Since the beginning of January I have been planning my swim challenges for the summer. Some are going much better than others. I have sent around 100 emails since January. It did not take me long to realise that people like to say “no” a lot more than people like to say ‘yes”, when it comes to things like this. It’s frustrating, but it is certainly expected. Most people could not be arsed helping me out, and I wouldn’t blame them. There is a lot of work required for planning these swims, especially for the boat pilot. The boat pilot is very important in having a successful swim. So I focused all my attention on finding a good boat pilot for each challenge. Most of there responses were, No Ross… Sorry Ross… We can’t help you Ross… I have heard them all now at this stage. At least they all ended their emails saying “but we wish you the best of luck anyway”. But ‘Luck’ isn’t what I need. I need a boat pilot.
Thankfully one person called James at Cardiff Sea Safaris offered to help me out with the planning of my Bristol Channel swim. James is the owner of Cardiff Sea Safaris and they provide high speed boat trips around Bristol Channel and Cardiff Bay, so who better to get advise off for my Bristol Channel swim.
I met up with James down in Cardiff Bay in a small Starbucks and we went through the navigation charts of the Bristol Channel. I was in for some shock when I got the full details of the severity of this swim. I went in there expecting to be told that we could swim from here to here on the following dates. But James had a look of doubt on his face at every option we looked at. In fairness to him, he knew the Bristol Channel as good as anyone. He turned to me after awhile and just said “You have picked yourself some challenge”. I knew it was going to be challenging, but this brought home how tough this swim was really going to be.
I originally wanted to swim from Weston-Super-Mare to Penarth, but this could be difficult for the boat to get access into the place that we wanted to start from. The boat requires 10.5m of water to get access to our start point, and for this level of water, we would need to swim on a spring tide. I really didn’t want to swim the channel on a spring tide, as the swim is difficult enough as it is. James said was that the shipping boats in the Bristol Channel can travel at around 30 knots (56mph). He said that I wouldn’t be seen in the water, and if we saw a shipping boat coming towards us, then I would be getting pulled out of the water, and that would be the end of the swim.
James has kindly gone away and will be calculating a few route options for the swim. I will hear back from him soon.
On the weekend of 20th and 21st of February, my fiancée (Caitriona) and I went to St. Ives in Cornwall. On the way back home to Cardiff we detoured into Weston-Super-Mare. I wanted to see where James was on about starting the swim and I wanted to see the plaque dedicated to Kathleen Thomas for being the first person to complete the Bristol Channel swim.
After this I went looking for the plaque. I was told by James that it is a stupid place, and is well hidden, but I said how difficult could it actually be. I started off by asking them in the visitor centre, they told me go down the steps. I went down the steps and saw nothing. They had given me the wrong location. I looked and looked but couldn’t find it. I eventually decided to ask a few locals, and they all looked at me sideways (maybe it was the Irish accent that through them). But none of them knew what the hell I was on about. So I wandered back to the car after around 45 minutes as Caitriona went back there earlier as she was freezing. I told her that I couldn’t find the plaque, and I said it would be a shame to have come all the way, and not see it. So we decided to have one more look, and she found it. James was right; it was in the most ridiculous place ever. The funny part is I walked past this a few times and after we found it, I saw one couple that I asked if they knew where it was, standing right next to it, looking out at the sea. That made me smile. So over the next few weeks I am hoping to have a few potential route and date options for the swim.