging by bthe wave jumping, I suspected he wanted to tell Neptune a thing or two. Maybe he just wanted to scare Ian. 
 
I entered the water at 1540 with no chance in this wind to get far. I doubted I would even make it to the headland. I did, it took one hour, quite surprising really. Joe looked good in full control. 
 
I thought things would improve around the headland as the wind was no longer head on. In the event, progress was slower. First a scra on the cliff face took forever to pass, as did the coastguard lookout. The tide should have been ebbing its peak for the next two hours but the wind waws in full control. 
 
We eventually saw Hastings in the distance. I decided to head in a little looking for sweeter vwater. It worked and I began to progress. I enjoyed some of this swimming. I can't wait for helpful conditions and more miles. 
 
We reached Hastings at 1950 and I swam ashore next to a groin and rocks, west of the pier. Nicola had phoned to mention she was waiting at the lifeboat station about one mile back down the beach. A mix up over the communications and Ian thought she asked us to make for a slipway just past a boat shaped hotel. I had swummback to the boat and we motored slowly up and down the seafront looking for the slip. 
 
Communications then failed due to low battery power and it was beginning to get dark. We studied the coast road through the binoculars unti we found the car and I swam ashore in the deepening dusk, to clarify with Nicola for the location of the slip. Apparently, there wasn't one in the whole of Hastings. It was also low water, so a long haul up the beach beckoned. The alternative being a deep anchor off shore for the night, waiting for the tide to come in. 
 
Joe motored the boat back to the lifeboat station and brought it ashore beside a walled area alongside the local fishing boats. Some fishermen assisted us by tractoring our boat over the steep shingle to the high water line. It was now 2115 and completely dark. I had been in my Speedos throughout and was cold. 
 
Communications have been our biggest proble single problem. We certainly need radios. Without them, we will continue to have similar difficulties and maybe worse. Mobile, even powerful ones, simply don't work. 
 
The evening was a big problem, especially after the evenings irritations looking for a landing. We had arrnged to spend the time in Eastbourne. Having made so mshort a distance today, Eastbourne is still forty minutes away by car. We would not get there until very late. Probably 2300 by the time we unloaded the boat of removeable ites, spare engine and equipment. 
 
I was most concerned that I had not swum sufficient ditsnace of miles, due to the slow conditions and wasted time. The only way to recover the situation was to simply swim. I doubted the crew would want to have anothe 0300 start from Eastbourne just so I could be dropped back at hastings for a 0500 tide. 
 
I suggested we camped where we stood, on the beach, between the boats. I needed to swim off early. Ian appeared most surprised, even reluctant. Was I serious? 
 
I came here to swim. I needed miles and if I was happy to spend such early hours in the water, I expected my crew to support me. This evenings debacle turned from disaster to mighty triumph as we stayed put 
 
I am writing this under torch light while laying beside my boat under the staers. Ian in rebellious attitude, didn't even want to try to erect his tent on the shingle and is sleeping in the front section of my wifes tent. Nicola is asleep inside alng with Emily Firman who joined us for the evening. Joe is already asleep on an airbed laying on the shingle next to me. 
 
The wind has died, the stars are shining and the water is making soft midnight music. I am tired and need to be up at daybreak but I don't care. The boat is ready to launch and I could be swimming withiIn minutes of waking up. This will be a great improvement if we can get the boat in quickly. 
 
Joe will crew the boat single handed. Ian doesn't want to be onboard so early in the morning. Emily would like to accompany Joe, I would be happy with that if the sea is calm. 
 
I wish we could camp like this every night. A deserted beach, driftwood fire, the stars. No hassle trailering bthe boat to a 'paid for' camp site. This is the life, much more like it. I don't think Ian agrees, he likes creature comforts more than nature. Roll on deserted night btime beaches. Todat would have been a disaster but for tonight. 
 
Day 6 Swim time: 4 hrs 10 mins: Distance 6 miles 
Total Swim time: 24 hrs 40 mins: Total Distance45 miles 
 
Day 7 Wednesday 16th August 1995 
 
I was tired but could not get comfortable enough to sleep. Joe was next to me and together we were sandwiched between two boats. I had no soft mattress and the pebbles dug deep into my arms, which ached already. By 0300 I ascerted my fatherly privilege and turfed him off the airbed.It was immediatly beneficial, I slept. t around 0430 the tractors fired up and disturbed our peace and they pushed the fishermens trawlers across the pebbles and into the sea. The palce was coming alive. the seabirds were awake and so were we, it was still dark. 
 
I got 'out of bed' at 0520 not in too much hurry. Nicola had a bad night, uncomfortable with ntummy pains. Made worse by Ian blocking the exit to the tent as he slept. 
 
