And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared…
– Homer –
The Lake George Adventure Swim: The Mermaid
There couldn’t have been a more beautiful morning – all slate gray and dark blue with a few low, misty clouds – sweet and alluring and quaint the way a creaking porch swing and a cup of coffee are. I practically quivered in anticipation of the journey ahead. To share this beautiful lake with some of the best people in the world… how wonderfully privileged I am!
I took a deep breath and dismissed all my expectations of the journey ahead. There were multiple obstacles to overcome with regard to this Adventure Swim.
Swim the length of Lake George in segments
The timeframe was the Fourth of July holiday weekend… with all the boats and drunks and fireworks and people.
Camping on a sailboat and not leaving the lake for the next four days.
Now, do all of that with three other people – who don’t all know each other.
Honestly… it seemed like the swimming was going to be the easy part. All the logistics of supporting the swim were far more delicate.
(My companions were already my heroes. Now they are my superheroes.)
I told myself that this wasn’t just about me… and I couldn’t be about the mission at the expense of everybody else’s comfort and safety. I determined in my mind that just being there was enough. Just being ready. Just wanting to. Just having everything I needed at hand. That’s enough for any swim, right?
The adventure, whatever it would be, would exceed all of my expectations. Of that, I was sure.
The plan was to meet up with some friends and swim into the early morning mist toward a far and distant shore…
A swimmer. Some friends. A kayak. The Lake. …Does life get more perfect?
We followed the course line perfectly Dave and I. Because we are excellent like that. The water was still and quiet. I was wrapped in imagination and daydreams thick as my mind could make them! I fancied myself like Odysseus. Marathon swimmers had swum Lake George in just one shot before… but I was taking the long, twisted, adventuresome way around. Nobody would write my name on any list as having swum the Lake – there wouldn’t be an award or merit or official time or notification in the paper on page ten after the baseball score.
But goodness… there would be a story to tell!
And this story started with a mermaid.
I didn’t see her until I saw that Dave’s mouth was moving and he was slightly animated. I stopped, thinking he was trying to get my attention. He wasn’t, he was talking to somebody. Talking to somebody. We were a long ways from the village shore and had long ago left our companions behind. I turned to look and there, halfway up the Lake and happily swimming along the shore, was the Mermaid.
I called her the Mermaid in my mind because her face was white. Not white as in Caucasian. White as in painted white. I wondered if it was sunscreen, but it was only 7 am. That seemed excessive. Her cap was bright, bright orange and not a wisp of hair escaped it. She seemed otherworldly. And here we were, far from any beach and so I assumed she lived on the Lake. Just like a Mermaid.
I suppose Dave had been talking to her for some time, because she knew I was training to swim the Channel.
“The English Channel!?” She asked. “How far is that?”
“21 miles,” I answered.
“When do you swim it?”
“Whenever the weather is best between September 1-6th.”
“Wow,” She said. “What’s your name? I will look you up.”
I answered her and she congratulated me. When we parted company – she seemed inspired. But that’s not so very strange, now, is it? Everything about Lake George is inspiring. I swam off, inspired myself, glad she was a kind Mermaid… and singing Great Big Sea’s The Mermaid:
“… you can search the world for pretty girls, ‘til your eyes are weak and dim.
But don’t go searchin’ for a mermaid, son, if you don’t know how to swim!”
We came to the most treacherous part of the swim shortly after leaving the Mermaid. A wide expanse of open water and boats flying to and fro across the bay is how I envisioned it. My kayak and I would be utterly exposed before the enemy. Already we had seen power boats out and about doing recreational activities and posing threats and danger to me and my well able, willing, super great, but seriously under-sized support crewman of one.
I took comfort in the thought that Dave would spring with herculean force from the kayak at any oncoming power boat, waving his paddle as a weapon.
It was our plan to sneak across the vast expanse before too many of them awoke…
A power boat by the mouth of the bay reminded me of Charon, the boatman who shuttled the dead to Hades. I wondered – if we were to offer to pay him – if he would pass us safely through to the other side, too. Or would it be better to leave him be and not wake the giant? What payment would be enough to escort a swimmer through the river to the Gates of Death?
…Has anybody ever swum to Hell, before?
I decided Charon didn’t need my money, as much as it would be great fun to gauge his response to such a request. I decided I would, instead, take my chances. Dave and I. And the kayak, who, despite having a secret name that my brother bestowed upon it, shall only be referred to in this narrative by his proper surname: the Light One.
And so we made our way forward.
We actually crossed the expanse with little trouble. Dave kept his head on a swivel and I kept myself swimming steady and strong. I didn’t sight very much and risk breaking stride to see where we were going. We would get there eventually. The few boats I did hear and see passed far away from us and gave us little grief.
When we got to the channel between Long Island and the mainland, we met quite a few people getting ready to celebrate the Fourth of July. A family was loading a boat from a dock and grilled me excitedly about my upcoming Channel swim. A couple other kayakers jaws dropped open as I swam by and Dave explained my story.
I couldn’t remember if Odysseus was always explaining himself to passersby or not…
He probably never found any golf balls. And I found two that I decided to keep! When I saw the third and the fourth side by side on the bottom of the Lake, I decided golf balls weren’t that exciting anymore.
I watched the rocks and the snails and lake weed pass below. I marveled at how clear the water was! So pristine… like hearing a favorite song sung with perfect pitch.
The last little leg of the first swim took us across one more bay and into our first stop. We rode the wake of several boats as we skirted across toward our destination and laughed as we did. It was actually, really fun!
The only slight hiccup with this part of the plan was that we didn’t exactly know which house we were going to and I had to keep looking up to see if I could figure it out any better as time went along. It was slow going. But I did, at last, pinpoint the location (with a little help from an orange flag hanging on the flagpole) and we made our way to shore as victors.
First Swim Complete! Flawless execution! I was so excited to refuel and continue with our journey into the bold unknown.