One woman's wild swimming adventures in the west country

Weekend Mortality and the 7-day NHS

Nothing to do with swimming, but absolutely vital for all of us in England and Wales.

Weekend Mortality and the 7-day NHS.

Drowning Prevention in Accra – Help Needed

This is a reblog from my American virtual swimming friend Shawn. I’m sure I know someone who might be able to help Kabutey Emmanuel McCain in his heroic attempts to prevent large numbers of drownings through teach swimming and life support in Accra, Ghana. If you reply on here, I’ll pass any messages on to Shawn. Thank you!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ask, tell

My Mitty-esque idea for helping a cause.

Now for something completely different:

In which, rather than blather about questionable conduct in my own life, I ask you for advice about an important part of someone else’s life.

I need your expertise – experience with similar problems and solutions, resources I can look into, alternate solutions I don’t even know about.

Here’s the story:

One fallout from facebook™® and its best page ever, “Did you swim today?” (about which I’ve blathered ad nauseam) is meeting people reaching out for this and that need.

One person I’ve met this way is Kabutey Emmanuel McCain. He lives in Accra, the capital of Ghana in West Africa, along the Gulf of Guinea.

He swims, but mostly he teaches people how to swim.

Inability to swim is epidemic in Ghana, I’ve come to learn, where people move by water to get places — along the coast, across lagoons, up and down rivers.

Drowning is a big problem during normal times, Kabutey says, and goes underreported in his country because of burdensome requirements to get official help.

These aren’t normal times — Accra is recovering from last month’s massive flooding in which more people drowned and scores died when a gas station exploded where people had taken shelter from the rains. It’s one of those tragedies we don’t hear much about in the West.

Kabutey is trying to help people swim, and teach them to rescue others, normal times or no.

Someday, he says, he’d like to run swim-and-rescue programs throughout Accra and beyond its borders. Right now, he and some friends work in their neighborhood, using the community pool or a friend’s pool when the weather permits, teaching the neighborhood children.

His is a shoestring operation on a broken shoestring budget. He would like to get some cardiopulmonary resuscitation mannequins to teach lifesaving skills … transportation money to get him and his team around Accra … and means of publicizing his programs.

I met Kabutey through facebook®™ when he was asking individual DYSTers (what swimmers on the page call themselves) for help.

Some sent some. I learned how cumbersome it is to send even a few items and a bit of money from California to Ghana. Though the bit of money reached Accra fairly quickly, the items took weeks and weeks.

This method of sporadic and individual giving was not going to help anyone accomplish anything, I realized – neither Kabutey his goal nor his donors goodwill.

Kabutey needs another way to go about this. Namely, he needs

  • another resource that’s more dependable than a small random hodgepodge of people, or
  • a wider audience


  • he needs to be able to manage fundraising on his own

So now he’s trying crowdsourcing. I don’t know much about crowdsourcing, except that it’s a way for a lot of people to give a little in a fairly convenient manner, the little adding up to a substantial sum to help people solve problems just like Kabutey’s.

He could manage and monitor it, having access to a computer and social media.

I’ve offered what I can, which amounts to writing copy and maybe supplying graphics for the cause, including the logo above, which Kabutey did not ask for. I live in my own world of imagination, but even there, my pockets aren’t deep.

He’s trying crowdrise.com, created in part by actor Edward Norton. It seems like a good fit.

But crowdrise.com requires that he have a U.S. bank account, meaning someone else would have to manage fundraising operations for Kabutey, rather than him managing on his own.

He can’t post any information about his needs on crowdrise until he secures a U.S. destination for the money.

We’re back to where this started. I’m uneasy, frankly, about setting up an account for this purpose, because I don’t know the ramifications, the pros and cons.

So I need your advice and suggestions, people and resources I can consult:

  • Have you ever set up an account for a similar person, or know someone who did, who can tell me the perils and pitfalls?
    • Is there a way to set up a third-party account?
  • What are some other means he can use to meet his needs such as:
    • Grants
    • Existing funding sources in Ghana or Africa
      • Sources that serve Africa specifically
      • Sources that serve swim instruction, lifesaving and drowning prevention specifically
  • What ideas do you have about helping serve Kabutey’s needs that I don’t even know about (my ignorance being epic)?

