Australian marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey is a third of her way to reaching her latest swimming goals. On Friday, she'll attempt another leg of a three-part effort to swim three Hawaiian Island channels. The former Olympic-hopeful and 48-year-old grandmother will start from La'au Point on Molokai before dark on the morning of March 11.
Captain Jim Dickson, Penny Palfrey, Chris Palfrey
The timing on these kinds of swims has to be fluid (no pun intended) even down to the last minute, so she can’t be more specific. She will swim solo, 26 miles to Oahu and end up on Oahu’s Sandy Beach some 12 or more hours later.
Over the weekend on Saturday March 5, she and husband Chris swam the Alalakeiki Channel (Kaho’olawe to Maui- 7 miles/ 11.5 km), logging times just over five hours each. “Starting from Ule Point on the northeast side of Kaho'olawe, we were greeted by schools of pelagic fish next to a sheer 200 foot wall drop off, making for a spectacular start with a back drop of the massive rugged cliffs of Kaho'olawe. Conditions were calm at the start, with surprisingly warm 25 Celsius degree water - ideal for swimming,” said Chris Palfrey.
On Penny’s last Hawaiian swim in fall 2010, Portuguese man-of-war were a problem. This time it was jellyfish, and the two said they were regularly stung throughout the swim.
Chris Palfrey two-day-old jellyfish stings
“Despite relatively calm conditions, there was a very strong cross current which quickly carried us south, forcing us to battle uphill for the last half of the swim, with our pace slowing to a slow crawl. Finishing times were 5:07 for Penny and 5:09 for Chris. We finished on soft beautiful sand at Makena Beach, South Maui,” Chris summed up.
“If I am feeling good after this swim, with no injuries, shoulder soreness, etcetera, I plan to swim the Kaluakahi Channel (Kaua’i to Ni’ihau- 17 miles)along with Chris,” said Penny. The Kaluakahi Channel is swim #3 for Penny. All told, the three channels total 50 miles.
Palfreys at Makena Beach in Maui at the end of the first swim
Six people have done the crossing before then; four men and two women. The Palfreys are the first couple, and it's the fourth channel they have swum together.
As world-class level marathon swimming goes, this is an unusual duo. "Currently, we are the first (and only) married couple to have swum the following major USA swims: Manhattan Island Marathon Swim (NY), which we have each done on three occasions; Catalina Channel (CA); and Tampa Bay Marathon Swim (FL). We are also the first and only married couple to have swum the Strait of Gibraltar (Spain to Morrocco), which we have done on two occasions. We are one of only two couples (but not the first) to have swum the Au’au channel."
Penny and/or Chris' Hawaiian swims this March:
-Kaiwi Channel (Molokai to Oahu- 26 miles) (Penny solo)
-Kaluakahi Channel (Kauai to Niihau- 17 miles) (Chris - and Penny?)
-Alalakeiki Channel (Maui to Kaho’olawe- 7 miles) (Chris - and Penny?)
Some come to Hawaii to enjoy the warm ocean, but the Palfreys sure take it to a new level!
(*Disclaimer: Waikiki Parc Hotel sponsored the Palfreys' Oahu accomodations, and my employer owns the property.)
Update as of March 11, 8 am:
At 4 am Hawaii time, the crew for Australian marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey called me to confirm they would be attempting Swim #2 today, on schedule.
"Weather and water conditions are optimal," said swim advisor Steve Munatones. "There is no wind, which was a concern as we were watching the weather forecast. When the harbor master opens the harbor, we will be starting the swim."
State authorities evacuated all coastal areas throughout the state of Hawaii after a massive earthquake in Japan triggered a Friday night tsunami warning in Hawaii, as well as in other US states and nearly two dozen countries around the world. At 7:30 am Friday, all islands were downgraded to a tsunami advisory.
The crew had flown from Waikiki Parc Hotel on Thursday and checked in at Hotel Moloka'i. They had hoped to depart at 2:30 am Friday morning for a 5 am start from La'au Point on the western point of Moloka'i.
Munatones explained that the start time would be pushed down a few hours - based on the harbor master's opening of the harbor - but would still commence today. Projections for a finish time were 12-18 hours.
Successful completion of this swim puts her a third of her way to reaching her latest swimming goals. The Kaiwi Channel, a well-known waterway for paddlers and the hardiest of swimmers, spans 26 miles between Oahu and Moloka'i.
Update as of March 11, 11 am:
Munatones wrote to say, "She started at 10:54 am. Very rough, windy and wavy but short of aggressive marine life, she'll make it."
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