The Observer’s Toolkit

This article does not address:

  • observer qualifications
  • observer roles and responsibilities
  • observer temperament
  • the art of the observer log
  • CPR, AED, and First Aid training
  • warning signs and diagnosis of hypothermia and hyperthermia
  • the rules of marathon swimming
  • how to record a GPS track
  • how to take photos and video, and how to edit video

All of the above bullet points, IMO, are important to properly observing and documenting a marathon swim. Which may surprise some people who think all there is to observing is filling out a log!

This article will address none of that. The present focus is quite narrow: What stuff to bring along, when you are tasked with observing and documenting a marathon swim. 

With that in mind, here’s a selection of my “toolkit” for a Farallon attempt I observed last year:

My actual "toolkit" for a Farallon swim I observed last year.
The toolkit.

Not included in the photo: stuff that couldn’t be neatly posed – like my swim parka, camping chair, big Speedo bag, clothes, and case of sparkling water.

Ever tried Trader Joe’s mango trek mix?

Anyway, here’s my list. I’ll probably add to it later, so feel free to bookmark for later reference.


The observer is the official timekeeper. So, you need some method of keeping time.

Pro Tips

  • I keep the “master” time on a coach-style handheld digital stopwatch. I keep multiple “backups” of the master time on other devices – and other people’s devices.
  • Before the swim starts, I synchronize my analog wristwatch with the network synchronized time on my phone.
  • When the swim starts, I note the time of day (hours, minutes, seconds) on my wristwatch, and record it in the observer log. (Backup #1).
  • When I start my GPS watch to record the track — that’s Backup #2.
  • You don’t want to lose track of the elapsed time! Back it up — and then back it up again! Ask a crew member to back it up a third time.
  • I use the stopwatch’s neck strap to tie it off somewhere up and out-of-the-way, where it won’t be accidentally bumped and stop the time.

Useful Features

  • Waterproof (or at least water-resistant).
  • Large digital numbers.
  • Make sure the readout supports multi-hour events — and double-digit hours!

Recommended product

Accusplit Pro Survivor


Waterproof Notebook & Pen

As I mentioned in The Art of the Observer Log, I use a simple waterproof notebook to record my observations, in lieu of a traditional observer log.

This allows me to efficiently document the swim without regard for neatness. Later, back on land, I transcribe my shorthand notes onto a finalized, neatly handwritten, non-water-stained observer log.


Rite in the Rain 4 5/8″ x 7″ Spiral Notebook



Rite in the Rain Tactical Black Clicker Pen

Extra Glowsticks

For night swims, the swimmer should always bring multiple glowsticks. More often than you’d think, they forget. It’s a good idea to bring a backup supply, just in case.

Glowsticks aren’t just for swimmers! Tie them along the side of the boat, facing the swimmer (front, middle, rear). Tie them along the side of the kayak (front, middle, rear). Tie one around your neck, and encourage support crew to do the same.

Obviously the swimmer should always wear a source of illumination at night, for safety as well as proper observation. As a swimmer, I actually prefer a small LED light clipped on my goggle strap, rather than a glowstick. For illuminating boats and kayaks (and giving away to others), glowsticks are preferable.

Recommended product

Cyalume SnapLight 6″ Industrial Grade Light Sticks


Portable Device Charger

My phone (a Nexus 6p, at the moment) gets a lot of use on swim observation gigs. A decent smartphone with well-selected apps serves quite well as a (video)-camera and GPS tracker + navigator – obviating the need for separate devices.

But smartphones aren’t usually known for their battery life, and after a few hours of heavy use you may find your phone/camera/tracker/social media hub is out of juice. Not so good if you’re depending on the phone to help document the swim!

Some boats, especially larger ones, have standard wall outlets. In my experience, even when a boat has outlets, there usually aren’t enough to go around (consider the boat crew, personal crew, observer(s), each with their own devices).

Better to bring your own power, in the form of handy portable charging stations. Pay attention to the output specs, especially if you plan to charge iPads & other power-hungry devices.

