Return to the Black Velvet Under Bright Planets

Return to the Black Velvet Under Bright Planets

Courtesy of Hank Wise, Santa Catalina Island, California.

2-time solo Catalina Channel swimmer Hank Wise reflects on tonight’s third channel attempt:

It’s with continued curiosity, authenticity, and deep gratitude that I swim this Catalina Channel crossing. This will be my third swim across this 20-mile stretch, out in front. I leave at approximately midnight [tonight] from Doctor’s Cove in Catalina with destination just south of Point Vicente Lighthouse in Palos Verdes.

What will it be like to swim 20 miles when the water is 72°F (22°C)? It’s by far the warmest I’ve every experienced. The ocean is retaining its warmth this year in a big way – what a warm and unforgettable, phenomenal El Niño year.

In 2010, my first crossing (Catalina to mainland; photos shown above) the water temperature was a pleasant 66°F. In June 2015, my second crossing (mainland to Catalina) the water temp was about 68°F. I remember a similar summer when I was a child, 9 years old, playing in and out of the water in Laguna Beach, the water and sunshine were both exceptionally warm and welcoming. I just love these warm and endless summers.

The black velvet of night swimming is even more appealing when its this warm. I feel so grateful to have a warm ocean in which to swim ~ what a treat.

What will it be like to look up from the ocean to the night sky and see bright Venus with Jupiter below and barely visible, red planet Mars, all nearly lined up in the pre-dawn sky? For the next two nights, these three planets will be in their closest configuration. Venus is mega bright [in the early morning]. Jupiter seems to be like a bright diamond, hanging off of Venus’ neck, and Mars, significantly less visible and deep red, sits quietly below these two shiny planets.

It may even be a clear night tonight…connecting to the ocean and admiring the planets ~ connecting to the cosmos on an adventurous night of ocean swimming ~ wow ~ its like a romance novel with Mother Ocean as my seductress.

The fury of the ocean and sky are descending on Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, Mexico, and yet we have relatively calm seas here. I feel for the families and businesses that are enduring this Category 5 Hurricane, Patrícia. The ocean’s moods and power are bigger than life, at times dwarfing humanity and our constructs.

Tonight, however, closer to home here, the Catalina Channel is predicted to be rather calm, light winds, and a tidal push from about 2 to 8 am. I am so grateful and humbled by this luck of the draw. I intend to honor this moment of good luck by putting forth my best effort, staying focused and in the moment, being intent and aware of the task at hand, and being patient and kind to myself and those on my support team.

I am grateful to have had this journey so far and look forward to tonight’s swim with a sense of purpose, calm, and the warm, inner-bubble of excitement. Its an amazing opportunity to strip down to just a bathing suit, a cap and goggles and swim 20 miles in our beautiful ocean, supported by friends and family and give it go.

Huge thank you to my support team and brother Greg. In this moment of focus, gratitude and performance, I am poised to embrace and accept the outcome, the time, the result from this adventure swim ~ its an adventure after all, first and foremost.

I was inspired for this swim by a fellow Catalina Channel swimmer, Penny Lee Dean, way back when I was just 12 or 13 years old and its been growing in me ever since. I wonder what positive ripple effects might come from these swims I enjoy so much. Only time will tell who or what this might inspire.

The arrival will be just south of the Pt. Vicente Lighthouse on some big, soft, lava rocks in the middle of the bay. There is a parking lot and walking trail down in this area.

On board the support boat tonight we have four local Long Beach watermen, my ever-loving brother and sweet Dan from La Jolla. Dan Simonelli is our head observer from the Catalina Channel Swim Federation. I’ve spent some quality time with Dan at an open water swim camp in Catalina about a year ago, where we were roommates and became buddies. Dan will also be running the tracking device which some of you may be following tonight.

Chris Geer is a family man, local business owner (Urban Americana), and 3-time Catalina Channel swimmer. Chris will be on board as the second observer for the Catalina Channel Swim Federation. Chris and I share a passion for the open water swim thing. He observed my swim early this year in June and its helpful to have a local friend who is so experienced in this realm.

Peter Joseph is a dear friend and is currently assisting me with the Rocket Fish Swim Team at the Belmont Plaza. Peter is a businessman, surfer, swimmer, and former owner of the Big Red Bus Company and has a deep interest in distance events such as scaling mountains and six-hour run-swim-runs: He co-pioneered “The Big Richard” with fellow waterman and swim coach, Matty Mitchell. He embraces life and peaceful living to the fullest. Peter will be assisting with feedings, quiet strength, and paddling.

Raquel Dakota Bartlow, daughter of vivacious world champ surfing legend Jericho Popplar Bartlow, seemed destined to be the vibrant, bigger-than-life, surfer, traveller, platform board diver, actress, yoga-teacher that she is today. After graduating from University of Hawaii two years ago, she has been living the dream and surfing around the world. She recently has been on display in a show on Bravo TV called “Below Deck”. Raquel will be assisting in feedings, cheerleading and paddling tonight.

Tom Gallagher, locally known as a paddle legend and chiropractor, is the most experienced paddler in Long Beach. He has paddled the Catalina Channel many times, prone, surf-ski and stand-up-paddle. Tom will be our master paddler tonight.

Brother Greg Wise is the captain and my big brother, Greg, draws a straight and steady line when it comes to events like this. He drove a very straight line in October 2010 on my first Catalina swim where I ended with a time of 8 hours 7 minutes. In October 2011 he guided our relay team (Lexie Kelly, Lyle Nalli, Matty Mitchell, Parks Wesson, Ted Bramble and me) to an all-time, fastest-ever relay record across the channel 6:53. Greg is older than me by 13 years and as such has shown me many cool things in life

Wise’s tracking device link is here.

Copyright © 2015 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones