40 Pools

Celebrating a Big Birthday with 40 Swims

Not a Pool: East River

on July 17, 2012

On Sunday morning I had the pleasure of swimming in the East River for the third time in my life. The first two were alongside Manhattan going with the current, which rips through at speeds up to 6 knots, making me far faster than Michael Phelps. This time, the goal was to hit the changing tide, misleadingly called “slack,” in order to have minimal interference in crossing 1 kilometer from Brooklyn to Manhattan in NYC Swim’s Brooklyn Bridge Swim.

I usually don’t go for such short open water distances, but this was the best of all worlds–a beautiful bridge acting like a giant pool wall to navigate by, and then at the end the chance to swim under the bridge. There was no staring at the structure for miles and miles and feeling like it wasn’t getting any closer and no question of where to go. On top of all this, it brought back funny Seinfeld memories of Kramer’s penchant for swimming in the East River.

I’d volunteered as a kayaker for this same race last year and felt like I had a real advantage as a result of seeing the action on the water so closely. Specifically, I knew not to let the dwindling ebb push me too far toward the Manhattan Bridge, and I knew where to cut in for the finish. Unfortunately I did not see a crab in the beautiful masonry stanchion tower as I passed by this time, but I was glad for the memory from last year. Other people reported seeing fish in the water, but I missed them. Mostly I noticed the saltiness and the temperature, which was borderline not cold enough on this muggy summer day.

This poor swim has had two near-misses in a row. Last year it almost didn’t happen due to the fire at the North River Treatment Plant, and this past Saturday there was a three-alarm fire at South Street Seaport that called everything into question, but both times the event went on unimpeded unlike several years ago, when it was flat-out canceled by the threat of Tropical Storm Hanna, who failed to materialize in NYC. I’m glad that this Hannah was able to hit the swim this year and highly recommend it for the future.

Boaters and paddlers created a safety zone to shut down all traffic on the East River during our crossing, as seen here from the post-finish area. Nice place for a swim, right?

Photos courtesy Capri (top) and John.

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