SWIM Delaware Bay! Questions, advice?

megrenmegren Member
edited July 2013 in Beginner Questions
So, my countdown is on, my target date for swimming from Port Mahon, DE to Fortescue, NJ, 13.1 miles, is August 3rd. (I chose the date mostly because of moon phase, partly to have more volunteer/public involvement on a weekend.)

I'm doing the swim to raise awareness and funding for education about the Delaware Bay. (see www.SWIMDelawareBay.org or Faceook SWIMDelawareBay)

I've been reading the forum for many months and have learned a lot already - great tips for products, training and issues to grapple with... And I know that some of you might not like the fact that I'm doing this swim looking for media attention and trying to raise money. I respect your positions and believe that we all have different motivations - I'm being upfront about mine. (I do also love to swim for swimmings sake!) That said, I hope that I can get some specific questions answered and maybe some help?

I'm hoping to follow channel rules but I've been watching the local jellyfish population explode recently and am getting more worried about handling 8-10 hrs of constant stings - nothing like lions manes, box or man-o-wars, and maybe just uncomfortable but not debilitating... I've had many stings during training but not yet on my face. Safesea doesn't seem to last too long - maybe mixed with Vaseline etc.? Can I wear a nylon/lycra/spandex skin suit within channel rules? I've not used it in practice, will it cause more chafe than the possible protection it may afford? I'm disinclined - more of a traditionalist, but I do find myself adjusting my stroke trying to avoid jellies and would rather not be thinking about them so much. Any reliable links for science about them that could help me lessen their impact?

I've been working on my shark issues. I know that I'm not in an area prone to attacks but there are many species present including hammerhead & great white. I tell myself that statistics are in my favor but have moments of weakness when I worry. As I train in the area of the swim (mostly following the shoreline) I don't really focus on the worries. I have more worries about crossing the channel - rational or irrational. For peace of mind - its been recommended that I look into a electrode emitting shark deterrent gizmo. Does anyone have one on the east coast who'd want to loan or rent one? It seems silly to purchase one for one day and I don't want to have to make the outlay - I've been very frugal with my plans to maximize the earnings for my cause.

I have read that its not advisable to fill my escort boat with friends and family without a detached, experienced swimmer/coach/observer-type. Unfortunately, my swim coincides with the Surf Ski Nationals so Jason Malick (THANKS for all of your support and help so far!!) won't be available to join me... Is there anyone in the mid atlantic area on the 3rd who might be tempted to join me and provide unbiased expertise during the swim? I'd be extremely grateful and happy to return the favor once I have the experience under my belt!

If I'm successful and stick by all the rules, is there something I have to do in advance to ensure that my swim can be 'certified'? First Delaware Bay crossing DE to NJ. (And who should I be in communication with about 'certification' if at all.)

These are the issues keeping me up at night... I'd be happy to field questions or advice on other things that you think I might be neglecting. Thanks!!



  • Kevin_in_MDKevin_in_MD Senior Member
    Get in touch with Ray Peden of Rehoboth Beach Patrol, he was on the crew of the last person to swim the bay. English Channel veteran as well.
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    Meghan, I'd love to be on your boat and help, but I don't know if I can due to work ethics restrictions. I'll ask. Drop me an email if you can - first initial / last name at gmail dot com.

    Sarah Watson
  • megrenmegren Member
    Thanks Kevin - I spoke with Paul Timmons (the man who swam from NJ to DE in 2006 with Ray onboard) and he mentioned that Ray was particularly concerned about sharks...Actually he's why my worries amped up... I was a little afraid to talk to someone who was going to make me even more nervous since I'm committed to not having weapons onboard (his recommendation) and probably won't find a shark deterrent device... I know he'll have lots to offer, I guess I should look him up anyway - though lately I've been trying to avoid conversations with the S word included...

    And thanks, Sarah, I'll send you an email...
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    @megren -

    If you had more lead-up time I would suggest that you desensitize to the men in the grey suits by entering some of the 1 mile swims at the Jersey shore. After a few of these where nothing happens, you won't think about it as much.

    That said, keep in mind that you are vastly more likely to be killed in a car accident driving to the start of the swim, so keep your mind off the men in grey suits and on the road when you are driving there. You will be fine.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • megrenmegren Member
    Thanks Leonard, I've actually done lots of ocean swims and, this may not be rational, but I long ago got past any thoughts of the men in grey suits in the Atlantic while hugging the coast. Growing up in Stone Harbor, I'm well desensitized to the surf and the ICW... Its the 40-50 ft deep shipping channel in the 13 mile expanse between the shores that gets my imagination going - it doesn't help when my neighbors on the Delaware Bay start bragging about all of the sharks that they've caught there; and the marine scientist who I went to in order to allay my fears instead added to the list of species that I knew hung out there... And my analytical mind in the dark hours before dawn says, 'of course there aren't any known shark attacks in Delaware Bay - no one swims there!'

    All that said, I jumped off a boat on the edge of the channel yesterday and did a practice swim to Fortescue and didn't really think much about it. (too busy dodging jellies!)

