There may be some language in this so be warned.
Slept in a bit this morning. The group was going to Clearlake so I didn't feel a need to swim at the lake nearby. It was nice to sleep in and relax. Spent most of the morning on the outdoor couch talking to people and slowly enjoying breakfast.
We finally headed out to the lake. We were just told the name of the lake and nothing else. We just had to follow the convoy and hope we didn't get lost. If we had, we had no idea where the lake was. No one even told us how far away it was going to be.
When we got to the lake, we all had to sign wavers. As we were signing wavers, one of the people at the camp had this REALLY obnoxious dog that was running everywhere. The owner thought it was funny apparently and just let him do whatever he wanted despite the fact that everyone else found the dog being there annoying as hell.
We kept getting conflicting reports on who was going to be in the boat and where everyone needed to be. We were trying to keep it casual but half of us didn't know where we needed to be. Finally Jamie asked everyone off the boat. When we were all standing on the dock, Jamie lost his cool and started screaming at us to get in the water. All of us looked at him like he was a nut. Okay, but where the F are we going? Where do we get feeds? Where do we turn around? Are we on our own? Are we in a group swim? What direction are we going? NONE of this was covered.
I just jumped in and followed the rest of the swimmers hoping for the best. Not the safest way to start a swim. I was going for about 1/2 an hour when the boat pulled up and asked me to get in so we could get caught up with the fast swimmers. I wasn't too happy about this but I did it anyway. Cathy, Gords, and idiot dog owner got in also. We were moved in front of the fast swimmers and given the option to get back in. I'm here to swim and not hang out on a boat so I jumped in immediately. Jamie looked at Cathy, Gords, and me and said VERY CLEAR, "Just stay 100 feet from shore and follow it around the bend then keep going". It's exactly what we did. We ran into some other swimmers and they were heading back. Cathy made a HUGE mistake of being nice and giving her last gel to another swimmer. After the swimmer ate the gel, she said thanks and she's going back to the boat! WTF?? You don't eat someone's food then head to where a feeding is! The 3 of us kept swimming and we finally got to a point where we felt we needed to turn around. No one else was near us and the boat was really far away. This wouldn't have been a problem if Gordon had been allowed to keep his buoy system he has. It had food, GPS, and drinks but Jamie asked him to take it off soon after the swim started. Not sure why but another bad decision.
We started to head back and saw the boat getting farther and farther away. This made me quite unhappy and Gords concerned some too. Cathy was just flat out pissed. She kept stopping to voice her frustration and I understood but I had to keep getting her to swim and save the vocal anger for later. I completely understood what she was feeling because I was cursing in my head non stop while we headed back. We all stopped a bit later and realized the boat was GONE! They fucking left us!!! Now we were really pissed! Didn't anyone tell them about us? What about a head count? Are they going back? Are we alone? Should we keep swimming or get out? WTF is going on???
We all agreed to swim to a certain point and then make the next plan. We got to the bend and sure enough, not a person or the boat in sight. Cathy was in a lot of pain from her recent ankle surgery so she wanted out. I wasn't going to let our group split up so I stayed with her. Gords is smart enough to realize him going off solo is silly so he joined us too.
We all got out and had to hitchhike back to the car. WE HAD TO HITCH HIKE ON A GROUP SWIM! That sentence alone should be enough to demonstrate how bad the organization of this swim was! Gordon had his car and agreed he would be the one that would get the ride back then come get us. So there we were, 3 people in speedo's waving at people on the side of the road. Most honked and yelled silly things at us. Gordon was wearing a tiger striped RobAquatics speedo and he by far looked the most ridiculous. One hippy couple finally stopped and let Gords get in. He was back quickly and Cathy and I got a ride back to the rest of the group.
When we got back, Suzie Dods (who is such a great person) came up to us with genuine concern and asked how we were doing. She saw me first and she could tell by the look on my face that none of us were that happy. I told her I don't want to talk now and I just want to get some hydration. She was fantastic and immediately gave the 3 of us bananas and some juice. After a few minutes, we all packed up and headed back to Jamie's house.
We were all safe and that is good but it's REALLY embarrassing that Steven Munotones was there and he was in charge of the Open Water Safety Conference last year. But after what happened....REALLY???
Gordon and I spent a lot of time talking about what went wrong and what can be learned about it. Granted, no one wanted to be rude or step on anyone's toes but this WAS a learning opportunity. A debrief of what happened would only be good and a lot could have been learned from it. The fact that everyone danced on egg shells instead of addressing it didn't make much sense to me. I wanted answers, not to blame anyone but to learn from it.
Here are some things that went wrong and how they might have been avoided.
1) No map was shown of the lake. No idea was given on where we were going to swim or what we specifically were doing....besides the obvious swimming.
2) Only one boat was there. For the number of people swimming, one boat wasn't enough. If money was an issue, I seriously doubt it would have been a problem if everyone was asked to chip in another $20 so we could get another boat.
3) The boat we did have did not have a first aid kit...or at least I did not see one.
4) Why were 3 people left behind? We were on our own for over an hour with no help besides ourselves. Granted, we are all experienced swimmers and there was no real danger of drowning but the fact we had to hitch hike says it all.
5) A dog was there. The owner showed no intention of keeping it under control and when it had to be restrained to keep from chasing after geese, everyone was annoyed. Someone even got hurt on their leg while trying to restrain him in the boat. NO DOGS!!!
It is in my opinion that a 2nd boat was severely needed for this swim. If only one boat was able to be procured, then it should have been an "accordion" swim. That is, the fastest swimmers are told to go to a certain point then turn around to swim back to the slowest swimmers. The boat will be in designated spots at designated times for feedings for all. This way when the slow people are far apart from the fast swimmers, when the fast swimmers turn around to swim back to the back of the group, the accordion gets smaller. Once we are all together, we all get a feeding then the process repeats. All can be watched and accounted for also. A printed Google map of the lake and where the boat will be for each stop would have eliminated much of the problems that occurred.
To me, the most important thing missed was a debrief after the swim. So much could have been learned from this and a real opportunity to make swims like this safer and more enjoyable in the future was lost.
Despite the problems, I felt like Cathy, Gordon and I bonded pretty well and did a good job of keeping each other safe. Despite being upset or disappointed, we all thought clearly enough to do what was necessary to get back safely.
After getting back, I was pretty tired and really thirsty. Had a great lunch then spent the rest of the day hanging out and chatting with people. The option to swim again came up but I was too worried about the lake since so many people were getting red bumps and even had to get prednisone shots from the lake. No one is at fault for whatever was in the water but I just was content to stay out of it.
Went back to my tent after my eyes refused to stay open any more to Gordon snoring...YES, he snores while camping. He doesn't believe me but boy does he ever snore!
4 miles today