Recommended product

RAVPower 4.5A dual-output portable charger


Waterproof Smartphone / Tablet Case

Did I ever mention the time I dunked my brand-new Samsung in Lake Tahoe? Easier to do than you might think. If you’re out on the water, don’t expect yourself or your prized electronic possessions to stay dry.

Don’t learn this lesson the hard way! Get a waterproof case for any phones and tablets you bring on the boat.

recommended product


Sometimes boats have built-in thermometers; sometimes they don’t. Either way, you should bring your own, so you’re not constantly harassing the captain for the latest sea temp reading. Calibrate your observer thermometer against the boat’s, then leave the captain alone.

Avoid the “floating duck”-style pool thermometers, and find one marketed for fly-fishing (where durability and accuracy matters). Tie it to a long, thin rope so you can easily submerge it a couple feet underwater.

Recommended PRoduct

Orvis Rugged Stream Thermometer


Smartphone Apps for GPS Tracking

A smartphone can function as a GPS tracker! Even if you’re out of range from your cellular network, it can record a GPS track. Even in airplane mode.

Important caveat: Out of cell network range, a smartphone can function as a passive recorder of a GPS track, but it cannot transmit this information back to land. So, it doesn’t replace a SPOT Tracker (or other satellite messenger device) unless you have network reception.

For passive GPS tracking and navigation, I really like:

Digital Camera

Yes, a good smartphone can serve the same function. But if you have any skill or ambition for video-editing, you may wish to invest in a dedicated camera. Even a few minutes of well-edited video can bring a marathon swim to life – not only for friends & family who weren’t on the boat, but for the swimmer herself!

An interesting emerging technology in this space is the 360-degree “spherical” cameras. You may have seen some of these videos on YouTube – they’re kind of mind-blowing. You can use your mouse/finger to “move” the focus to a different perspective. Here’s an appropriately themed example:

Soon enough, we’ll probably be seeing 360-degree “immersive” videos of marathon swims. You can watch the swimmer… and the crew… and the curious sea lion off the stern… all at the same time!

Recommended Product

Ricoh Theta S 360-degree digital camera


GPS Watch

Yes, a good smartphone app can serve the same function – but I like the convenience of glancing at my wrist rather than constantly switching on my phone display. Plus, the battery life and GPS transponder quality are better on specialized navigation products, compared to a phone.

Useful features

  • Navigation (usually found in watches designed for backcountry hiking or boating — such as the Garmin Fenix family — but not in watches designed for running and cycling — such as the Garmin Forerunner family.
  • Waterproof (again, a feature of the Fenix family of watches, but not lower-end Forerunner watches).

Recommended product

Garmin Fenix 3


Marine Radio

Not strictly necessary for an observer, but potentially useful to keep your ears tuned to the captain’s communications with nearby vessels and/or the Coast Guard.

Very useful, actually, for kayakers – to communicate with the observer and support crew without shouting.

Useful Features

  • Waterproof
  • Floating

Recommended Product

Icom M36 Floating 6W Marine Radio


Camping Chair

If a swim lasts more than a few hours, you probably won’t want to be standing up the entire time. But the comfortable seating on boats is often inside the galley. To sit comfortably and maintain close visual contact with the swimmer, bring a camping chair.

Useful Features

  • Folding or collapsible.
  • Relatively low to the ground (less likely to tip over!).
  • Zippered pocket (perhaps for storing your observer notebook & other accessories).

Recommended Product

Alps Mountaineering Rendezvous Chair



Try to anticipate the full range of marine weather conditions you might encounter, and bring sufficient layers to stay comfortable within that range.

Some potentially useful items (with a bias to coastal California weather, which is my experience):

  • Wool socks
  • Lightweight long-sleeve shirt
  • Swim parka
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip-flops
  • Wide-brim hat (with strap to prevent flying off in the wind)
  • Non-oily sunblock (I like Coppertone Sport).

Food & Hydration

Sometimes swimmers bring provisions for those who will be supporting their swim. Sometimes, unfortunately, they don’t. Either way, you’ll probably want to bring some of your own stuff.

