Lori King - Block Island to Montauk
Block Island to Montauk
22.5 km (14.0 miles)
8 hours, 39 minutes on 3 August 2022
Observed and documented by Marcie Honerkamp
- Name: Lori King
- Gender: female
- Age on swim date: 47
- Nationality: United States
- Resides: Rockville Centre, New York
Qualifications: Masters swimmer, Bermuda Round-the-Sound 10K swims.
- Category: Solo, nonstop, unassisted.
- Rules: MSF Rules of Marathon Swimming, without exception or modification.
- Equipment used: Textile swimsuit (Arena Superfly maxlife), cap, goggles.
Started from the Southwest Corner of Block Island headed Southwest out to the Atlantic then turned North back towards Camp Hero and the lighthouse to the finish.
- Body of Water: Block Island Sound, Atlantic Ocean
- Route Type: one-way channel swim
- Start Location: SE corner of Block Island (41.163381, -71.610905)
- Finish Location: Camp Hero State Park, Montauk (41.056871, -71.871241)
- Minimum Route Distance: 22.5 km (14.0 miles) (map)
To our knowledge this route in the direction we started has never been attempted or completed. Montauk to Block was attempted (in the sound-side) but not completed.
- Start: 3 August 2022, 06:58:35 (Eastern Daylight Time, America/New_York, UTC-4).
- Finish: 3 August 2022, 15:29:20
- Elapsed: 8 hours, 39 minutes, 45 seconds.
Summary of Conditions
|Water Temp (F)||68||73|
|Air Temp (F)||73||97|
Trackpoint frequency: 20 minutes. Download raw data (CSV).
I fed completely on carbo pro mixed with a custom blend from Infinity that mimics the hydra C5 Carbopro used to make.
Mustard packets at the end.
Pickle Juice at the very end.
Inspiration for the Swim
My friend Amanda Fenner, in 2008, wanted to do this swim. When I met her in 2012 for her to kayak me around Key West she told me about it. I told her when she was ready to do the swim, I would love to crew for her. Through the years it would come up and then the years would pass. In the early winter/spring of 2021 I brought it up to her and asked what she thought about attempting it. She said she thought it was a great idea and she would kayak not swim though. We decided the next year (2022) would be the year as it would be farther away from COVID. She had already done some planning around this from time to time throughout the years, spoken to many fishermen etc. This was special for both of us for so many reasons. Amanda is a part of the community out in Montauk living there for many years and raising her daughter out there. I started spending summers out there and my kids have been raised on the beaches out here since they were born. It was the first place I started open water swimming and my first race was the Montauk Swim Challenge.
We began planning the summer of 2021 just talking things through. We officially kicked off discussions through e-mails in late October (2021) and began planning and having monthly than bi-weekly zooms until the swim date.
I really wanted to go Block Island to Montauk so I could swim home. There is a paddle board event every year from Montauk to Block and that is the recommended way to go due to the wind. We explored Montauk to Block, what I would need to hit (time-wise) at certain points to not get sucked out by the crazy currents and time it would take and where I would land. Then we brought in Rondi Davies to actually compare modeling with that of Amanda’s route plan. Rondi began looking and creating power point slides for different days and different directions and where I would be at different times throughout the swim and expected finish times. Dan Farhnam also started joining the calls. We knew that if wind was reasonable we could have a good go of it from Block to Montauk but we would have to go out over the shelf into the Atlantic Ocean and where there is high fish activity. After months of back and forth and Rondi consulting with Andrew Malinak in Seattle, we decided on the route that would take us into the Atlantic…a bit riskier but a more consistent current at certain times. Rondi knew I really wanted to go that way and found a way and a day that allowed us to do it.
Originally we planned to leave the end of July but due to the water temp taking time to warm up and me just coming off of a warm water swim (ka’iwi channel) in addition to the time that I would have to start (3:00 AM) with a very active sea life year, we decided to postpone to a week later to give water temps time to rise a bit and also to start in the morning once the sun came up.
Start time was set for 7:00 AM from the Southwest corner of Block Island. We set out from Montauk at approximately 5:20 AM and were in Block Island by 6:30/6:40 AM. The boat got as close as it could to the beach and I jumped in, swam in, cleared the high water line and then started at 6:58 AM on August 3rd, 2022. The beach was rocky but I was able to crawl out and clear the high water mark.
General Overview, unanticipated problems
We really did not face any issues that we had not explored and came up with including a swimmer and paddler evacuation/emergency scenario. For the Crew, the wind and sea life were big worries. For me, I worried about the water temperature and a bit about the sharks, mainly great whites. I tried to wear a suit that I felt would not attract anything - black and white but little contrast and a broken up pattern of skulls which I also wore for Ka’iwi so it I felt it was a good sign. I wore no nail polish and black toe nail polish. No earrings or rings or jewelry of any kind. The brightest thing on me was my pink cap.
Overall we were incredibly lucky. We had a rolling swell which was not great for my crew or paddlers but for me it was fine. The start of the swim was so incredibly smooth. I felt the water moving and I could not believe that we were finally at the moment where we were doing this swim. We had talked about it for so long but I knew, now that I had years of experience with other swims and just coming off the Ka’iwi channel, that I was ready. 2 crew members were seasick to the point that they were throwing up. Everyone else, to my knowledge, was fine.
The wind is always blowing out there mainly towards Block and we prepared it was going to be against us. Conditions can be nasty and currents very tricky. I was ready for a fight with the conditions and dealing with the wind. Looking at the modeling I knew we would have a cross current and I always get seasick with that so I prepared for that and chop from the wind coming at us. The week before the swim, the conditions were so bad from shore that people really were not going in the ocean.