When all was ready, we began to push the rib about and down the shingle beach. I slipped my footing and trod on Ias foot. He fell over and cursed. This swi has been full of incidents that cause minor upsets, but you shouldn't get angry about them. They go with the territory. If Ian hadn't been forced against his will, to sleep on the beach and the time was half decent, I am sure he would have laughed it off. Despite any pain, laughter is a vital ingerdient, we should try it more often. 
 
The boat launced easily and Joe crews alone. There was hardly a puff of wind or ripple on the sea. Perfect. Joe motored us to Hastings pier and the mornings swim began at 0700. It is so much more comfortable and relaxing to swim in calm water. After a while I was warmed up and begaon the most enjoyable swim so far. 
 
Hastings 
 
The waters were clear, clean and pure, the sun was up and the sky a parachutes paradise. I produced a bow wave in the flat calm as I swam. Just Hoe and me. Joe looks good in control and I wonde if he is more relaxed without Ian. Perhaps Emily might join him this afternoon. I don't know if he has been alone with a girl before. I wonder what they might talk about. 
 
The swim continues and I begin to feel the old pace kick in. A stronger stroke, longer pull and final push at the hip before the recovery. The shoulders taking a lot of the efoort off the arms. About time too. The stroke maintains a faster speed with purpose, although I would expect to tuire after a couple of hours. 
 
Joe and I make jokes. He tsnads up in the boat to pee over the side, quite pleased at his prowess. I would have been impressed if he could do it during a storm. 
Pevensey.............Joe looking Good 
 
We left Hastings far behind and after two hours, Bexhill began to slip by. This is more like it. The water is a flat calm, as cool and crisp as a deserted ice rink. . I felt as though I should ask permisson to ripple its surface. The sun not high enough to burn. I feel I am part of the sea, belonging as a fish. Three more weeks and the transition should be complete. 
 
The tide was weak and unhelpful but I didn't care. I think the wind is the real enemy, although the most favoured friend when blowing from behind at f4. A few hours like that and we would really get the miles done. 
 
I spend some time remembering the Loch Lomond adventure. It still surprises me that I cannot remember the emergency flare, my exit and transfer to the suppprt boat. Nor the anbulance ride to hospital. That was in 1992, a 21.5 mile night time race. Hypothermia is a funny thing. I knew it would be cold , but then I am always cold after a few hours, no matter how hard I work. The dangerous thing is, that the mind says you are okay. You quietly die thinking everything is fine. I could have died that morning without even knowing it. Often in high risk situations, the mind is invigorated. SurvIval is the only thing that counts, the only thing your mind considers. You save yourself. It doesnt happen like this once you get beyond cold. 
 
After a spell in intensive care, I wake up a few hours later. Wrapped in woolen covers, naked and degreased. I wonder which nurse had the job of cleaning my body from the vaseline & lanolin mixture I had spread over me prior to getting wet. I suppose there is always a first time for everything. 
 
John Mellor had plucked me from the frigid mountain loch after fifteen hours of effort and I don't remember a thing. I wonder now, how this trip might differ had John been involved. we could certainly use his spirit here. 
 
Three weks later, I swam the English Channel in thirteen hours 42 minutes. John & Karen emigrated to British Columbia that same day. 
 
We came ashore at Normans Bay after four hours seven minutes. A fab mornings swim. We anclored offshore and scrambled onto a deserted pebbled beach. The mobile had a flat battery. We could see signs of habitation in the distance, so Joe went to look for a phone box to advise Nicola of our whereabouts. 
 
Joe returned after half an hour, apparently you cannot make revese charge calls to a mobile phone. We hunted our bags for loose change and Joe takes off again, this time armed with 60p. There were no roads or paths, just thepebbled beach. Joe returned 45 monutes later, in tears. The phone bos ate the 60p without allowing a call. 
 
The phone box stood opposite a cottage decked with flags and bunting in preparation for VCJ Day. Plucking up courage, Joe knocked on the door of the cottage, explained his loss to the elderly occupants and requested the use of their phone. 
 
After some discussion between the owners, they refused. The call would be too expensive.They were, afterall, pensioners. 
 
Joe returned, having walk two miles on pebbles during the heat of the midday sun. His newly established independance being shattered to a chillike reliance on grown ups and failing to get the message through. I walk to the phone box while Joe lays down to rest. I am shocked at the effort it takes to walk over the pebbels. I make a reverse charge call to y shop and leave it to them to get the message through. 
 
Sometimes I wonder just how grateful people are, to have peace in this Country. We will desrve it when we learn how to take care of each other without counting the cost. These pensioners probably had first hand experience of the war with Japan. Perhaps the husband spent time as a PoW. Maybe he lost friends in battles or during captivity. Whatever the experiences and history of this couple, they had spent a few pounds in purchasing decorations to celebrate victory or commemorate the loss of friends. 
 
