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Swim inspiration

September 11, 2013
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

To the editor:

I can't decide whether to be inspired or disheartened by Diana Nyad's incredible accomplishment of swimming the 103 miles from Havana to Key West at age 64. She fulfilled a 30-some year dream on her fifth try. Is this an amazing show of determination and guts, or is she just nuts?

So far this summer I've been trying to get in some serious lap swimming at the town pool and I've built myself up to a little more than six-tenths of a mile per session. And, that includes three short breaks between sets. At the rate I'm adding distance, I'll have to live another couple hundred years to match Nyad's feat. Meanwhile, she is younger than I am.

Now some naysayers are expressing concerns that she may have "cheated" because there were some stretches where she seemed to be going much faster than her normal pace of 1.5 miles an hour. They're also claiming that using a mask to protect against jellyfish was against the "rules." Whose rules?

These people have obviously never been in the Gulf Stream, either in the water or a boat. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the steam can run as fast as 5.6 mph near the surface and averages 4.6. The narrow stretch between Cuba and the Florida Keys is where the current funnels through the fastest.

Having sailed across the stream both with and directly into it several times on a boat that makes about 5.5 knots (around seven-plus mph), I've seen more than eight knots over the ground when the stream is helping and down to two when you're bucking it. Nyad was smart enough to go the direction where the current helped.

As to her using a mask, I say to the skeptics, "Bleep you! May you be stung by a thousand jellyfish."

I've decided to be inspired. But what I really want to know was whether she had tucked her passport under her suit to satisfy Immigration and Customs Enforcement when she came ashore.

Jay Light

Fort Myers Beach



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