    My next question is, if vinegar doesn't relieve the sting of multiple jelly encounters on top of each other, is there a product that brings relief? And I've read about people getting desensitized to jellies and I've heard of people getting more sensitive from previous stings. It can't be both, right? Which is it?

    Thanks everyone! One week to go...
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    @Megren -

    Try meat tenderizer with papin (an enzyme in pappya (sp?) that breaks down proteins) as a way to deactivate jellyfish stings.

    With regard to sensitizing/desensitizing, it's probably no different than other toxins - some people will go one way and some people the other. I have a friend who breathed in the fumes of burning poison ivy - it nearly killed him, but now he can practically eat the stuff with no effects. I know another person who fell in it and now is hypersensitive.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • megrenmegren Member
    Thanks, Leonard, I'll see if I can find papin in a few days... (Maybe just use papaya juice with meat tenderizer if I can't find it?).
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    megren wrote:
    Thanks, Leonard, I'll see if I can find papin in a few days... (Maybe just use papaya juice with meat tenderizer if I can't find it?).

    I meant that you should find a meat tenderizer that already contains papin. I believe most do.

    Sorry for the confusion.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    The jellyfish questions are interesting (to me anyway).
    is there a product that brings relief? And I've read about people getting desensitized to jellies and I've heard of people getting more sensitive from previous stings. It can't be both, right? Which is it?
    Yes, and no, and yes and no!

    Luckily salt water is the best treatment, so I'd to take this opportunity to thank our gelatinous globular friends for staying in it.

    For ordinary stings, I find the initial stings abate within 10 minutes, so long as I'm still swimming. Outside the water really hot showers help, and it's recommended that you scrape the area with something with a hard straight edge like a knife or credit card to remove unfired nematocysts. Facial and hand stings are the most uncomfortable because we have more nerves there. I got an all-over "full facial" a couple weeks back that seemed fine until I got out of the water a couple of hours later, then once I was dry it got quite sore for about 6 more hours, and felt like bad sunburn on my face. Uncomfortable and sore but not out-and-out painful as such.

    I haven't detected any change in my sensitivity one way or the other, I love looking at jellies and most times stings only are a minor irritation. (I especially love swimming through large blooms of harmless Moon jellies and never seem to have a camera with me when it happens).

    Best of luck on your swim!


  • PmbPmb Member
    Does that mean that you are just swimming through large blooms of Lion's Manes as well loneswimmer? Because I must admit that even though I don't mind a few stings I am not a masochist; if it just goes on and on I get up...
  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    Meghan started at 7:04 a.m. and is making very good progress. You can watch her tracker here: http://boatbeaconapp.com/go/913031041

    Lots of media coverage of her swim, including the Washington Post and Philly Inquirer.
  • malinakamalinaka Seattle, WACharter Member
    Meghan Wren is closing in on Fortescue, NJ after 8 hours in the water.

    Twitter @ SWIMDelawareBay and @ Megren


    I don't wear a wetsuit; it gives the ocean a sporting chance.

  • rosemarymintrosemarymint Charleston, SCCharter Member
    She just finished about 10 minutes ago. Amazing swim, @megren! Can't wait to hear all about it!
  • molly1205molly1205 Lincoln, NebraskaSenior Member
    Great job, @megren! Let us know how it went.

    Molly Nance, Lincoln, Nebraska

  • No sharks, Niek! :-) (I can even say the word, now, Leonard!)

    And I didn't even find myself thinking about them! Matter of fact, I was too in the moment to think about much of anything other than what was happening around me. A great day on the Bay!

    Thanks so much to everyone on the forum for great advice, I spent lots of time reading past threads and gleaning what I could from all your years of experience.

    The jellyfish could have been worse, the one that plastered itself on my back during a feed, where I hadn't slathered in channel grease, was the most painful - still no stings on the face (from jellyfish). (But an unidentified sting/prick on the cheek - I'm told it may have been a dinaflagellate?) I think time is still what works best on the stings for me...

    I had a great support team including last minute addition of Jeff Wildonger paddling for me. (He also paddled for Lelanie when she crossed the Delaware in 2011, and for Jason last week when he did Absecon Island).

    My swim was a bigger production than many, two local fire companies ended up sending boats for some or all of the swim and there ended up being three headboats with spectators as I neared the beach and a flotilla of kayakers (as planned)... But then the reason for the swim was to call attention to the value and vulnerability of the Delaware Bay, and I think the 'production' aspect of it helped to do that. So my apologies if it seemed a bit circus-like, but I followed Channel Rules!!

    My navigator (my husband Jesse Briggs) did a great job of retooling my course so that I landed at the exact spot on the beach where we'd planned - as you know, no small feat! I was lucky to have him, and the rest of my team!

    I hope to put a more coherent report together soon, but I've got a grant application that's about to be overdue if I'm not careful... life goes on!

    Thanks so much for all your support on the forum - my initiation into marathon swimming was made much easier by having access to all of your wisdom! I'm already scheming my next swim...

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