Perhaps they had simply forgotten their fallen comrades had lost or given their lives, to secure a peaceful future, for people like Joe. The many todays that were lost, so that we could enjoy our tomorrows. And with these tomorrows (as they become our todays), we must assume a grateful responsibility. 
Yet this couple had forgotten the message and by forgetting, they put a barrier i their lives. A stumbling block, preventing their opportunity to do those things that would contribute towards dilutiong that great cost. We must never forget. 
 
1500, a scorching afternoon. Thank goodness the tide is up and I can swim soon. I take Nicola fpor a quick spin in the rib and then swim off towards Eastbourne. There is more wind blowing. I reckon a three hour swim. I am swimming much more strongly than before. The water becomes less clear and has cold patches, the first with significantly lower temperatures. Eastbourne comes slowly into sight and we target a hotel at the western fringe of the sea front. It took three hours and twelve minutes to complete the swim. I am now set nicely for tomorrows twenty mile Channel equivalent as I plan to swim past Beachy Head and reach Brighton. 
 
We motor back along the seafront and enter the harbour, through the sluice gates and into Sovereign Marina and the inner moorings. We park up alongside a pontoon and go to reception. The staff believe in us and refuse payment. We get a free mooring for the night. 
 
We spend the night with Val Firman. The house has a number of children and friends of children, who noisily go about their business. We receive a warm and welcome hot dinner, delicious dessert and comfy bed. 
 
Having had only two hours real sleep last night and a succesful day today, I am very tired. It is now 2230, the alarm set for 0430 in the morning. We have a tight schedule tomorrow to reach as far as possible in the morning toide, allowing a chane for Brighton in the afternoon tide. The cost of failure is miles of barren cliff with nowhere to come ashore. 
 
Day 7 Swim time: 7 hrs 19 mins: Distance 16 miles 
Total Swim time: 31 hrs09 mins: Total Distance61 miles 
 
Day 8 Thursday 17 August 1995 
 
It was 0438 when I first noticed the time. The bed was so comfortable and warm, I half thought of staying put. Instead I got up and awoke I an in the next room. He had slept in Emily's bed. We joke with Joe, that Emily had hoped he would have slept in her bed, so she could cuddle into the imprint of his body in the sheets, once he had gone. 
 
I wanted to hurry to catch the rest of the tide. Although an 0200 start would have been better, Ian isn't at all happy escorting in the dark. So we delay till now. We would lose the first three hours of the six hour tide, with four hours needed to reach Seaford. 
 
I had breakfast downstairs and turned on the lights to the lounge. I found Val asleep on the settee, she had given us all her beds. She woke up and I apologised for waking her, gave her a kiss and quietly said goodbye. Time was running on, then Ian mentioned he wanted sandwiches made. Another five minutes wasted when these could have been done last night. 
 
Nicola had happily got up to drive us to the marina. This swm is asking a lot from everybody involved, just so I can play with my dreams. After such sacrifices, doing little things for each other at home should be a piece of cake. We obtain fuel, the time was 0525. Another minute wasted as Ian fumbled to find the entry pass cards to the secure area. If only Ian could experience the difference in effort and mileage, if he realised just how swimming with a tide feels when compared with swimming against one. Especially during those extended distances during the tired struggle against the tide, to get ashore. When 400 yards takes half an hour instead of five minutes. Certainly a good enough reason for trying to speed up the starts. We refuelled on the pontoon and motored out of the marina. 
 
Just as the rib went on the plane, the navigation light mast snapped, Initial damage had been caused while raising the engine. The engine had clipped the mast and cracked it. Ian had done the same thinh yesterday, our taped repair not sufficient. 
 
It was 0610 before I was swimming, we had lost half the tide. The wind was F2/3 in our favour. Small waves offer their helping push. Even so, I was swimming stiffly. my arms had no strength. We head along the cliff, swimming a few hundred yards out, for thirty minutes before the lighthouse at Beach Head came into view. Twenty minutes later and I was there. Beachy Head lighthouse 0700. I wonder how many people have had the opprtunity to experience this location from where I was floating. What a special way to spend the early hours of a morning. This is what swimming is all about. 
 
 
Beachy Head........ Travel by Swimming 
 
For me , a major landmark, checking off one section of the swim. Although my swimming was not performing too well, I felt good. I would have felt even better though, if I were alone. Or at least, had a friend that understood. To share the moment. I doubted if Ian could understand. I don't think he was feeling right to have the experience. Jow would have and so would Nicola. Either of them would have been perfect companions this morning. Mornings are better than afternoons. John Mellor would have understood. 
 
I shared the moment with Sister Powell and spent the next half hour wondering how I could think of her and not Nicola. This has happened too often and I havent understood or figured out what I should do about it. Or even whether I wanted to do anything about it. I suppose I just love the work that we do and the team spirit we have with our missionaries, and we miss them when they move. There is nothing more, only knowing that we are simply friends, forever. Nothing ever said or done to suggest any romantic notion. Just a sparkle in the eye, thats all. Any other message would be improper. I suppose I miss her because she has gone and only memories survive. 
 
