On Saturday, 4 January 2014 I completed my first Robben Island crossing, swimming from Robben Island to Big Bay, Blouberg for a total distance of 8km in a time of 3h19min. The water temperature was a consistent 14 degree Celsius and I complied with the open water swimming rules of cap, goggles and swimming costume (bikini) only.
We launched from Big Bay, Blouberg in thick fog which prevailed throughout the swim resulting in me thinking at times that I was swimming in circles. I started the swim from some rocks to the left of the old jetty at Robben Island and made my way slowly back through the rocks and kelp around the Island. I then picked up my pace on the open sea to a solid stroke. The sense of freedom was unsurpassed by being able to swim at my own pace, without fierce triathlete competitors swimming into and over me, and without any winds, huge swells or choppy conditions. At the start, the ocean was as smooth and flat as glass.
I just kept my head down and continued swimming sticking close to the rubber duck secure in the belief that the shark shield was in place. I only found out after the swim that they had forgotten to put the shark shield into the water. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to those dark shapes below me. I was fortunate to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of two friendly seals and two dolphins that persisted in swimming underneath me for about ten minutes of my swim. When they first passed beneath me I almost jumped out of the ocean out of fright having no idea whether they were friend or foe. They were so close that I could touch them. I decided that they were wishing me well on my journey to complete my swim.
I was given “feeds” of flat Coca Cola by my seconds every 45 minutes and then every 30 minutes. I kept on swimming and thinking about getting just to the next feed. I was well onto my way until the last 2.2km. I then started feeling very tired, exhausted, and had to push hard by kicking. One of my seconds got out and swam the last 1.5km to bring me in. At this point my eyes had paid the price for leaky goggles and were almost swollen shut. I could barely see anything but kept her in my vision and followed her into Big Bay. I was so relieved when I felt my feet on the sand and I knew that I had finished. Family and friends were there to welcome me and cheered my arrival. I could not have done this without my extremely experienced skipper (Derek Frazer) who navigated us safely through the fog and my two experienced seconds (Phillip Dempster and Zani Muller) who swam with me, fed me and encouraged me for over three hours. It was definitely a team effort.
I have been training for the Robben Island Crossing for almost a year by swimming with a swim quad and then gearing up my training in the last few months to be prepared for the longer distance. It has taken a lot of sacrifice, dedication and commitment but was a worthwhile goal. One of my aims of doing the swim was to be able to raise funds for my non-profit trust, MissWrite. More importantly I will use my swim to inspire my girls to set big dreams for themselves and to illustrate that through hard work, dedication and determination anything is possible.