More than 350 swimmers registered for the 2017 Swim, which was scheduled to start from the South End of New Bedford this morning at 7:15 a.m. The Coalition and safety personnel from the Massachusetts Environmental Police, the U.S. Coast Guard and the New Bedford and Fairhaven police, fire and harbormaster departments surveyed the weather forecast for the 1.2-mile open-water course across outer New Bedford Harbor this morning and deemed conditions unsafe for swimmers and boaters.
“We know how disappointing it is to cancel this event, especially after hundreds of swimmers have worked so hard to train and fundraise – but the safety of swimmers and kayakers comes first,” said Coalition President Mark Rasmussen. “With the threat of thunderstorms and lightning, it was best to keep everybody out of the water.”
From tides to safety requirements to the closing of a major commercial boating channel, the Buzzards Bay Swim has countless logistical requirements that prevent it from being postponed to another date or time. Planning for the Swim begins a year in advance, with permits required from several agencies and safety personnel scheduled along the entire route. The Coast Guard closes the channel for just two hours to allow swimmers to pass – stopping all traffic from ferries, commercial fishing vessels, and recreational boaters. The Swim is also timed with the incoming tide to help push swimmers toward the finish line.
It was only the second cancellation in the Swim’s 24-year history. The first, in 1999, was also due to unsafe weather conditions. Although the on-the-water activities were called off, swimmers still gathered at Fort Phoenix State Reservation to celebrate their fundraising accomplishments with breakfast, local craft beer, a live steel drum band, free massages and an awards ceremony.
The Swim drew 353 registrants from 21 states, including as far as away as Alaska, Washington, and North Carolina, as well as Canada. The youngest swimmer was Emma Whittaker of Rochester, who turns 11 this weekend, while the oldest was 77-year-old Nancy Smith of Dartmouth, who has participated in 18 Buzzards Bay Swims.
As of today, swimmers have raised $130,000 to support the nonprofit Coalition’s work to protect clean water, conserve land and engage people in outdoor exploration across the Buzzards Bay region from Little Compton, R.I. to Woods Hole, Mass. If swimmers raise a total of $135,000, 10-time Buzzards Bay Swim participant Larry Fish of West Falmouth has pledged to donate an additional $25,000 from his Fish Family Foundation. You can support the Swim and help meet this fundraising goal can donate until July 8.
Bill Muldoon of Mattapoisett was the top fundraiser this year, raising $4,005. Rebecca Williams of Rochester raised $3,121, while Dan Vasconcellos of Pembroke raised $2,775 in memory of his father, Arthur. Wynn Perlick of Westport was the top fundraiser for a new swimmer, raising $2,900. In addition to the top individual fundraisers, the Red Dory Restaurant of Tiverton, R.I. was the top fundraising team with a total of $11,600 – the most any team has ever fundraised for the Swim.
Dan Vasconcellos also received the first-ever “Pukwudgie Award,” given to swimmers who have participated in 20 Buzzards Bay Swims. Pukwudgies are figures from native Wampanoag folklore known for making mischief along the shores of Buzzards Bay.
Three swimmers – Lea Anthony of New Bedford, Martha Arruda of Fall River, and Larry Fish of West Falmouth – received the “Cuttyhunk Award” for participation in 10 Swims, which is equivalent to swimming the distance between New Bedford and Cuttyhunk Island.
Fourteen swimmers received the Six Mile Award, marking five years of participation in the Swim: Mark Alexander of Jamaica Plain, Rebecca Belastock of Falmouth, Halle Berger of Acushnet, Jonathan Berger of Acushnet, George Borden of New Bedford, Robert Butters of Waltham, Peter Carson of Jamestown, R.I., James Knowles of Southborough, Patricia McGovern of New York, N.Y., Jonah Mikutowicz of Dartmouth, Bill Muldoon of Mattapoisett, Chad Nusbaum of Newton, Eric Pauls, Jr. of Westport, and Ruth Tannert of Roslindale.
The Buzzards Bay Swim is one of two signature outdoor events hosted by the Coalition. The other is the Buzzards Bay Watershed Ride, a one-day scenic cycling tour with 100-mile, 75-mile and 35-mile routes from Little Compton, R.I. to Woods Hole, Mass. The 11th annual Watershed Ride will take place Sunday, October 1.
The Buzzards Bay Swim is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series event, presented nationally by Toyota. For more information on the SPLASH Event Series, please visit www.splashseries.org. The Swim is also sponsored by Amica Insurance, Citizens Commercial Banking, Fiber Optic Center and YMCA Southcoast.