Trader Joe’s, for some reason, seems to have an abundance of stuff that tastes great on boats. I recommend their:

  • ginger chews
  • sparkling water & sparkling fruit juice
  • wasabi peas
  • chocolate covered almonds & espresso beans
  • trail mix w/ dried mangoes
  • peanut butter granola bars

Sorry, you’re telling me Trader Joe’s isn’t in Dover yet?

Health & Well-Being

I don’t particularly enjoy the feeling of a scopolamine patch, but it’s far better than seasickness. And quite effective in my experience. Be sure to apply it several hours before you leave the harbor. Prescription required in the U.S.; not sure about abroad.

Supplement with ginger (capsules, chews, etc.).

Toothbrush & toothpaste. For the sake of your fellow passengers. Also I think it mitigates some of the nasty scop-patch dry mouth.

And it bears repeating — don’t forget sunblock!

The Art of the Observer Log

A marathon swim observer documents a swim and verifies it was conducted according to the pre-stated rules and standards of conduct. Observers serve a vital role in a sport performed with few first-hand witnesses, often many miles out to sea.

One of the observer’s primary responsibilities is producing documentation. And the primary “document” of this documentation is the Observer Log.

An Observer Log contains timestamped observations, recorded at regular intervals throughout the swim, of several objective and subjective data, including but not limited to:

  • geographic position (latitude and longitude)
  • water temperature
  • air temperature
  • wind speed (or force) and direction
  • wave height and quality (smooth swells or confused chop)
  • swimmer stroke rate (strokes per minute)
  • swimmer feeds (product, quantity, etc.)
  • other notable events: verbal communications from swimmer, paddler or support swimmer changes, wildlife encounters, etc.

Observer Log formats vary by organization, but often include a crosshatched, graph-paper-like region to facilitate the collection of regular timestamped data. As an example, here’s a page from the MSF Standard Observer Report of Chloe McCardel’s world-record 124.4km Bahamas swim, expertly observed by David Barra and Brianne Yeates:

observer log

A tabular, “graph-paper” style log such as MSF’s is convenient and encourages consistent data collection. Other observer logs in this style include:

Loneswimmer’s Generic Observer Log


Another format, non-tabular but nonetheless encouraging regular data collection, is seen in the NYC Swim Observer Documented Qualifying Swim log, and the WOWSA observer report.

A more free-flowing, prose-style observer log is also perfectly valid, as long as it still provides regular timestamped observations of the relevant data. Prose-style observer logs can be more engaging to read, and can convey a deeper subjective sense of how a swim unfolded.

Examples of prose-style logs:

Finally, the CSA and CS&PF take a hybrid approach for English Channel swims, combining a tabular log with a narrative report. Here is an example CS&PF English Channel report.

In my research I found some other, more primitive log styles. Two examples include the “swim verification form” for Hawaii Channel swims, and the BLDSA “swim recognition application.” I don’t consider these sufficient for properly documenting a marathon swim.

In documenting an event that — it bears repeating — few witness in person, my general recommendation is: the more data, the better. In designing the MSF Standard Observer Report, I tried to maximize the efficiency of recording timestamped data (temperatures, wind speeds, stroke rates, etc.), while moving non-time-relevant details (swimmer biographical info, names of support crew, etc.) to a separate page.

A tabular log may produce more consistent results, especially when the experience and personalities of observers vary. I suppose it will surprise no one that I think MSF’s log is best-in-class for the tabular style.

Though it may surprise some that I personally do not use a tabular log when I observe. I prefer to record various data and rough short-hand notes in a simple waterproof notebook. After I’m back on land, I transcribe, expand, and format these rough notes into the finished product, examples of which can be viewed here, here, and here.

I also believe strongly that other forms of documentation enhance the tabular data and provide valuable depth to a swim account. These other forms include:

  • Narrative reports (by the observer, swimmer, or members of the crew).
  • Photos and video
  • GPS tracking data
  • Weather and tide data

Among the MSF Documented Swims are numerous examples of deeply, diversely-documented swims, and I encourage anyone planning an independent marathon swim to mine these for inspiration.

