As planned, we headed to Deltaville on November 14th. Matt and my friends Tom and Frank came along to help crew. We loaded the boat and took the water temperature at the dock – 53! Not a good sign…but, I crossed my fingers and we headed out into the river. We decided to wait until the sun got a little higher in the sky and at jump time the water temp had risen to a balmy 54. I screamed REALLY loudly after I jumped in! I think I scared everyone on the boat – but, screaming helps me deal with the shock of the cold. Frank told me later that it was sort of like a train wreck….he wanted to look but was kind of afraid to! At 1 1/2 hours in – I was done. I felt like I could have gone on a bit longer – but, knew I wasn’t going to make it to 4 hours. So, rather than take the risk – I decided to get out.
Then, the discussion began – where the heck were we going to go to get my qualifying swim done. I did not want to risk waiting until the spring – but, the water temperatures in the Chesapeake Bay, nearby rivers and ocean had dropped from the mid-60s to the lower 50s very quickly and other conditions had not yet allowed me to complete my qualifying swim. We all brainstormed and Chandra came up with Lake Anna. Lake Anna is a fresh water lake a little north of Richmond that houses a nuclear power plant. The power plant takes in water from one part of the lake, uses the water to convert steam back to water in the power plant and then discharges the water back into private cooling lagoons. Eventually, some of the warmer water mixes with the lake water causing the water to be warmer “down lake” as compared to the upper lake. Matt called a fishing guide to find out about the water temperatures and found out that “down lake” the water temps were hovering in the low 60s – PERFECT! The weather was looking good for November 21st -that was going to be the day!
The morning of Sunday, November 21st – Matt, Chandra and I (and the boat) headed to Lake Anna. We found the marina and went into the store to pay to launch and buy a chart. Matt told the nice lady in the store what we were doing and, she, of course, started to tell all of the fishermen. I got the typical crazy looks! But, perhaps the funniest comment of the day came when we were launching the boat. There was a nice family launching their boat next to us and the three young boys were clearly excited to get out on the water to go fishing. One of the boys asked me if we were going fishing and I explained that we weren’t – but, that I was going to be doing a 4 hour swim. His grandfather laughed and gave me the look of “ha ha – you are teasing my grandson.” Then the boy asked me why I was going to swim so long and seemed concerned about the water temperature. I told him that I was training to swim around Manhattan and to swim across the English Channel and he said “oh…are you going to be on T.V.” I told him I didn’t know – but, that I might be one day. His grandfather stopped laughing and, like most people, looked at me like I was totally crazy.
We launched the boat and headed “down lake”. At the first dike, which is where the water temperature was expected to start to warming up a bit, we dropped the thermometer over the side of the boat and it was 58! We were heading in the right direction. The water temperature was expected to be a little bit warmer around dike 2 and 3. And, the fishing guide was right – between dike 2 and 3 we found the sweet spot of 61.
The water temp hovered between 60-61. Thankfully – I swam for the required 4 hours and got it done!