When I am apart from my wife Nicola, there remains more than memories. Forever sealed by promise. Our friendship and marriage reaches beyond farewells . We really are tigether forever, not just friends. Nothing on earth can loose the bond, even death fails to win. Temporary aparts do not wound and when forever begins, we ae bound. 
 
Where there is no sealing power to bind, when loves hurts heal and memories fade, we remain alone and apart. Is this why we miss our dear friends so much? Farewells have no belonging, our forever friendships tied only by silken threads of sweetness. How can Heaven unite. 
 
I have never spent any of the long lonely hours during swimming, in thinking about girls. No enticements or immoral thoughts. I had left those behind many years ago. Suddenly I am thinking of our missionaries, this has never happened during other swims. I wonder why. I think of my wife and family, I love them dearly, they are always on my mind. I don't like to think that I share my affections with others. Yet I love the missionaries and I love my wife. I try to understand how thats allowed. I love Sister Powell too, its different. When we said goodbye, we had our only hug. Shaking hands did not seem appropriate, the hug didn't say enough. A parting kiss is against the rules. The sparkle in the eye and the heart knows, silken threads that tie but cannot bind. 
 
After a short while the swim gets worse. The tides peculiar, the wind direction changed and the swim became slow and laboured. The even Sisters slipped away as we lost the tide. Nicola and Joe are waiting in Seaford, three miles away. Swimming against a turning tide, I swim on ahead towards a rocky headland seperating Cuckmere Haven fron Seaford. Although further away, it would save a good mile overall. I had to consider the afternoon swim, to reduce the distance, so swam on. It would have been easier to turn right and swim straight in Cuckmere Haven, but would have wasted a mile of effort. 
 
Cuckmere Haven....Should I swim straight in? 
 
I began to fight against the tide, already tired. If we had started just fifteen minutes ealier, the battle need not have been fought. I considered again the idea of a race, surely there is noting like it in any sporting calander.  
 
I floated, dragged and scrambled over seaweed forests of soft green, to touch a large rock. Seperated fromthe cliff face a hundred years ago. The rock lay half in a half out of the water. A useful point to touch as it lay within a foot of water. A more difficult scramble would have been needed to reach the cliff face as the water depth decreased to a few inches. Clambering out would certainly have risked a brokeb ankle, whilst trying to balance my body weight, now unsupported by bouyancy. 
 
Four hours and thirty seven minutes. Six hours would have seen mr pass Seaford, well placed for Brighton Marina. Now it seems too far away. We motored back into Cuckmere Haven to wait for the flood to end. A peaceful place that would have been more pleasant to share with special firends. Ian is okay but I don't think he has the feeling for the swim. Perhaps it is just a few weeks from the old routine for him. It is good to share moments and right now, I have no one. Joe and Nicola would have been perfect, but they are not here. 
 
The misty morning sunrise counts, the jelly fish, the sakt water sore, shivvering, the sea. I think Joe understands, perhaps later after a couple more weeks. 
 
Cuckmere is not good for mobiles. We cannot raise anything. I am tired but cannot sleep, the beach is far too hot. It is too uch effort waiting in the unshaded heat, for the tide. At least in the water I am comfotable. I would rather be swimming. We must restart early. 
 
I swim out to the anchored boat, to bring it closer inshore. Ian would not want to wade out so far or float across in his life jacket. To get aboard he needs the boat brought right in to the shallows. We have already damaged the propellor by grounding as we pay his game. It is irritating. 
 
I swim early in the slack tide. The wind has increased to F4 creating two foot waves, rolling staright towards Brighton. Progress is good, passing by sher white cliffs. A flock of gulls rise vertically from the shoreline, each casting a grey shadow against the bleached rock. I stop to watch the magic as a hundred sea birds and their hundred phantoms ascend the updraft. 
 
A fw moments later, two Crunhie biplanes fly in formation along the edge. Ian doesn't concentrate and I swim staright into the back of the sponson. The closest yet to losing my hand in the prop. 
 
I make Seaford in thirty five minutes and begin the long haul across the bay heading across the arms of Newhaven. Ian confirms the arrival of the Dieppe ferry into Newhaven as 1430. I get a wriggle on, to cover the two miles before the ferry gets in, cearing the shipping lane by 1420. The ferry nowhere in sight. It eventually arives at 1440, well behind us. 
 
The Newhaven lifeboat comes close to watch and wave. It creates a deep rumbling noise of hidden tethered power. Difficult to drink from a bottle as the wash creates waves. I try to hitch a lift, in vain. 
 