I welcome any and all ideas and resources I can pursue, and thank you for your consideration.

Right now it feels intractable, but my gut tells me it isn’t.

Just Add Water

A brand new, free, online wild swimming magazine. A couple of pieces written by yours truly.

Are Wild Swimmers Jeopardising Dartmoor’s Natural beauty?


Interesting piece. It’s not ‘wild swimmers’ at fault – we tend to be the ones who pick up litter. See Sophie Pierce’s Twitter campaign #quickpick

Originally posted on Wild Swimming News:

The Western Morning News reports:

“Tourists’ Antisocial Behaviour is Jeopardising Dartmoor’s Beauty”

We need visitors but they’re not necessarily good for the environment, writes Martin Hesp…

An example lies on the desk before me on the cover of a quarterly publication called Dartmoor Matters, which is the mouthpiece of the Dartmoor Preservation Association (DPA). The head-line asks: “Is Dartmoor too popular for its own good?”

The publication’s editor, Fiona Senior, writes: “This is a strange question for the DPA to be asking, given that one of our objectives is the protection and preservation of public access to and on Dartmoor. Sometimes, however, there is a downside…” …like fly-tipping, fires and barbecues, abandoned vehicles (many burned out), off-road driving, livestock worrying by dogs, and so on…

The rangers say that £20,000 a year is spent by the national park authority in disposing of the litter, a figure that does not include…

View original 538 more words

The Recovery Position


The fabulous Nancy Farmer’s take on winter swimming. Spot on!

Originally posted on Cat-of-the-Day:

This is the recovery position for winter swimmers, not for drunk people. Though addled brains, an inability to speak in long sentences and a tendency to throw your drink all over the place are common to both conditions. You probably haven’t known shivering until you have known winter swimming, And still I persist in finding it strangely amusing.

The Winter Swimmer's Recovery Position The Winter Swimmer’s Recovery Position

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Welcombe Mouth





Honey and I are in North Devon today on a work-related visit, and take the opportunity to return to one of our favourite beaches. Welcome Mouth is a part of that wonderful area of cliff on the North Devon/Cornwall borders where the earth’s crust has been pushed and snapped into points that rise up to 400 feet above the Atlantic. In dramatic terms, Welcombe plays Emmerdale to Hartland’s Wolf Hall. Here, there’s simply a fifty-to-one hundred foot cliff and a miniature waterfall whose spread and style hints at its ambition to be Speake’s Mill. The Atlantic breakers have crashed into these cliffs over millennia to erode fingers of rock that cleave the sand at 45 degrees and claw out to sea.

Mini Waterfall

Mini Waterfall

Drifts of pebbles form waves around the cliffs; smooth gulls’ eggs ringed with quartz, in a soft grey that must be made by Farrow and Ball.

It’s almost low tide, and there’s a fair swell and a drizzle that might be spray from the waves crashing along the reefs. The sea is opaque and tinted rich-tea-biscuit. We trot up the narrow sandy tongue to be splatted almost at once by excitable foaming water, marbled, crashing and sucking. It’s not too cold. I’m tempted to head beyond the break, but the backwash is hideously strong and I’m afraid that Honey, who’s nearby, will get caught and pulled into the break zone. Crazy diagonal waves jaywalk back out, so I don’t spend long with my feet off the ground.

A dog walker tells me she swims from May to October, and that the sand is only recently returning after the huge storms of 14 months ago, grouting the gaps between reef fingers.

Honey Engulfed

Honey Engulfed

East Okement and Taw

Sophie swims the gully, E Okement

Sophie swims the gully, E Okement

Sophie’s walk on a gorgeous but cold day, taking in a few hot swimming spots. We start in the East Okement, being wholly unable to resist the top waterfalls. Clear water with a turquoise tint, and sun-spots the colour of barley sugar. The water’s very, very cold. The dogs are ecstatic, bounding between river and rock and leaf mould, panting, steaming and snuffling.

