DNOWS Header

Image Map

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tales By Bales

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Peter Bales, one of the founding members of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association (CLDSA), is one of those legends of the sport whose personality, energy and dedication have been greatly appreciated by generations of swimmers.

The 73-year-old dynamo was reminiscing with Theodore Yach about early days of piloting swimmers in the Cape [of South Africa]. Here follows are some of his reminisces:

In the 1970s, open water swimming was in its infancy. There were no regular pilots and those who occasionally did the job were fishermen who had no idea of a swimmer's requirements. Weather reports were bad, GPS and and cell phones were a thing of the future and even water temperatures were seldom checked. Most boatmen weren't available when needed, so I decided to start piloting myself as I knew the swimming side and exactly how the swimmers felt and what they needed.

Having acquired an extremely small and unseaworthy dinghy with a 5HP engine, my co-pilot, swimmer and helper Hugh Tucker and I were for many years the main pilots for Robben Island and Simonstown-Muizenberg swims. That we avoided disaster in Benzol, as the boat was called and in later years Angel which was a slightly larger model was more due to luck rather than good seamanship.

Some interesting and amusing anecdotes come to mind, such as once being rescued off Robben Island by a trawler.

Two well-known Cape Town swimmers Ian and Alistair Cameron-Strange were attempting to break the Island to Woodstock beach record, a 13 km swim. I was alone in Benzol when 5 km from the Island, we were hit by a gale force South Easter wind. The swimmers were pulled from the water, but a huge chop meant we were taking water over the bows faster than we could bail it out. The only solution was to turn and head back to the Island with the wind behind us. At that moment, a Portugese trawler was sighted and after a lot of frantic waving of clothing, they stopped, took us aboard and hitched Benzol on behind. Twenty minutes later we were dropped off at Woodstock Beach.

Unusual circumstances also forced us to abort a Simonstown-Muizenberg crossing. Bill Currer was only 1 km into the swim when a naval patrol boat ordered us to get the swimmer out of the water. When we refused, they got extremely nasty and explained that the President was out on a minesweeper and a swimmer was a threat to his security. Our offer to let them check for a limpet mine in Bill's Speedo was not accepted. We were warned if we did not remove the swimmer from the water they would. Some you win and some you lose.

On my first Simonstown-Muizenberg swim with Dennis Pearson, his sons acted as boatmen and observers. After finishing the swim in heavy surf, we watched in horror as the boat - which had run out of petrol - was pounded by waves, then sunk. With the help of trek fishermen and some surfers, we salvaged everything, but it was not an ideal way to end a swim.

A few years back Barry Cutler and I faced an unusual problem with a Canadian woman who had aborted her Robben Island attempt because of cold and exhaustion. She was a very large lady and very weak with exhaustion. Barry and I both have back problems and pulling her into the boat wasn’t working as she kept hooking on the handles of the inflatable. Alternatives like dragging her to Blouberg[strand Beach] on a rope did not sound good for someone with hypothermia, so we had one last heave and landed her top.

Understanding what is going on in a swimmer's mind is essential for a pilot. Sometimes its elation; sometimes desperation. So there are times to be nice and times to be nasty, but at the finish, there is a great feeling of having helped a swimmer to achieve something very important to them.

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

A Thank You Gift from WOWSA

WOWSA is celebrating the
1-Year Anniversary of the monthly Open Water Swimming Magazine
by giving you a free copy of the anniversary issue.

Open Water Swimming Magazine Anniversary Issue
File Size: 13MB


Download the file to your computer, and then right-click to extract the magazine which is inside the zip folder. The magazine is in PDF format.

CLICK HERE to download your free copy now.

Open Water Swimming Magazine

Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...

The Other Shore

The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.

2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac

An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:

The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.


Open Water Swimming Event Sanctioning

World Professional Marathon Swimming Federation

Open Water Race Calendar

Coaches Education Program