I renewed my membership at the South End Rowing Club this year, and am determined to get my money’s worth. So far this year I’ve done two club swims, a “sunriser” swim, an Alcatraz swim, numerous casual swims in and around Aquatic Park with fellow club members, and crewed on Cathy’s epic 3 Bridges Swim. Last weekend was the infamous “Five Coves of Death” – five laps around the perimeter of Aquatic Park at 5:00pm on May 5th. 5CoD is also the qualifier for Bay to Breakers, the crown jewel of the club’s long swim program.<
What exactly constitutes a lap of Aquatic Park? This is a source of some confusion and controversy. A “tight cove” is shown in an illustration by Joe B. :
Starting from the South End/Dolphin Club beach, one swims:
- To the end of the docks, making a hard left around the Dolphin Club dock.</span>
- Along the buoy line and around the Flag with a right shoulder.
- Through the goal posts and then the solitary post just beyond with a right shoulder.
- Hug Municipal Pier as closely as possible along the full length of the curve.
- Under the end of the pier (a.k.a. “wedding cake” or “roundhouse”) being careful not to impale oneself on broken pilings.
- Around the buoy at the Opening with a right shoulder.
- Under the rounded end of the breakwater (a.k.a. “Jacuzzi”), being careful not to scrape oneself on the barnacle encrusted concrete supports.
- Behind the Thayer (port side, right shoulder facing the boats).
- Around the bow of the Thayer and back to the docks.
- Rinse, repeat, etc.
A “tight cove” (per Roper) or “honest cove” (per Walker) is about 0.85 miles (1.33 km) for one lap, or 4.25 miles for five laps.
But how tight is a “tight cove”? How close must you swim to Muni Pier along its curve? It’s not defined precisely. Some advocate swimming under the pier all the way, which eliminates any ambiguity (“Reptile cove”). Some advocate swimming close enough that the fishing lines and crab pots dangling from above are actually on your right shoulder (“Delneo cove”). Others find this unnecessarily dangerous, and swim further out for a somewhat “looser” cove. No one likes getting hooked by a fisherman.
As an example of the latter, here’s the course taken by the fastest three swimmers - Jim, Darrin, and me.
This cove is not as tight as it looks. I measured it in Google Earth and we averaged 25 yards off the Muni Pier curve. According to reports, some of the men directly behind us were even further off the pier (possibly in an attempt to catch up to us). We’ll call this the “Connolly cove,” in honor of the former swim commissioner Darrin, who led us along this course.
Anyway, it was a nice day for a swim. Water temp 54F, air temp low 60’s, winds calm. We began about 20 minutes before slack water at the Golden Gate preceding a 3.4-knot flood.
I finished the Five Coves in 1 hour, 44 minutes, 26 seconds, placing third behind Jim and Darrin. My splits per lap were: 19:40, 19:35, 21:25, 21:35, and 22:11. Note, that first split includes about 20 seconds of swimming between the beach and the end of the dock that was not included in the other four splits. The Garmin Fenix GPS watch I had under my cap credited me with 4.13 miles of swimming.
I was getting cold on my fifth lap - I could feel my stroke falling apart - but perhaps I wasn’t as bad off as I thought, because I took only a few minutes in the shower and sauna to warm up.
Next up: Bay to Breakers (Bay Bridge to Ocean Beach) on Memorial Day, May 27th. Cathy did a fun write-up on the 2010 B2B. Looking forward to it!