On Our Way..

We were on our way! Once we left Dover marina we were in the ‘black of night’ travelling underneath the dark menacing presence of the ‘White Cliffs’ to ‘Samphire Hoe’ halfway between Dover and Folkestone. This was the start point according to tidal forecasts and Reg’s knowing wink.


After much debate between the nervous boat crew, Hagar lost the toss and had to ‘grease me up!’ Check my equipment.. steady girls… ‘strobe lights on’, cap and goggles adjusted! I then descended down the steps to the dingy waiting below in the cold night.






Ray, Reg’s brother helped me aboard and we motored off to the beach. We arrived in the stillness under the cliffs and Ray said.. “Ok, slip over the side and you should be able to wade in from here.” The swim must start and finish on dry land. Following orders and keen to get moving in fresh night air, we shook hands and I thanked him for everything and slipped over the side. Straight under, ‘splutter, choke’. It was far from shallow. I came up laughing, trying not to choke. My ‘old crocks’ shot off my feet into the dark night and cruised away. Yes, I know they had to go anyway!


I swam in and cleared the water, standing there feeling naked. The boat horn sounded. The swim had started. Strobes flashing in the dark cold night I began my first few tentative strokes.


‘Goodness, I wish that I had learnt to swim properly.’


‘Don’t rush, warm up slowly and don’t push it straight away.’


I was like a finely tuned carthorse startled out of the farmer’s field.



By 0700 the sun had risen and the night to day routine had begun. Feeding every 30mins from a delightful menu of warm carbohydrate liquid, black tea with sugar, bananas, peach slices and mars bars, I swam on at a good pace. Reg, in need of a rest, came out of the wheel house. “Good swim, you’re doing well” And off to the bunk he went, handing control to his brother Ray.


When he woke a few hours later the fun and games had began. After swimming really strongly at about the 3 hour mark, I had a ‘shoulder twinge!’


Immediately, I asked the boys for medication. I dosed up with painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets. On I went at a slow cruising speed. However, there would be a penalty to pay later, regarding the tides.


I swam on and begun to settle after the scare realising that although I had to nurse my shoulder, the much revered prize was still possible! I was not feeling too tired yet, operations normal. This was truly a testament to the years of training, events and preparation that I had endured. It felt good.


I was very lucky and the some of the team got to experience swimming with me. The rules state that the first three hours are solo and there after a support swimmer may join the swimmer for one hour every other hour. For me it was truly about sharing this amazing experience, out in the middle of the Channel. Very important, as at least one of the boat crew (TBC) will attempt a crossing in a couple of years.. ‘when his wife lets him’.


On we went remarking how strong the tide was at each feed, as I was swept aside like drift wood. The water was choppy and indeed we had some ‘wind against tide’. This simply means horrible. Every time I tried to breath on either side I swallowed water. Yuck!


Because of the chop and waves, I could not actually see much. Until, I saw the Lighthouse on Cap Gris Nez. I knew exactly what it was and where it was! My heart began to race! I knew that it was relatively close, 2 to 4 miles. At this point the wheel house door flew open and Reg appeared. I knew what was coming…….