The day of ‘The Big One’ began as usual with an 08:00 start over a breakfast briefing by The Commander with some apprehensive faces supplied by the Swim Team. There was a rumour that the jellyfish had called up reinforcements overnight and these were to be later proved true. The ladies complained about their rubbing strap marks, all complained about the mouth ulcers and sore tongues brought on by the salt water and the men complained that the salt water had swelled all bar the important bits, which had instead transmogrified into three Adam’s Apples care of the temperature of the water.
A hearty local barbecue prepared the team for their big adventure yesterday evening as the local farming community cleared out their entire year’s supply of livestock which was fantastic for energy, but occasioned a problem on the boat as it soon became apparent the porthole in the head wasn’t big enough to cope with the strain!
The tension on the Heylam Puki was palpable as we prepared to head off to Malta, a total distance of 6.1km (c. 244 lengths) against a strong tide and attempting to keep well clear of the island of Comino en route and the famed Jellyfish Cove. The water is home to a considerable fleet of merchant vessels and gin palaces which did their best on numerous occasions to mow us down, but the Commander was on hand to fend off the foreign forces.
A Russian gin palace got particularly close at one point and a sea-based assault on the starboard side was mooted but, with the coldness of the waters, it was determined that Putin might have a bigger weapon than any of us and, after a quick feed of carb loaded energy drink, the swim was continued.
Our sponsored brand of the day would have been in his element as we disembarked the boat in Mgarr Harbour and immediately felt that Pingu would have been more at home than us given the temperature of the water.
All was going well when, like a scene from a Wes Craven movie, the jellyfish descended. Jane Kennedy took one on the ankle and Rob Corney took a hit just above the eye having previously headbutted a deep water buoy marking the depth of the channel at over 100 metres. This brought on a rash of psychosomatic jellyfish stings in a number of other swimmers and the word ‘shark’ was never far from certain lips.
The swim was a mammoth undertaking, but at least today we were blessed with slight seas as opposed to the moderate waves we had breaking over our heads until this point and it was with some relief that we swam in to the Maltese shore to touch the rocks at the end of the swim… the fact it was the height of the fishing season brought about a slightly befuddled look from a local angler who didn’t seem too sure whether to set up a rival to Loch Ness or reel us in.
Having endured further challenges from the Jellyfish Clan we had also been warned to watch out for sea urchins which ‘look like small, round, black pebbles’… not the best advice on a volcanic island with pebble beaches, but thankfully this further inconvenience was avoided but a new peril was introduced as some of the Team spotted Fishing Lines, a nasty sea creature that can grow to a length of 30 feet ad cause a nasty sting… we’re all looking forward to a nice long swim tomorrow now.
A number of the team are visibly losing weight on Dr Gould’s Swimfast diet which is a good thing as modesty is not the most prevalent of things on the trip. Getting changed on a small boat with 13 other people rocking at sea brought about ‘one in the eye’ for Lizzie earlier as Rob’s towel dropped away during a particularly vehement swell… of the sea that is… and the Commander treated several of the team to a full-frontal assault.
Pulling into The Crystal Cove, we moored up for lunch and quickly discovered that the Crystal Cove in the Noughties is to German tourists what lightly defended Eastern European states were in the Thirties, but thankfully the Licensing Industry swim team proved more effective than the BEF and they soon moved off. Relaxing the aching muscles in the lagoon during lunch and Ian Down managed to catch a jellyfish in a frying pan, but Lizzie wouldn’t allow us to get revenge by assassinating it as it was bad Karma. In a perverse twist of said Karma, on later jumping into the Blue Lagoon, Lizzie was promptly stung! Seasoned in the seas of Australia and hardened to true Aussie grittiness, she instantly abandoned the seas and jumped back on the boat.
Lunch over and the Heylam Puki rounded the headland into the Blue Lagoon for an afternoon of ‘light’ swimming to discharge the lactic acid build-up in the muscles. Back on the boat and a quick check of the emails showed to our horror that our sponsor Advanstar have arranged their New York drinks at Chelsea Pier which sounds suspiciously as though it is within sight of open water… the last thing we need as we all still have the motion of the boat in our system making most of the team stagger around Gozo like members of the licensing community leaving Rosie O’ Gradys at 3 in the morning on the third night of New York.
Towelled off and back in dry clothes, we made a dash for Gozo. A celebratory meal is planned for the evening… swimming from Gozo to Malta was one thing, but the fact that Stephen snapped his bloody Alice band getting off the boat is a good enough reason for cheer all round.
Today's swim blog is bought to you in association with Pingu.
Pingu is a cheeky, charming penguin who spends all his time playing with his friends and family. Adored by generations, with worldwide celebrity status, Pingu wishes the best of luck to the Light Fund swim team. Nug! Nug!