Well it was half a job done – but the St Kilda Swim 2014 team are determined to return to complete the task in two years’ time,” writes swimmer and Gazette reporter Eilidh Whiteford.
After the whole team meeting for the first time as mainland members came off the ferry on Friday, June 27th, Saturday saw us in Leverburgh, Harris, to wait the arrival of our support boat ‘Kyle Bhan’ from Oban.
Team leader Colin Macleod then began the swim from Hushinish slipway at around 1pm on Sunday, June 29th – and we completed a continuous 16 hours relay swim until the challenge was stopped around 5.30am of Monday 30th; covering a distance of around 24 land miles.
It was disappointing to stop for sure but, out in the midst of the North Atlantic Ocean, we couldn’t take any risks and moving kayaks and kayakers to and from the support boat – in a solid five to six foot swell! – was getting unsafe.
What was inspiring to me, and what leaves me safe in the knowledge that this swim is indeed possible, was the fact that despite the large swell the swimmers were making forward headway – we swam that swell and we swam it well!
The swell however, combined with the slow speed of the support boat, also saw a number of the team unwell with sea-sickness – and my applause to those swimmers who were sick before entering the water, some sick in the water, and then sick when out again! Needless to say, it was tough going!
To hang about and wait for the swell to go down risked even more sea-sickness and we knew from the off the weather window was tight as a storm was due to blow over on the Tuesday evening.
But, although the mission was uncompleted, for me there was an absolute joy and wonderment at swimming in the North Atlantic Ocean! It was GREAT fun!
It’s hard to explain what’s going through your mind on an adventure like this, but I felt like an insignificant blip on top of the sheer immensity of water beneath me; and I take it all as a real privilege to experience what I have.
For all my fears of tuna, we never saw any. There were a number of rather large jellyfish though – one which I guesstimate was around 20feet below me looked about five feet long from my height!
Swimmer Sandra Morrison had a real treat though as a Minkie whale circled her and the kayaker for her full 45 minute swim!
And on our bitter sweet journey back from Kilda – where the sea was flat as a glass mirror! - our spirits were lifted by a pod of dolphins, complete with mother and calf, which played around the boat before delighting us to a stunning acrobatic display!
I think I speak for the entire team when I say we’re not done with Kilda yet and everyone is keen to try again in 2016.
What’s most important for the St Kilda Swim 2014 are our charities and I’m pleased to say we’ve raised over £6,000 already between The Leanne Fund, Yorkhill Children’s Charity and The Fishermen’s Mission. And if you think we’ve done enough this time to warrant a donation, you still can by visiting www.stkildaswim.co.uk - Roll on 2016!