We ended up having to go 7 miles out into the Atlantic to try and catch a consistent current that was moving in the direction of Montauk and avoid messy current in the middle. The water was doing things different than the predicted modeling and Rondi Davies was on the phone with the boat pilot and Janine Serell giving coordinates as we moved. She played a key role in not only the route but also the success of the swim. Without her, it could have gone very differently. There was also supposed to be a strong current wiping us around the point to the light house for the finish but that current was not there. All in all it was about 23.9 mile swim.
Sea temps were also taking a long time to warm up. It started to rise from 65 when we were out the first 2 weeks in July but felt uncomfortable going in for dips. Then they would rise a bit and the weekend before the swim, the temp dropped several degrees. I was terribly discouraged but mentally preparing myself.
Rich an air traffic controller, who happens to be Amanda’s husband, was our weather expert on the boat. He was monitoring water and wind temps with a high-tech device and comparing them to the markers they have on the water. It was interesting to speak with him about the discrepancies the water marker measurements had against each other and his instrument. We think that the markers that are in the water do not have the same depth readers depending on where they are coming from i.e. NOAA vs. Local.
When I first began, I had that chill feeling that you get on your skin before you really get started but then warmed up quickly and I felt great. The water temp around 68 was lovely. I just did not want to let anyone down with something I could control like getting cold. I was having trouble putting on weight after Ka’iwi but I knew had to handle myself in cooler water and mentally what I needed to do.
The problem with this swim, for me, was the upwelling that was happening and my log does not reflect the drastic changes in temperature that I was experiencing. I have done prolonged swims in 63 and lower. The surface temp was nice but only from my wrist down to my fingertips. The pockets of cool water that would push up combined with the surface temp being warm were very uncomfortable. This constant surging happened throughout the swim. I believe that is why I ended up cramping in my hips so badly (my right, to the point I stopped kicking) and Amanda noticed right away. I would tense up when the cold surges came and over several hours of that, the cramping began. They started feeding me mustard packets (a trick Janine uses) and towards the end, pickle juice in a water bottle.
I took my first feed and I looked up and there were just smiles from everyone. I asked the ladies if they were all good. Everyone gave a yes and a smile. What I did not find out until after the swim was that Sinead, the rock star that she is, was puking. Sinead was seasick the entire time, never dropping formation or getting out. She continued to paddle through that to keep me safe!
The crew ended up in a diamond formation. I was on Amanda and Sierra’s starboard side and Sinead was on the other side of me. At times she seemed pretty far off but I now know it was when she would have to throw up. The Montauk pearl was in front of us with Janine on the phone with Rondi who was calling in coordinates since we had to adjust our course due to the currents not doing as expected. The Stella III fluctuated between Sierra and Amanda’s Port side and behind us.
At one point I saw Amanda shake my feed bottle and I knew a feed was coming but then it never happened. When you are swimming you long for that Kayaker to hold up that feed. The crew told me after the swim that at this point, the great white was spotted. The Stella III and Montauk Pearl got close to each other forming a wall between us and the White. The crew had to make several decisions that day as we had encountered at least 3 sharks. My observer told me later there were some breath-holding moments. She also remembered how devastated I was after getting pulled 3 miles from the finish at Tampa Bay for the Bull Sharks so she was trying to remain calm in any decisions they would make. The expertise of the boat pilots, having Tim on to watch me and his experience with the waters out there, Janine on the boat who had experienced an attack crewing for another swim and crewed for me in the past and the rest of the crew who all are intimate with the waters in Montauk allowed for quick response and smooth recovery when these events occurred. I knew stuff was happening but I had no idea, to what extent, until I was out of the water. The water was beautiful but it is murky and my biggest concern was the Whites. I was ok with the other sharks, even if I got bit, but not the Whites.
Other Sea Life:
Moon jellies, salps, sea worms, and some other organisms were present throughout the swim. The salps are annoying to swim through, not because they hurt but because it feels weird. I had no stings from Jellies. A large pod of dolphins, with babies, was swimming with us. I did not see them but I could hear them underwater and it was beautiful to hear because there were different high pitches going on as if they were speaking to each other. There was also a whale with us and I swam through a school of mackerel that were jumping over us, I was told. I actually saw something and thought it was a really low-flying bird!
Amanda’s Daughter Sierra kayaked with Amanda in a 2 person kayak. I have known Sierra since she was 8 years old. She has been taught by Amanda and has formal training in survival and rescue. She is only 18 years old but was involved in the planning and executing of this event and her thoughtful insight and contribution to knowledge of the waters around Montauk just amazed me. At the end, she jumped off the kayak and swam in with me doing tarzan since she did not have a cap and goggles and I do not think she was planning on jumping in but the significance of the event and her sharing the experience of coming in with me all the way after kayaking for me for 8 plus hours was an opportunity she (nor her mom) wanted her to miss.
Amanda made many decisions over the months for this swim. One decision she made is that she wanted a cinematographer on board. I admitted to Drew (the cinematographer) last night at dinner that Amanda and I had a back and forth about him. It is not my style to talk about or celebrate a swim before it happens and certainly not to hire anybody to capture anything. I didn’t want the press or people to know about this because anything can happen to derail a swim no matter how much experience you have or how many swims you do or what distance. Every swim is a reset for me and I treat each as if it is my very first and I get just as nervous. I was already feeling pressure to make sure I finished this swim since it was in our backyard and with people that have swam with me and celebrated my successes throughout the years. Well, Amanda simply said: “I just feel like, if we don’t have him, we will regret it.” Drew captured the entire swim through pictures, video, and drone footage all while also being seasick at times. He captured it all, sharks, dolphins whales. I have already seen some of what he has done and it would have been a loss if he was not with us.
Click to enlarge.