Among the major local swim governing bodies, I think the CS&PF are the most sophisticated about documenting swims. Their hybrid tabular+narrative logs, combined with GPS tracking and Sandettie buoy data, provide a wealth of information about the dozens of swims they sanction each year. When we added GPS tracking and NOAA data to the SBCSA website, it was a direct emulation of the CS&PF.


Pt Bonita to Aquatic Park on the Dreaded 9th of February

The 9th of February is, by South End legend more than meteorological reality, the coldest day of the year in San Francisco Bay. So of course some loon decided it would be a good idea to hold a long swim every year on the 9th of February. The Dreaded Ninth.

By tradition, the Dreaded Ninth swim is directed by Loon-in-Chief, Bob Roper.

The route varies each year, but is typically chosen from among the other annual “Nutcracker” swims. This year it was Pt Bonita to Aquatic Park – a gorgeous 6-mile (current assisted) swim from the furthest southwestern tip of the Marin Headlands, passing under the Golden Gate Bridge, and finishing at our club beach in Aquatic Park.

pt bonita route
Pt Bonita, Marin Headlands to Aquatic Park, San Francisco

February 9, 2016 was pretty much the opposite of Dreaded: a classic “summer in winter” San Francisco day – bright and mild, water temp 55F (12.8C). A touch warmer, even, than my last Pt Bonita swim, in June 2012. The field of 20 included more than a few accomplished marathoners: Darrin, Steve Walker, Cameron B, Cathy, Lisa S, Bucko, Amy G, Robin R, Randy B.

I rode out to Pt Bonita in the sailing vessel Dewey, enjoying the conversation with Cathy, Dusty, Bobby, Steve, and Kim.

riding to pt bonita
Riding out to Pt Bonita: Cathy, me, Bobby, Steve. Photo credit: Dusty

We start from a rocky beach just inside Pt Bonita and protected from the sizeable swells breaking on the point. The slower swimmers jump first, followed 10 minutes later by the usual suspects. We had been instructed to head straight out into the shipping channel, sighting on Fort Point; later aiming for the gap between midspan and the South Tower.

There’s a bit of wind blowing, maybe 12-15 knots, making for some choppy conditions in the first hour. Jeff Brown joins me on his kayak shortly after the start, and is a steady paddling presence off my starboard. I lead from the start and don’t really see any other swimmers until I start passing Pod 1.

pt bonita chop
Choppy conditions outside the Gate. Photo credit: El Sharko

The wind dies suddenly on the final approach to the Bridge, which seems to amplify the eddies swirling off the South Tower. I flip on my back and watch US-101 pass by 220 feet above. Only a 2.6-knot flood according to the tide books, the speed of the water still astonishes.

A few minutes later I pass the Pod 1 leaders (Cathy and Amy) and their kayak. Jeff falls back and is replaced by Brent and the Hyperfish, who I know from Joe Locke’s Farallon swim two years ago. The calmer conditions allow me to breathe bilaterally without inhaling seawater. Before the jump I had left my Perpetuem bottle with one of the zodiac pilots. At this point it’s too much trouble to call it in over the radio. This swim is borderline for going without feeding, but I figure I’ll be OK if I can finish under 2 hours.

… and then I look up and I’m right off the Fort Mason piers. Possibly even a little too far off. I angle to the right, across the current. I really don’t want to miss the Opening! But I notice Brent doesn’t seem too concerned, and he has a better view.

Then I’m in the Opening, past the Jacuzzi, the Balclutha, and between the docks. There’s Jefferson with his stopwatch and clipboard.

1 hour, 49 minutes. Not so dreadful, really.

Visualizing the tides of San Francisco Bay

Just for fun, here is every high and low tide for San Francisco Bay in 2016. Red dots are the high tides; blue dots are the low tides. (click to enlarge)

sf high and low tides
data source

I found it interesting that the highest low tide of the year is lower than the lowest high tide of the year. There’s a certain narrow range of water levels — about 3.1-3.4 feet — which sees neither high tides nor low tides. Perhaps there’s some obvious reason for this, known to oceanographers, but it was news to me! I’m also curious if the non-overlap of high and low tides is true everywhere?