My arms ache, they have done all day. Each muscle screaming, letting me know they exist individually. They make the swimming hurt. Mike Read (King of the Channel), says there is only one pain but it lasts all the time. He is a liar. There are hundreds of pains and they all hurt simultaneously. The hurt makes the good times more difficult to recognise. Perhaps I should allow more tollerance for Ian. He really does offer good work. Why haven't I written of it? Is this dream Ian's nightmare? It must be hard for him too. 
 
The wind and tide stay favourable for the long stretch to Brighton as I swim a mile offshore. The cliffs a never ening panorama. In places, there are sheer faces of concrete cladding to resist the ravages of wind and weather. 
 
We notice the direction of the tide, It had changed. We have tended to commence a swim at or slightly after a high tide. The tidal streams appear to change earlier, no wonder we run out of favourable tide before expected. This afternoons swim had an early start and the tide favourable most of the way, aart from its usual peculiarities. We must start our swims and hour before high tide, not an hour after. 
 
The swim gets difficult and hurts through the aches and pains. Sister Powell helped as usual. Brighton Marina is a mile distant, the arms reaching well out to sea. Having ruled out landing on a man made structure, I head in for Roedean. The swim ashore took ages, they always do. I scrambled ashore after five hours twenty five minutes. Both swims today were the longest ofv the trip, both in time and distance. A successful day despite the hurt. I can't wait for better times. 
 
Brighton 
 
We motor into Brighton Marina and once again receive a free mooring for the night. We spend the night with Mandy and Trevor and talk too much. It is midnight and I have never, never been more tired. 
 
 
Day 8 Swim time: 10 hrs 02 mins: Distance 18 miles 
Total Swim time: 42 hrs 01 mins: Total Distance 79 miles 
 
Day 9 Friday 18th August 1995 
 
High water at Brighton was 0430. Being more precise with tide movements, the westerly ebb was due to commence at 0300. No Way. I wake up at 0438. Still dead tired. I could sleep for a day but my body aches, especially my arms and I cannot lay comfortably. The weight of my arms hurt the muscles. I caught too much sun yesterday. I need to sleep immediatly I leave the water. Not to spend two or three hours packing up, eating and talking to old friends . 
 
After a morning swim, it is too hot on the beach to sleep, there is no shade. After the evening swim, I am tired, cold and hungry. Aches and pains, my mouth and tongue sore and swollen, too much salt. Fruit juice, tomatoes and many other tastes hurt to eat. Although I am hungry, it takes a while to get an appetite. Ice cream is best by far. 
 
Laying in bed, I just bcannot get up. I miss the tide and rest until 1000. I have no energy. Perhaps I will get invigorated this afternoon, the tide will run from 1530. Not much of the day left for swimming. I look forward to Sunday for a good rest and sleep in my own bed. We shall soon be taking on The Solent, the crossing to Swanage and Portland. Difficult times ahead. I am not strong enough. I glance in the mirror and look shabby. 
 
I cannot regulate my body temperature. Thank goodness the sea is fairly warm. I am too tired to work hard enough to generate sufficient body heat. Despite the warm water, I shiver during a feed break. After a swim, it takes thirty minutes to warm up. I then keep warming up, getting hotter still when I eat. At night I sleep with no clothes or covers and wake up cold. i pull a cover over me, and prepare my mind to get up. 
 
Todays swim starts at 1700. We now have VHF radios and can now communicate properly. I hope to reach Shoreham Harbour, eight miles away by 2100. Joe is on the boat, we refill with petrol and fix the navigation lights. Joe planes to drain water from the boat. 
 
It takes thirty minutes to swim from Roedean to the westerly arm of Brighton Marina, another thirty to reach Palace Pier. Heading 288 degrees, we expect to hit shoreham dead on. Visibility is down to three miles, we stay close in, about 3/4 mile. We report our position to Zulu every hour (Ian chose his callsign). 
 
Joe has fun in the boat, planing, turning tight circles, enjoying life. The water is a flat calm, lovely. A sunset develops, worrth every minute of effort to get there. We are concerned that it will be dark before we get ashore. We still have no visual on Shoreham Harbour. 2000 hours comes and goes, Joe is not happy about being out in the dark with nothing to steer towards, He tells me off for not swimming hard enough. 
 
Shoreham Sunset 
 
With radio comms, Joe tries to stay happy. Swimming conditions are good and peaceful. It gets dark and I lose the tide. The battle ashore is against the tide as well as the harbour emptying against me, it takes ages, it always does. The peace is sacrificed by the effort. I touch the harbour arm. 
 
We motor into the entrance. "South Coast Swimmer, South Coast Swimmer" receives radio directions in the dark from "Moroni, Moroni". Blidly by faith, we follow directions. A mile and a half upstream, we come across Nicola and Ian standing on a pontoon. Another free mooring. 
 
Back with Mandy and Trevor, we have fun watching an old Monty Python. The swim had a bitter and tiring finish, although invigorating, we alwyas lose it during the last hour. I feel better tonight. Its just gone 2300 and I have to be up for 0600. 
 
