I’ve got a confession to make. On Wednesday, 6 August 2014, I crewed for Michael Ventre’s Catalina Channel swim. He and his girlfriend were flying in from London for the swim. My friend Lynn had forwarded an email to our Oak Streakers group that Michael needed crew for his swim. I immediately jumped on it and begged my manager to let me take the day off from work to crew for Michael. I didn’t know anything about Michael except that he was a swimmer in need of crew and that was all that I needed to know. I just got hired as a full-time employee at Panda in May and didn’t have any vacation days and was taking a day off the week before to take my sister to Disneyland for finishing her California bar exam. My manager wholeheartedly supported my request and we worked out that I’d work those 8 hours around the other days of my work week. Yipee!
I had never crewed for anyone before.
Michael and his girlfriend Dale were trusting me to be the local expert for his swim. Lynn was actually giving me all sorts of advice on what I needed to know before the swim. I wouldn’t have been able to been nearly as an effective crew member without Lynn’s help as I really had no idea what I was doing. No one ever said I lacked enthusiasm for learning though. At the last minute I was able to recruit Carol Hayden as another crewmate which helped me ease my nerves and help out. I was just excited to be a part of this and even getting to pick up Michael and Dale at the Queen Mary had me bouncing up and down on the inside like one of my nieces.
Catalina Island around 11:30 PM on Wednesday, 6 August 2014 right after Michael started his swim. Green glow on the left is Kevin Colleran on kayak and the green glows on the right is Michael swimming.
I found out during Michael’s swim that Dale had never crewed for him either although you seriously could not tell. She knew his feeding schedule inside and out and took charge the entire time. She stayed awake the entire time and had as much energy at the end of his swim as she did when we first got to the dock. I was just trying to keep up with her and do what I could to prepare his feedings and have everything ready for him every 30 minutes.
Michael was so tired and cold at the end of his swim that he couldn’t swim back to the boat. He got onto Kevin’s kayak to be brought back to the boat. I swam with Dale back to the Bottom Scratcher thinking of everything I had to warm Michael up. I had blankets and a sleeping bag for Dale to use along with my own sleeping bag and South End Rowing Club parka (which had arrived literally when I was leaving my desk at work). I immediately gathered all of them up when we got back to the boat. I’m very glad that I had brought all of that even if it seemed excessive beforehand!
Michael swimming in the Catalina Channel.
Michael is awesome by the way. Not only is he one of the strongest and most determined swimmers I’ve ever met, he’s also one of the kindest as he insisted on Carol and me joining him in the water for an hour after Hour 9 of his swim. He told me afterwards that there was no way that he was going to let either of us get away without getting a taste of the Catalina Channel. For the pace swimming, I had Carol go first since I wanted an idea of what I should do. Carol Sing was one of the observers and gave some feedback to me as Carol Hayden was pace swimming so I was able to use those tips when I was swimming with Michael. 🙂 I really appreciate being able to be a pace swimmer as it was one of the most unbelievable swims of my life with the beautiful aqua color and seeing jellyfish down below. I also got the honor of escorting him into land at the very end! Dodging around the kelp all the way to shore and getting to see Michael crawl up onto shore with Dale was incredible. I stayed in the water while he and Dale got onto shore, kissed, and just stood there hugging for a long time.
Carol Hayden, Carol Sing, Dale Turton, myself, and Michael.
I’m still extremely impressed at his determination for this swim. He’d been so busy with work that his training time was severely limited. He gets sick quite often before and at the start of the swim that I think most people would just say “this is NOT for me” and quit the sport. He would yelp every time he was stung by a jellyfish, spin around, and then just keep swimming without a complaint. His drive conquers all of that though and you can tell that there is nothing that’s going to stop him from getting to the other side of the swim. I would seriously crew for him anytime anywhere because I know that he’s going to make it. I’m very proud that I got to crew for such a fine man and swimmer for my first time crewing.
Michael and Dale on the Bottom Scratcher after Michael successfully swam the Catalina Channel.
Now I want to crew for even more people. Michael’s swim though is always going to be a very special one for me.