TI6 English Channel Relay Days 2,3 and 4 Report
Plese excuse the combining of days but internet access is limited to the hotel lobby and after swimming and dinner I am often ready to hit the sack.
The wait continues, the weather has been very blustery until today. Everyday when we look out the harbor entrances we see white caps and very large swells and sea--an angry looking sea. But I'll cover that in the Day 5 report. That is part of open water swimming that you can’t control unlike the pool, which is probably one of the factors that attracts me.
The rain did subside but the wind is absolutely gale force. We hiked up the castle and toured the Dover Castle and military tunnels. The castle of course dates back to the 1097. The castle and grounds have been kept in outstanding condition. It was small compared to the Chateau’s we visited in France back in June. But, it was in better condition. They had actors in period dress. We watched the King Henry II knight a little boy (about 6-9). That made the boy’s day. The military tunnels date back to the 1797, the French-British War. There were only 3 sections at that time. They were bricked over in the 1800’s for fear of collapsing. They were reopened them for WWI and added 4 more tunnels. Then sealed and reopened for WWII. The major planning for the rescue of British and French soldiers trapped in Dunkirk was planned from these tunnels. Over 350,000 troops were rescued and were later part of the famed Normandy Landing in June of 1945. After the war the tunnels were sealed again and then used again in the 1960’s, as the threat of nuclear war became a possibility. They decided on brining in about 300 select military and civilian leaders to wait out the bombs and radiation and then would resurface after about 45 days to help with the rebuilding of whatever was left.
The after noon swim while sunny was anything but calm. We had 3-6 foot swells and thrashing in the harbor. We got back to the Harbor to find low tide again. It was extremely challenging and in a way fun, but did I say cold. We kept it too around a 2800-meter swim and it felt every bit of that and more like a 3k swim. Our distance total for the day was 3.49 miles.
Monday – Day 3 – We arrived for our swim near the end of low tide. The swim towards the north end of the Harbor was into the usual mixing bowl, as Dave likes to call it. It was again more like a washing machine to me although not as rough as the night before it was still water coming at you from every direction. We kept this morning’s swim at a smaller effort of around 1600 meters.
After the swim Nancy and I headed for the bus station for a trip to the town of Canterbury. Beautiful countryside. We arrived in about 30 minutes and headed for the center of town. It was a great day. The old part of town looked what I would expect for an old English town. Very narrow streets and buildings connected to each other for long blocks. We toured the Cathedral of Canterbury. It was very impressive and we thought much better and in better condition than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Although I’d have to say that the pipe organ was a bit undersized for the Cathedral. Our pipe organ at Abiding Presence Lutheran Church in San Antonio looks huge compared to this one. After the Cathedral we took a short Tour River boat ride. Very interesting, informative and we actually got to see some freshwater eels, which we were told, are a rare treat. A little boy on the boat asked the rower guide what the water temperature was and he said about 1 degree (obviously Celsius or we would’ve been ice skating) and I put my hand in the water to see, more like 16C or 62F as it felt like the Harbor temperature. We discovered the meaning of Hospital actually came from Latin, meaning to provide comfort (food and shelter) for travelers coming to the cathedral. After the ride we found a pub that served ale from the oldest brewery in England. Neame Brewery.
We caught the afternoon bus back to Dover and visited with a local Dover lady who was born in Dover at the beginning of the war in 1940 and lived in Dover all her life. She relayed to us that her home(s) were bombed out 3 times. Each time they moved they were hit again. She was quite a fascinating lady and had many opinions about how much life had changed in Dover.
We were back in time for a quick visit to the Dover Museum to see the Channel Swimmer exhibit which I must say is not as big as I thought it would have been. Very Interesting still the same. After the visit we rejoined the TI6 team now at full strength with the arrival of Jai our UK member. The water looked very calm when we were getting in. The washing machine end was still churning but was down quite a bit from the previous days. Again we kept it short to around 1700 meters.
We had a lovely dinner at a local brewery/pub/restaurant and then headed for a hot shower and bed.
We headed to the Harbor for our usual 8 am start. Today Captain Dave said we would only swim once so therefore we were to do 3 walls. Looking at the Harbor and remembering the north end’s turbulence I suggested we do the two walls on the south end that protected the water from the wind. So off we went for our hour swim. The water was excellent at the first turn but was at low tide so we had to be way out at first and then work our lines closer to shore as the tide started in. By the time we made it to the washing machine end it didn’t let us down. Glad I decided to hit this end only once. As we traversed back across the harbor a rainstorm hit us and the water became choppier at first and then as we approached the south end the water became calm and at times I felt like I was back at Boerne City Lake. Another great swim of 3800 meters and another hour in the cold water. I think I’m becoming used to this cold water.
Had another great breakfast Bap and then some computer work (as you can read) and now we are off to the trail to hike the White Cliff’s of Dover and experience afternoon High Tea at a place called Mrs. Knott’s which is also at a lighthouse. So after a 4 mile hike we saw some great views of an angry Channel with commercial ferries coming and going every 20 minutes in/out of the Dover Harbor Port, the busiest commercial and passenger port in England. The wind was quite fierce and at times seemed to blow us on our way without much effort of walking except to stay in the paths created by thousands of people taking this public footpath. The High English Tea at Mrs. Knott’s was not as advertised on the web site and quite a disappointment. High Tea will have to be a do-over for sure. The hike however was spectacular. We took a slightly better route back that was away from the cliffs and a little quicker. We met the team at The White Horse Pub, which is where all the successful Channel Swimmers go to write their names on the walls and ceilings of the pub. We got to see Dave’s signings about 7 times, 2 for solos and the rest on relays that either he swam or organized for his Otter’s swim team and master’s teams from Minnesota. Nancy and I then headed off for a lovely dinner of Dover Cod at Blake’s seafood and pub. This did not disappoint us—an excellent meal. The rest of the team decided to eat in at their lodgings. Nancy and I closed out the evening at “The Mash Tun” which just happened to be their opening night in what we would call a soft opening. We noticed it was open and were peering in over the glazed windows trying to see what was on their board and the owner opened the door and invited us in. We had a great time for one beer and met some more lovely locals. One was a man who lived most of his life in South Africa in Botswana. Said it was a great place and safe to visit. Another Irish lady came over and she and Nancy had read the same book “Ladies Detective Agency” and it is based in and around Botswana. It’s a very small world. Off to bed and waiting to great day 5 at the Harbor for our morning swim.