A Vancouver woman will be one of only two women to swim across Georgia Strait since 1966, if she can make the 35 kilometre journey from Nanaimo to Davis Bay on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday, August 3.
“It’s a personal challenge,” UBC grad, Rachel Schoeler said, “I’m an open water swimmer, and I wanted to try something a bit new, so I looked in our own back yard and thought why not try swimming Georgia Strait.”
The trip has been completed by only a handful of people including Fran Cannon, who took it on in 1972. This time, Program Director for the Fraser Riverkeepers water-quality group, Schoeler says she’s been doing endurance training to get ready for the formidable waves and current in the busy waters between Sechelt and Vancouver Island – a stretch that’s even farther than the famed English Channel challenge.
“I’ve been working with a coach for about a year, and spending more and more time out in the ocean,” Schoeler notes, adding the live waters are a welcome novelty compared to the many hours she’s been logging at the pool.
While training for this arduous journey there’s some serious concerns for the water enthusiast.
“I’m swimming without a wetsuit,” Schoeler admits, “so cold water is a big factor, since (ocean temperatures) could be between 13 to 14 and up to 18 degrees Celsius.”
The ambitious aquarian said she will have the support of two boats with a crew of five people who include her coach, her training partner, her boat captain father, and a couple of friends.
“It will be great to have those smiling faces,” Schoeler said.
People on the Sunshine Coast can expect to see the cheerful athlete come ashore the same day as she’s leaving Neck Point, near Nanaimo.
“Our plan is to swim it between 10 to 11 hours, so I should be arriving in Sechelt around 6 or 7 pm,” she explained.
Schoeler’s plans include her campaign to raise funds and awareness about local swimmable water quality.
“Knowing that our water is clean and safe enough to swim in is extremely important,” Schoeler emphasized, “I think a lot of us take for granted the fact that our waterways are clean, but that might not always be the case, because there’s tons of issues with pollution … so that we all need to work together to keep our nice beaches clean and safe.”
Fraser Riverkeeper’s Shore Patrol Swimmable Water Project takes place throughout the summer to educate beach-goers on water quality issues and other clean-water programs. For more information or to sponsor the August 3 swim, visit: http:// www.fraserriverkeeper.ca/ georgia_strait_swim