It was not planned. After the Eel Lake OMS Open Water Swims were cancelled this summer, despite Matt Miller’s constant attempts to get the Oregon Parks Department to change their mind, local swimmers on the Oregon coast continued to swim in near-by lakes.
It turned out, though, there were numerous Oregon Masters swimmers who still wanted to come to Eel Lake and Tugman Park the weekend of August 8-9. Some had reserved yurts a long time ago. Some wanted to escape 100-degree heat elsewhere in Oregon. Some just came.
Mike Carew showed up on Wednesday. He and I swam across the base of the peninsula, 2000 meters round trip that afternoon. I received an email from Ed Ramsey who said he was coming for the weekend. Dan Gray and Dave Radcliff emailed me that they were coming, too. Suddenly, we had a crowd.
After that I planned to be in my wooden peapod rowboat Saturday morning, instead of swimming. When I showed up, we had another boat and other safety craft. Cyndi Smidt and John Griley had brought an aluminum McKenzie River drift boat. Rebecca Kay was on a paddle board. Ann Cramer was in a kayak.
This was important as we had 13 swimmers on the beach that we usually use for the meets. Most had orange floats tied around their waists. They were ready to swim.
First, we had to choose which arm of Eel Lake to use. The group choice was the West Arm, 5000 yards round trip if you touch a piling at the north end 1350 yards north in a bare section of the hill, red in the morning sun, an easy spot to turn around.
We went over Bob Bruce’s rules of safety which all veteran Oregon open water swimmers have heard before: “Safety is our Number One concern;” “we want the same number of swimmers out of the water as went in;” “raise your hand if you need help;” plus.
And off they went. With all the orange floats attached, the string of swimmers looked like a long sinuous eel in the water, the back colored orange and green. John rowed ahead, kayak and paddle board were in the middle, and I was in the rear.
We had two swimmers from Bandon, Helen Slack Miller and Arianna Elnes, who had never been in an open water swim before. They turned around after about a thousand yards. Some turned back at the Red Cliff. A few touched a piling. All made it back. It was a perfect swim.
Afterwards there were grins on everyone’s faces. It was sunny, and the summer wind had helped everyone back to the beach. Swimming with the wind behind you is a lot of fun. Everyone had a good swim.
Sunday, we did the same thing, except we went up the East Arm. I told the eight swimmers about the white snag above the water as you make the turn around the end of the peninsula: “It is an honest thousand yards out, clocked by a triathlete with a GPS watch and measured more than once on Google Earth.”
With fewer swimmers we still had John in his boat, Ann in her kayak and Marc Heller on a paddle board. I swam after the safety talk, and the Eel Lake eel took off again. No one swam 8000 yards to the end of the East Arm. All came back, with Todd Lantry one of the last, as he went the furthest up the arm.
Swimmers included Helen Slack Miller, Arianna Elnes, Celeste Marokus, Laura Schob, Elizabeth Henderson, Cyndi Smidt, Mike Carew, Ralph Mohr, Todd Lantry, Celeste Lantry, Ed Ramsey, Rebecca Kay, Dave Radcliff, and Dan Gray. I’m sorry that I don’t have the names of all who swam or watched. I didn’t think to bring a clip board until Sunday. We also had some who just came to escape to the coast for a while, including Mike and Deb Douglas, Lynn Sacks and Nancy Radcliff.
With the hazards of COVID-19 we all kept a social distance apart on the shore. In the water that was no problem. Swimming is no doubt the safest exercise one can do in this pandemic. We are automatically separated by water splash and the need for space while swimming.After we were back on shore, everyone said, “Let’s do this again next year!” I had to smile, but I said, “I don’t know what will happen in a year’s time.” However, I do know that we will plan for a formal Eel Lake OMS Open Water event in 2021. When a date is chosen for that, make your reservations for Tugman Park early. If an OMS meet is not held, we’ll figure something out.