Any tide gurus out there?

Swim Report: Candlestick Point to Aquatic Park

The following events took place in May 2015; clearly I’m faster at swimming than writing.

Candlestick to Aquatic Park is the longest swim offered on the South End Rowing Club‘s calendar, coming in just a hair under 10 miles by the shortest swimmable route. Due to the current assist, it swims more like a 10K for faster swimmers, or ~8K for slower swimmers.

(Assistive currents benefit slower swimmers more than faster swimmers — consider the relatively narrow range of finish times for, e.g., the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim, compared to, e.g., an English Channel swim).

I’ve written about this swim before, from the perspective of a support kayaker.

After a several months-long period of swim-shiftlessness, I scrawled my name on the sign-up sheet, inspiring a two-week burst of training. Proving once again that nothing happens without goals!

Anyway, the Candlestick Swim.

5-minute intervals
5 minutes per trackpoint

Starting from a sandy beach in front of the old stadium site (as I recall, this swim took place in the midst of the demolition), you enter the water gingerly, hoping not to disturb the biohazardous sludge on the bottom. Swim about a mile east through slack water until you find the current. On left breaths there’s a large crane on Hunters Point that seems never to move, but be patient — it will soon enough.

Once past the long piers off the end of Hunters Point, angle north. You can’t see the Bay Bridge quite yet, but when you do, aim for the midpoint between the alpha and beta towers. You’re an hour, hour-and-a-half past slack now, the ebb is growing, growing. As the shoreline bows in toward the Dogpatch, you may think you’re moving further into the middle of the Bay, but you’re not really. Just keep calm and head toward that midpoint.

Some big ships may pass by on your right.

The current meanwhile is carrying you with magnificent swiftness. Why even bother swimming? To keep warm, mostly. (The water was 56F on May 23, 2015).

When you finally reach the Bay Bridge, do a little backstroke. Because the whole point of backstroke is to look at bridges. Relax a little bit — you’re almost home. Just another 3 miles or so, 45 minutes or so.

under bay bridge
With Cathy, under the Bay Bridge. Photo by Fran H.

Now you’re in familiar territory. Watch as the Ferry Building, Pier 7, Pier 39 roll by on the left. And straight ahead, the glorious J.O.B.

The ebb is abating, as it inevitably does, and you may actually have to swim the last bit — along the breakwater, into the Opening, and through the Cove.

To the sauna, then! You’ve earned it.

9.9 miles in 2 hours, 42 minutes.

2nd Annual MSF Photo Calendar

Once again MSF are pleased to offer a Marathon Swimming Photo Calendar. Last year’s inaugural edition was a global hit, hung on walls in every continent except Antarctica (yes, there’s a post office in Antarctica). Donal and I are grateful to everyone who submitted images this year, and will be sending a complimentary calendar to the selected photographers.

Buy your 2016 MSF Photo Calendar here (while supplies last).

If you are a marathon swimmer, or have a marathon swimmer in your life, or have someone in your life who appreciates marathon swimmers, or have someone in your life who should appreciate marathon swimmers, these images will provide inspiration through the coming year.

They also make a great training log:

training log

A preview:

$20 USD per calendar, inclusive of shipping, handling, and sales tax. Discounts available for multi-calendar purchases.

Oh, and we’re pleased to offer properly-localized week formats this year — Sunday through Saturday for calendars shipped to North America, and Monday through Sunday for everywhere else.

Once again:

Round Trip Angel Island: Observer Log

Report by Cathy Delneo on my Round-Trip Angel Island swim this past Sunday. Cathy is a Manhattan Island soloist, an IISA Ice Miler, a member of the first women’s Farallon Island relay, and the 5th person (and first woman) to complete a solo Round-Trip Angel Island.

Round Trip Angel Island Swim

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Swimmer: Evan Morrison

Pilot: Paul Saab

Observer: Cathy Delneo

Boat: South End Rowing Club inflatable Miller Time (a.k.a. “Big Red”)

Course: South End Rowing Club beach, San Francisco past the west end of Alcatraz Island, toward the west end of Angel Island, into Raccoon Straits on the north side of Angel Island, then back to San Francisco on the east sides of Angel Island and Alcatraz Island, finishing on the SERC beach.