E Okement Falls

E Okement Falls

Someone finds an eviscerated Tawny Owl, which Rachel slings in a bin liner for later examination. It swings sadly in its makeshift body bag beneath her rucksack as she walks up the cleave towards Nine Maidens. There we play around with some gorse stump foraged by Kari and which resembles labia, rather appropriately for the stone circle that is most probably a paean to a moon goddess, perhaps Artemis or Hecate.

There’s a rather surreal twenty-first century army ambush occurring in the middle of the track where we’re heading, so we’re asked, very politely, to wander elsewhere. As we cross below Belstone Ridge all hell breaks loose, except there’s more smoke from Alex’s e-cigarette than from the grenade below.



Taw Marsh is stunning in the spring sunshine, weeds wafting green beneath the surface. We’re all thinking of the pre-Raphaelite Ophelia, and Kari decides to recreate Millais’ version with Linda and some bracken. Linda lies supine in the water playing dead, which at that temperature is no mean feat. As Rachel pushes her off and leaps out of the way for the picture, Lily and Fudge photo bomb before the hair floats downstream. Less Lizzie Siddall than Dartmoor Moses.

As we leave, we realise we’ve left Philippa, Linda’s ancient historian friend, behind… We call her with whistles and she returns, thrilled at the discovery of some black and glittery rock that she’s sure is a type of tin ore called cassiterite. This reminds me, as Anna has just pointed out, why it’s fun to walk and swim with such variegated people who together form a human encyclopaedia.

Dartmoor Ophelia with Dogs

Dartmoor Ophelia with Dogs

Hot Tub Swim from Argyll

Double Dart Double Dip

Helen Leaps

Helen Leaps

Sharrah today is middling in flow, fairly nippy and somewhat Harry Potter; as the clouds clear it’s bright and sunny, but still rain falls as if from space. Our new swimmer Lorna, friend of a friend, shows us all up by diving straight in off the pointy rock wearing only a swimsuit, gloves and boots. It takes me a good two minutes to get above the waist.

Lorna Dives In

Lorna Dives In

Waiting for Paddlers

Waiting for Paddlers

We stop at elephant rock for the kayakers to descend, a great view from close up, and chat to the two alongside while we wait. Then it’s a quick swoosh down the cascade, ice-cream neck, and out. Ten minutes is plenty as this is only my second skins swim of the year.

As ever, Honey manages to crash bodily into both Jackie’s and Helen’s biscuits, scoffing several with the speed and lack of finesse of an American eating competition winner.

On the walk back we divert to Black Rock where Lorna, Allan and Helen leap into bubbles and play around again. Allan strips half way and does a skinny circuit of the falls, bottom glowing like the moon through white foam, before slinking out.

Allan Walks on Water

Allan Walks on Water


Dahab Ninja Wipeout

Egyptian Ninja Wipeout

Trying to avoid getting wet...

Trying to avoid getting wet…

A last-minute call to dip at Mothecombe, and boy is it worth the trip. It’s mid-flood and surfy, the spectacular estuarine break is at its peak, and a strong, chilly wind cuts through our prematurely spring-like clothing. Rachel, Linda, Honey and I make our way to the shelter of the disused tidal pool. Honey thunders off after a tall dark and handsome flat coat retriever while the three of us change.


Failing to stay dry…

The rip drags at our legs as we teeter in, shivering, so we cross closer to the surfers and into the teeth of the wind. The water is muted turquoise and cold, but made icy by the wind chill. We contort into dance shapes to stay dry as we wade deeper; wild swimming oxymoronic behaviour if ever I saw it. Linda is resplendent in her Dahab souk hooded neoprene singlet, while Rachel is wearing a mini ra ra skirt and a purple flowered hat. As I float between Egyptian Ninja and Devon Cream Tea Lady a large wave breaks over my head, dousing the Dali dreamscape.

Devon Cream Tea Lady

Devon Cream Tea Lady

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