Day 9 Swim time: 4 hrs 28 mins: Distance 8 miles 
Total Swim time: 46 hrs 29 mins: Total Distance 87 miles 
 
Day 10 Saturday 19th August 1995 
 
Another bad nights swim. Even in a bed.I cannot lay on my side, my arms ache too much. I can't understand why I don't just fall asleep, I am so tired. I may have had some fitful sleep until Trevor came off duty, but he woke me up with his noise and I couldnt get back to sleep, it was 0200. I made a large pillow with the quilt and placed it under my back and arms. Instant comfort, soft. I lay back, naked, with no cover and fell asleep. I awoke at 0600, it was light and I was in the same position. Laying on my back with my ankles crossed. Still tired but needing to swim, I didn't want to get up. 
 
It was 0800 before I got into the water. There was a fair wind blowing staright out to sea, not much help. The tide didn't help either (it never does against the wind). Ian was in the boat and I was bored. It took thirty minutes to loosen up, only to become stiff and cold during a feed. 
 
The sea was choppy and the spray was cold. I shivered. The swim went on. I can't remeber what I thought about, nothing nice. My stroke rate was slow and my arm pull weak. When I tried more effort, my muscles screamed. 
 
My coach, Tom Watch, would have shouted colourful and unusual words at me. I don't like the words even if I deserve them, but it is hard to be offended by Tom. The right person on the boat makes all the difference in performance. I miss Tom and hois crusty old sea dog manner. It has been one year since I swam alongside his boat, 'Wind Song'. I wonder where he got the name from. Tom thinks this swim should be a piece of cake, requiring not much more than floating along with the tide. I can't even find the tide. 
 
The tide tables are too general, showing offshore streams. I need to know what is happening inshore. Inshore tides are different depending on coastal features, headlands and bays. there are eddies, strange currents, tide races, standing waves. All good stuff for training but not good for planning a long distance effort. You can't know what lies around the next headland. Travel by swmmmming is fun. 
 
Even if I had the information to prepare an accurately timed swim, the tmes of day would be unsuitable. Ian would mutiny on the pretence of safety in nthe dark. How would he navigate? I am quite happy to swim in the dark, not all coastlines are difficult. 
 
After swimming for an hour, I suddenly stop short. Two more strokes and I wpould have swum straight into the engine. I tell Ian to keep a better look out for me. He always seems to motoe ahead of me and to my left. My blind spot. This is dangerous. A while later I hurt my right thumb as it strikes the outside edge of the sponson, my head simultaneously hitting the rear point. Luckily, the stroke was with my right arm. The left would have pulled between the sponson and the propellor. Ian had realised the mistake, I think he switched off the motor a moment too late. I ignore it and swim on. 
 
I swim one mile offshore as we pass Lancing. The sea bed is only fifteen feet below. I see fronds of rapacious seaweed reaching towards me like wizard fingers, not quite grasping. They bend with the tide as they point seaward. Eventually they turn towrds me, the tide has changed. I swim straight into it. Another mile before Worthing Pier. I had hoped to get further. Another age to get ashore, a boring and tiring swim that took four hours two minutes for just five and a half miles. Something must be wrong. 
 
We anchor the boat in the shallows two hundred yards wets of Worthing Pier. The sun is hot, but I am cold. I eat some packed sandwiches and head under the pier for shade. Ian brings me a 99, my first ice cream of the swim. Luxury at £1 each.We cannot thnk of having an ice cream after each swim. We get a weeks groceries for less. 
 
Ian suggests we get moving, he seems fed up. I am not ready. The tide still has three hours to get high. I want the timing to be right, I don't fancy swimming against it. I think Ian wants to get home earlier. We get our own beds tonight as we travel home for Sunday. I plan to swim at 1500 aiming for Littlehampton by 2000. 
 
I really don't want to swim this afternoon, thank goodness it will be with Joe. I am not swimming well or happily and wonder how long this afternoons swim will take. I look forward to a day off and my own bed. Maybe I will feel better by Monday. Monday mornings tide is quite early and we face a 100 mile drive before it. I wonder what form the mutiny will take. 
 
I fall asleep in the shade under Worthing Pier and am wakened by Ian at 1510. It is clear Ian is crewing the boat. Nicola and Joe have already left for Littlehampton. I am unaware of the problem. Another hard swim without Joe. 
 
I am frustrated by Ian's apparent eagerness to get moving. All dressed up in orange waterproofs and multi coloured bouyancy aid, peaked cap and goatee beard. Talking into the VHF like action man. He tries to look the part with the colours. Goodness knows, he would need them if he went over the side. 
 
He has packed my sports bag with my clothes and towels but finds a packet of sponge fingers, with just three left. Removing them, he carefully places the clear plastic moulded packaging onto the cast iron beam structure of the pier. I am irritated and watch him quietly out of the corner of my eye. 
 