Rules: MSF Standard

Jump: 4:49 am


We were aware that 3 vessels were scheduled to come through the Golden Gate, with the first scheduled to be in the incoming channel (between Alcatraz and SF city front) around 5:30 am. This led to a slightly earlier jump than planned.

4:49 am – Swimmer walked into smooth and calm water at the SERC beach

5:08 am – 64 strokes per minute

5:20 am – 1st feed, about ½ green bottle

Swimmer breathes right, so pilot positioned boat on the swimmer’s right. Stayed parallel to the swimmer as he crossed from the opening of Aquatic Park in SF to the west side of Alcatraz. Swimmer made good progress, very little communication was needed.

Sighted on red and green buoys marking the opening of Raccoon Straight, left of Angel Island.

Inbound vessel passed behind us in incoming channel.

5:35 am – 64 strokes per minute

Wind from the west, slight texture on the water. Big dark cloud over Sausalito.

Outbound vessels (Northern Practise and another) headed for deep water channel (between Alcatraz and Angel Island). Vessel Traffic (VT) said they were likely to turn near our anticipated location south-west of Angel Island as they headed for the GG Bridge. Adjustment to course might be necessary.

5:40 am – Swimmer’s goggle straps came loose, he stopped briefly to adjust them

5:45 am – 2nd feed, remaining ½ of green bottle

VT indicated that Northern Practise outbound at the Delta-Echo span of the Bay Bridge. Paul called VT on radio to find out their course. Learned we would likely be in the vessel’s path. Tried to reach Northern Practise repeatedly with no luck.

Told swimmer to head in toward Angel Island rather than to keep westerly course as planned. Intended to get swimmer out of shipping channel despite likely addition to time in water. Told swimmer to pick up the pace, needed to clear deep water channel.

5:57 am – 66 strokes per minute

6:06 am – Northern Practise visible and pointed at our zodiac, though about 10 minutes east of our location. Paul tried again to raise captain on the radio, with success. Told captain of our location, that we would pull swimmer if necessary. Northern Practise turned its course slightly, passed behind us at a safe distance.

6:07 am – Paul spotted a jumping dolphin/porpoise.

6:14 am – Slight chop

6:15 am – 3rd Feed: blue bottle, drank about ½

Pilot instructed swimmer to sight on the white building to the left of Harding Rock

6:20 am – 62 strokes/minute

6:28 am – Positioned boat to left of swimmer. Communicated need for change due to high number of fishing boats in the Raccoon Straits.

6:32 am – Pilot put boat in neutral to check current speed. GPS app on iPad indicated the boat was moving 2.4 mph in neutral in Raccoon Straits.

6:45 am – 4th Feed: ½ pink bottle

6:47 am – A honey bee landed on swimmer’s parka. Pilot freaked out. I refused to hurt the honey bee. Blew gently on its wings, it flew away. Moving 1.4 mph in neutral at that point.

6:54 am – sea lion friend poked up head in front of swimmer, then in back of swimmer

6:58 am – 62 strokes per minute

Water conditions calm with tiny ripples

Boat still making forward progress in neutral, but slower now, just about .3 mph

7:03 am – Talked with VT and checked in a little before Pt. Simpton

7:06 am – VT said inbound tug Pacific was going in the deep water channel.

7:07 am – boat moving .00-.03 mph in neutral

7:15 am – 5th Feed: protein drink (entire bottle) and 2 Advil

Swimmer asked for dark pair of goggles, made switch.

Found thermometer in dry bag: 63 degrees F on east side of Angel Island

Water texture: smooth in the lee of Angel Island with tiny ripples

7:42 am – 6th Feed: pink bottle, about ½ of it (it had been refilled) just before Pt. Blunt

Vessel (Yasa Golden Phosphorus) passed Pt. Blunt in the deep water channel as swimmer fed

7:51 am – encountered chop as soon as we left the lee of the island.

