Julie Isbill gives Thanks - Cook Strait 2018

A massive thank you to an absolutely fabulous team who helped me successfully swim across the Cook Straits - North to South Island, New Zealand: 30km in 8hrs 43mins on 9th Feb 2018 πŸŠβ€β™‚οΈπŸ³πŸ¬πŸ 

Michael who, as always, was right by my side, Dave who paddled the whole way (not to mention all the training swims), Nicole who flew over to help with logistics.
Beth who helped break the mould with her crossing last year, inspiring Neil, my super kind and enthusiastic skipper to take me across.  Rolfe who also skippered and Glenda our lovely official Cook Straits observor who accompanied us, documenting intricacies the whole way ensuring we had a ratified crossing.

I am so grateful to everyone who encouraged me to jump in, quite literally last minute, to see if Lady Luck would land on our side and enable us to get a start.
Everything fell into place, we got a start on a day the boat was available, during a neap tide, while there was a hiatus in the wind.
The tides were ripping along, however, the seas were relatively calm and the sun came out along with a some penguins and dolphins to accompany us to Ohau point for a chance to slip into the refreshing 16degree water of the Cook Strait.

The swim started off somewhat choppy but miraculously settled as we edged our way out to the middle.
The Strait was jam packed with plankton and jellies, dolphins cruised past to show me how I should be swimming.
Michael and Nicole saw a large body and a blow from behind which apparently was a whale or an orca, which unfortunately didn’t hang around.

The 16 degree water was interspersed with some serialist icy patches and the tide was still going out for a couple of hours longer than we anticipated.  We headed a reasonable way south before we eventually started to turn and get pulled north.  As the swimmer I was completely oblivious to our bearings but Dave on the kayak, and everyone on the boat was acutely aware and were eagerly awaiting to feel the pull of the changing tide.

A beautiful unique thing of the Cook Strait was the spectacular cliff line of the start and finish which is in view for the duration. The catch being you think you are nearly there HOURS before you are.

To cut to the chase...
Two seals and 14 feeds later Michael tells me we only have about 4km to land (really only 4km this time - we had been told we only had 5km to go a couple of hours ago but the skipper was talking nautical miles and to a different point 🀣) and one hour to get there before the tide could start to change again and pull us away. So could I give it everything and try to get in there.

I wasn’t going to let this elusive finish slip away lightly so I put my head down and gave it absolutely everything. Apparently making good progress at 2.5knots but I was oblivious to this too of course.  So after asking Dave 3 times, with a mouthful of water, in-between breaths, if we were making progress I squealed for the first time in any of my swims ☺️ ARE WE MAKING PROGRESS - YES OR NO 😰
Apparently Dave did answer me each time but not in the nanosecond I happened to have my left ear somewhat above water 🀭
But I had a chorus of reassurance after my squeal πŸ˜‡
Great, keep on keeping on then, it could just be worth it I might make land which could save me countless more hours of swimming as giving up was never an option.

A pool of red algae, a few fist pumps, smiles and tears from Dave, a couple of strokes through kelp and here it was: The finish - a giant, shiny, rugged cliff face of the South Island.

We had done it.
Everyone giving up so much so that I could successfully swim across the Cook Strait.
Something I had been dreaming of for 12years since I read Penny’s account of her crossing in 2006.

Dreams came true for me 2 days ago.  Thank you πŸ™ πŸ’•β€οΈπŸ’•

It’s been pretty special to relive the journey now, as I have written this on the 3 1/2 hour ferry ride from Wellington to Picton, on which I have been awarded a lifetime FREE pass for being a Cook Strait swimmer.  As Dave said, that’s pretty damn cool - Willy Wonka kinda stuff.

Thank you to Maree, Sharon and Dave W for the endless training swims and to EVERYONE for all your interest, encouragement and support, each step of the way - you quite possibly won’t ever realise how much it truly helps to push through when you know everyone is there beside you.


Written By Julie Isbill February 2018