Ian moves off, intending to leave the rubbish behind. I follow on, approaching the rubish, about to retrieve it as I reach out. At that moment Ian looks behind and towards me, to check that I am following. I quickly change my stance. Leaving the rubbish alone, not wanting to so obviously correct his actions in front of him. I try to keep the peace. The swim will be tough without Joe. 
 
We wade into the sea. I am stripped and ready to swim. Ian in his full gear, as usual. As the water reaches my trunks, I raise my bag higher. Ian does the same. He mentions about the increasing depth, should't I fetch the boat closer inshore? I am frustrated and quip that if I can walk out to the boat , then so can he. Yhe water reaches my chest. Ian follows behind. I throw my bag aboard and vault into the boat, beginning to apply the vaseline in the usual places. Ian arrives, placing his bag aboard and looking bemused. Like an upside down beetle. 
 
I know he cannot climb into the boat in a dignified manner, I don't offer to help him. He tries to vault the sponson but lacks the coordination and practice. Hampered by his bouyancy aid, he makes a couple of mamby pamby attempts and eventually scranmbles in over the back, despite wrongly positioned arms and legs. He thanks me for helping him. I didn't. 
 
I reply that I wanted the entertainment. Ian is certainly out of his depth in anything over three feet. As an experiment, Ian's ability in this trip is quite illuminating. His swimming prowess is absolutely zero and he can't drive. He struts along like Mr Bean, radio in hand. Why is he here? We could use a multi skilled team member. I wish John Mellor had not moved to Bristish Columbia. Strange how some people just have it. A few nights ago when we slept under the stars, Ian was in my wifes tent wearing red pyjamas. Ian is my friend. 
 
I swim off at 1530 towards Littlehampton, leaving Ian to prepare the boat, raise the anchor and catch me up. I search my mind for Sister Powell, it doesn't take long. I wish Joe or Nicola were in the boat. I needed them this time. The water is cold but calm. I notice a slight tidal drift in my favour, thank goodness. I try to relax into the next few hours effort. It takes Ian seven minutes to catch up. 
 
My feeds are erratic, I have resorted to asking for them when it suits me. When Tom prepares a fed, it is always ready on the hour or offered in advance. He would simply place his arm over the side of the boat, holding the cup of Lucozade containing half a banana, afloat inside. I would be aware of the time and would have swum into position awaiting the banquet. Ready to reach out and accept the cup. The feed takes moments. 
 
Now I have to stop swimming, call out to the boat. Ian doesn't come to station with me, I have to swim to him. He switches off the motor for safety, losing vital control authority and the wind blows him off station. I tread water and drink. Ian restarts and oh so slowly comes towards me to recover the bottle or cup. He overshoots as I make a strenuous and cramp inducing stretch to pass the botle back. Another pass and I get a snack. My body heat drops from cool to goosebump cold. 
 
The discipline of feed times have gone, I shiver. What are the alternative methods in making this trip? Perhaps me in the water and Joe on the boat with all the equipment. No land support. We simply travel and camp. No plans to make, we just go as we please and take what comes. Camp fire, fishing, starlit beaches......certainly the right spirit for adventure. 
 
Ian likes the importance of plans. Rendezvous, locations, radio calls, refuelling, maps and charts and being off the water by dark. When these plans don't turn out the way Ian hopes, he curses. Rediculous failure. What went wrong? Where is the land support? Why have they ignored the hourly radio call? Where can we berth the boat? Where are we sleeping? Where is the food? Why is it dark? Any failure in plans is a major disaster to Ian. 
 
For me, the disaster was caused by the emphasis given onmaking the plan in the first place. Don't make plans, then they don't go wrong. The trip would be made by learning along the way. Coming across what we might. The spirit of the swim is lost within the many little plans. Pre arranged ideas of what comes next steals the adventure. 
 
Ian would go crazy if we failed to reach a harbour and had to sleep on the beach or at anchor on the boat, without land support. The situation could easily arise. Certainly a disaster if he had planned to be three miles further up the coast in a safe marina. 
 
An adventure, if we had made no plans and simply chose to stop here. Clear skys, fish biting, deserted beach, camp fire. I like the romance of adventure Tolkien style, I am not getting it. 
 
My swimming is reaching uncharted territory. The first few days were a gentle shake down. I became loose, the muscles ached less and I swam strongly. I am now tired. The accumulated hours and miles do not allow my arms to recover. I expected a week of warm up, a week of strength and two weeks of deterioration, limping home the last few days and crawling up the beach. In this last week, I have adopted a Sir Ranulph Fiennes vwersion of a polar plod. I am too tired to put the effort in, resisting the temptation to let a bow wave flow and putting all my energy into the swim. Eventhough this might invigorate me. First I must be stronger, happier, correct in my mind and at peace with the water, rough or smooth. I must become more disciplined and fitter for the task. I am perfectly happy to swim four hours twice a day, Not quite ready to swim two sixes. 
 