Sighting on the west side of Alcatraz to get to the east side

7:55 am – chop lessened after a few minutes, seemed like it had been caused by currents meeting on two sides of Angel Island.

7:55 & 7:58 am – Dolphin/porpoise spotted

8:05 am – Realized we were being pushed east far harder than we had realized. Sighted on Palace of Fine Arts to get back on course

8:10 am – seal floated by, seemed to be playing with a fish as he ate it

8:15 am – 7th Feed: 1/3 green bottle

8:18 am – 60 strokes per minute

Wind was strong and was pushing the zodiac toward the swimmer, so the boat fell back slightly from the swimmer, still able to be seen easily when he breathed.

8:34 am – Tiny white caps, west wind. Pilot and observer added coats and blankets to keep warm.

8:39 am – 8th Feed: 1/3 green bottle

Small chop

8:47 am – 60 strokes per minute

9:00 am – 9th Feed: ½ bottle

Water temperature: 61 degrees F

9:07 am – 58 strokes per minute

9:10 am – Sea lion spotted behind swimmer

Due to the strong Flood current, the swimmer was carried further east each time he stopped (to feed or discuss course) after leaving the shadow of Angel Island. Pilot noted that to keep a straight line course as originally planned, the swimmer and pilot would likely have needed to sight on the north tower of the GG Bridge or even Sausalito. (The pilot noted that previous day’s flood had also been very strong, he had piloted a SERC club Alcatraz swim that day.) Planned to encourage the swimmer to swim straight at the island when parallel with the sign to take advantage of the decreased current in that spot, which is protected from the current in a floor tide.

9:16 am – Evan stopped to ask a question about the course and sighting points and quickly lost ground. Humor still high, jokingly asked, “Are we there yet?” as he began swimming again.

9:19 am

Ferry approaching island, swimmer pointed straight at Alcatraz.

9:22 am – .4 miles from Alcatraz island (per google maps)

The swimmer was making steady but slow progress toward Alcatraz during this time.

Only when the swimmer got into the lee of Alcatraz Island (almost parallel with the Ferry dock) did he begin to make good progress toward the island.

9:30 – 10th Feed: 1/3 bottle

Abeam sign, sighting on Palace of Fine Arts.

Water temperature 62 degrees F.

9:43 am – 56 strokes per minute

Paul called the Spicer, another SERC club zodiac, on the radio to find out about the current along the shore. Barry Maguire, piloting Bobby O’Malley Daley and Jeff Everett in a 6 hour qualifying swim, indicated that he couldn’t talk because he was busy, “I have to feed the animals.”

9:47 am – Barry called Paul on the radio from the Bravo tower of the Bay Bridge, reported strong flooding there. No end to the flood in sight.

10:01 am – 11th Feed and the well has nearly run dry. Combining dregs of bottles to make up next feed, and supplementing swimmer’s feed with observer’s favorite flavor of Gatorade, Lemon Ice. Great sacrifices were made.

Pilot and observer noticed a giant shadow on the water and became concerned. Soon realized it was a Geico banner being dragged by a tiny plane, which had been inaudible initially. Danger averted.

10:05 am – Swimmer now heading straight for shore with intention to crab along the waterfront, where the current should be less strong. Abeam Pier 39.

10:06 am – Barry called from Spicer to say that there was an ebb on shore close to the Ferry Building, west of our location. Encouraged swimmer to head in directly.

10:07 am – 58 strokes per minute

10:22 am – Swimmer close to the USS Pampanito submarine, which is parked between Pier 39 and the USS Jeremiah O’Brien (J.O.B.)

10:25 am – Final Feed at the bow of the J.O.B.

Wind strong in our faces

10:28 am – Swimmer at the stern of the J.O.B. heading across to the creakers (east end of Aquatic Park Breakwater)

10:30 am – Swimmer at the creakers

Water temp 62 degrees F.

Swimmer at Opening: total time elapsed in swim 5 hours 51 minutes

56 strokes per minute abeam the Balclutha

Swimmer on the beach – 5: 57’44”70 stood on beach, cleared water

Swim complete.