What in the World is a CBAT?
By Marlys Cappaert and Sandra Uesugi
Whenever we check in at swim events, there is always a little stumbling and mumbling over our long team name: “Circumnavigating Beaver Aquatic Team.” We smile in response to the quizzical looks and just say, “CBATs for short.” The story of how we got our name is about as long as the name itself.
Our origins stem from a M-W-F noon hour swim workout class within the Faculty Staff Fitness (FSF) program at Oregon State University. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the FSF program was founded in 1986 by OSU men’s swim coach Bill “Coach” Winkler. Coach was devoted to fitness, fellowship and a little friendly competition. He had a loyal and well-deserved following. In the early years of the program, one had to line up at 5 AM on registration day to get a coveted spot in the class.
Coach would often conjure up class activities to ensure our attendance, interest and participation. At the start of the 1991-92 school year, he announced we would be swimming the 2,385 miles from Newport, Oregon to Hawaii as a group, tallying up every swimmer’s yardage from each workout like a virtual relay. Just before that school year was over, Coach announced that we had arrived in Honolulu Bay, Maui! However, our victory was short lived. Coach decided that we would continue on with the goal of swimming around the world. We started logging yards once again. An oceanographer in our group dutifully tracked our mileage and mapped our progress across the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, through the Panama Canal, and back into the Pacific. It took just over 8 years to complete the 25,612-mile journey, finally arriving back in Newport in spring 1999. A couple years later when we formally registered as a USMS team, the choice of name was obvious: Circumnavigating Beaver Aquatic Team.
Though the CBATs have been swimming together for decades, we don’t often show up in force at organized USMS events. You are much more likely to find us out in a lake, pond, ocean, river…or other large puddle. CBAT John Gabriel looks at any body of water and challenges, “I bet we could swim across that!” CBAT Jack Istok pulled out The Oregon Atlas of Lakes and decided we should swim across every lake in Oregon larger than 50 acres. There are over 200, and Jack has crossed more than half of them, recruiting many of us to join him on these adventures. These occasionally include some extra adventure, an inadvertent trespass, and always plenty of snacks. Waldo Lake is one of our favorites, a true Oregon gem.
We have also enjoyed many a warm summer night swim under a bright full moon, a popular annual tradition. Of course, safety is paramount. We recruit friends to be safety kayakers and wear glowing bracelets for visibility. Among the notable was a late night swim in Cottage Grove Lake. We took the requisite group picture and headed out across the lake. It was a beautiful warm night. When John arrived first back to the boat ramp, he was met by the Sheriff who said we could not swim there, concerned for our safety…well we already had. I think John may have framed the warning, but the best moment was when we looked later at the photos and right behind us in the group photo, the flash had picked up a large sign that read “NO SWIMMING” Oops.
Travel beyond Oregon has figured prominently in our swimming adventures. We’ve travelled to exciting competitions such as the Waikiki Rough Water, Chicago’s Big Shoulders, Kitsilano Bay Challenge, Roy Webster Cross Channel, Swim Defiance, Alcatraz Sharkfest and fielded several relays at the Maui Channel and Trans Tahoe events. Some of us have also embraced the holiday swimming adventure. These have been with the English company Swim Trek who provides week-long trips at swim locations around the world. Destinations have included Greece, Croatia, Italy, the British Virgin Islands, Turkey, and a 2016 planned trip to Baja, Mexico.
We still spend most every M-W-F at noon in the waters of our home pool, recently named the Bill Winkler Pool to commemorate his great service to OSU after we lost him this past winter. But it’s the clear, blue open waters we dream of, including Coach and his annual summer trips home to Michigan to backstroke in his favorite lake by his family cabin.
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