Tom would say that anybody can swim eight hours a day, especially with a break inbetween. Therefore this swim is not much of a test. I need to put in twelve hours every day, or cover twenty miles every day. Maybe other swimmers might be more capable. For me, it is hard enough work, not just the swimming. I am an ordinary club standard swimmer, not elite, nor world class. This swim is different and stretches my ability. Piece of Cake for others? Perhaps. 
 
I often wonder, who is the better swimmer? The one with the ability to swim the Channel in under ten hours, or the one with less ability, but still suceeds to swim across, but in seventeen hours? Anyone with ability should perform to a higher standard. How much greater is the achievement of a lesser person in reaching the same goal? My athletic effort takes longer because I have less ability, strength, commitment or whatever. Yet I still give what I give and finish exhausted. 
 
Each day that I have swum lately, I have started stiff and tired. I wonder how next week will differ as the experiment continues. We have some technical sections to cover soon. I am struggling with the effort because I am not getting the enjoyment. I nearly missedthe scenery between eastbourne and Brighton because of the struggle. I must get the enjoyment and adventure back to balance out the aches, colds and irritations. 
 
Four hours and seventten minutes for eight miles. Not too bad considering. I know I have increased my strength but I wonder what I could give if I wasn't so jaded and running on empty all of the time. If I was having more fun. 
 
We moor the boat in Litlehampton, free. 
 
Day 10 Swim time: 8 hrs 19 mins: Distance 13 miles 
Total Swim time: 54 hrs 48 mins: Total Distance 100 miles 
 
Day 11 Sunday 20th August 1995 
 
I lay in bed at home in Taunton and am late for church. My arms don't ache so uch. We repack the car, leaving behind over half the gear. Ian has three sports bags full. He must repack into one, just like the rest of us. 
 
Day 11 Swim time: 0 hrs 0 mins: Distance 00 miles 
Total Swim time: 54 hrs 48 mins: Total Distance 100 miles 
 
Day 12 Monday 21st August 1995 
 
Stayed in bed until 0900, got ready slowly and collected Ian. We drive back to Littlehampton and visit the harbour master to check the tides. Joe in the boat. I start to swim at 1630. My arms ache immediaty. We start the swim against the tide, to allow as much time to reach Bognor Regis before dark. The first hour and a half gave slow progress. Then came slack water, followed by a marginally helpful tide. The water is warm with some cold patches, the sky clear, no wind. Joe has fun trying to catch birds on the plane. We have fun, messing around, feeds take a long time , we waste some. 
 
My arms ache less after a while but I still swim carefully. Polar plod, taking care of myself. I wonder how the swim might progress if my arms continue to ache more each day. I am tempted to give more effort to relieve the boredom but think better of it. 
 
The sea is still a murky green, grey, brown. Absolutely nothing to ook at. I wonder why after more than fifty swimming hours in this country, there is nothing to see. Fifty hours eleswhere would offer fabulous underwater viewing. The longest wim in the world has to be better than this. 
 
Three and a half hours gets me to Bognor Regis befor dark. My arms don't ache. Swimming through the shallows, I become aware of a foul smell and strange flavour. The water thickens. I stop swimming to have a good look around. Putting my foot down, it sinks a few inches into goo. I land east of the pier after wading through the last ten feet of water through thick rotting seaweed soup. Too thick to swim in. Who would want too try? I leave the water covered in particles stuck all over my body. I stink. 
 
Walking onto the promenade, a family approach for a chat. Stuffing £5 into my hand for Children in Need. A little further along, a group of older ladies give me a clap. i deserve it for swimming through that stuff. Apparently Meridian TV are filming it tomorrow for the news. 
 
Valerie Mapley offers us a shower in her house two hundred yards away, along with garden space for our tents. Joe anchors the boat offshore. 
 
Luxury, a hot shower. Twelve years ago, Valerie had offered the same service to Rob McCloughlin during his solo circumnavigation of mainland Britain by kayak. We have a comfortable camp. Tomorrow we head for Selsey Bill, it should be interesting. 
 
Day 12 Swim time: 3 hrs 30 mins: Distance 5 miles 
Total Swim time: 58 hrs 18 mins: Total Distance 105 miles 
 
Day 13 Tuesday 22nd August 1995 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Solent........Underwater Swimming 
 
The Needles 
 
Hengistbury........Heading In 
 
Old Harry Rocks........The closest we Get 
Swanage......Uncle Bob, Dutch & Prowler 
 
Coming ashore....Durlston Bay 
St Albans Head Tide Race 
 
St Albans Head 
 
Worbarrow Tout 
 
Heaven 
 
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