March 20, 2016

After 17 hours, Lucia, Ximena and I finally arrived in Hawaii. Nora, Ariadna, Hugo (Ariadna’s husband) and Joaquin (her son) got here four hours later, having missed the connection in Los Angeles. The line was through customs was unbelievably long.

Notably absent from this adventure is Pablo. We’re going to miss him a lot, but he decided—correctly—to change his plans and go instead to Cuba to photograph Obama’s visit and the concert by the Rolling Stones, the first international rock stars ever to play Cuba. Pablo’s ambition is to get a master’s degree in journalism to leverage his passion for documenting historic moments with photography.

There’s only thing at our typical resort hotel that resembles the inn we stayed at in Tapii: Japanese tourists. It is flooded with them.

We’re four hours behind Mexico City. I was worried that I’d have been awake since 2 a.m., but fortunately the melatonin worked and slept until 6:00. When I woke up I had a message from Nora about swimming at 8:00 am. We agree to have a coffee at 7:40 to discuss the day. In addition to our meals, we have three important events: swimming, a meeting with Ariadna, Nora and myself, and another with kayakers and the ship’s captain.

While enjoying our coffee, Nora and I talked of our main concerns and hot topics for the afternoon meeting.

As I see it, there are several critical moments:

  • The first will be the start of the swim. Recently the shore break in La Jolla rolled a swimmer, and his swim lasted all of 10 minutes.
  • Then there is the night travel. For between 8 and 10 hours, the moon and stars will be our only companions.
  • In the first segment of the swim, I’ll have unfavorable winds for at least the first 4 hours. After that we expect better weather.
  • It’s been a long time since I have swum more than 13 hours. Accel Gel feeding has worked so far, but this time I may be swimming up to 18 hours. So we have to think about something solid if my stomach starts to reject the gel.
  • Finally, there is the size of the waves—one of the main problems of this swim.

When I mention all this with Nora, she tells me, regarding the waves: “It can’t be worse than 2008. That day in the Catalina Channel you got in water at the extreme limit of swimming conditions. Remember that.”

In my visualizations for this swim I have stockpiled two previous events: my first crossing of La Mancha—the English Channel—and my 2008 Catalina crossing. I have to be prepared to swim more than 16 hours and to deal with significant waves. Those two swims give me confidence that I can overcome a crisis when in the middle of the Molokai Channel.

We finished our coffee and decided to get to the sea. The water was about 23 degrees Celsius—over 73º Farenheit. We would learn later that it was the lowest temperature of the winter.

The first meters were not easy. We had to swim over a reef, and I hit my hands on the rocks several times.

Agreeing on a route to the west of our hotel, we kept our eyes open above the water so as not to get into the way of surfers or any of the many boats in the area. In about 20 minutes we started to enter the reef break. The waves were not very high, but if you ended up rolling around in one there you’d get a serious scraping. Once we realized that, we changed course, which took us about 5 minutes. The rest of the first leg was lovely: the water was incredibly clear, like crystal, and we came upon several shoals of wonderful, black fish.

Headed towards a ship anchored about 400 meters from the beach, we met a couple of swimmers named Sandy and Craig. We exchanged names and told each other where we were from. They told us some really interesting things such as the temperature of the water, and that we had come on a great day, because there was no rain, the water was very clear, and the winds had dropped.

When Nora told them that we would probably try to cross the Molokai Channel Monday night, Craig said, “You will not have problem. The winds will be calm and you’ll have a simple crossing.” I hope he’s a prophet, because nobody else has told me anything like that.

We swam out together and they invited us to swim with them and their group in the morning. It will be an interesting experience: before swimming there will be a ceremony in honor of a fellow swimmer, an 80-year-old who recently died in his sleep.

Back at the hotel I imagined how beautiful it must be die sleeping. Suddenly, without pain or suffering.I imagine the flowers in the water and, when I see Lucia and Ximena, I invite them to join me tomorrow.