Guest Article: Quinton Nelson, North Channel Pilot

An enlightening and thought provoking look at the North Channel from our pilot Quinton Nelson with a forward from the legend that is Fergal Sommerville


I’ve only met Quinton Nelson twice. But since each time I spent a good 15 hours on his boat, the beautiful ex-RNLI boat, the Guy And Clare Hunter, I guess that counts for something.

I’ve been (mostly) fortunate enough over the past six years to have met quite a few pilots. Some of them belong to the largest marathon swimming organisations such the CS&PF or the CSA. Others were unaffiliated guides of swimmers on pioneering routes outside the ambit of existing organisations (those type of swims for which the Global Rules of Marathon Swimming were specifically written by The Marathon Swimmers Federation). Regardless of the waters, or their own personality, the country or the number of swimmers they’ve piloted, most share some recognisably similar characteristics.

They harbour (hah) a deep respect for the sea and knowledge of their local waters, a jaundiced view of land-lubber crews and the defining idiocy of swimmers who choose…

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Operations, rehabilitations and training


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Well, hello and happy New year to you all.

I realise it has been a while since my last blog but many things have occurred and I thought I would wait and tell all at once… here we go 🙂

In December I had a great swim week on the east coast followed by christmas and then the boxing day dip at Activities Away lake, Lincoln, and yes I was dressed as an elf! on the 29th I had shoulder surgery and I wanted to wait before I spoke to you again to see how it turned out.

I can say, the NHS were brilliant, I was in and out in a day. I had keyhole surgery for subacromial decompression, sounds terrible right? well they went in and shaved some bone and cut the long head of bicep as it was so inflamed the surgeon could not repair it…that explains the shoulder pain for the last 2 years then! I have given it 2 weeks  rest then decided I was going on a job anyway, I may have overestimated my ability to use my arm properly again so soon, but the relief is incredible and now both my shoulders are level.

It will be a couple of months before I can do front crawl again but I am currently at the coast for swim week. Yesterday (thursday) I threw Louise Stratford in to see how choppy the sea was as I didn`t want to get into trouble (get me being sensible!) Temperature was good but the rollers made it more sensible to just have breakfast.

Saturday I joined the Felixstowe swimscapers for a dip, the thermometer read 5.4 degrees, it was fabulous! they are such a great bunch of fun and dedicated swimmers who have embraced helping us with training.

This morning, monday the 19th Louise and I went for an 8am dip. The sea was flat calm, there was frost on the sand and the thermometer said 6 degrees….IT LIED!!!! we have now reached a point in training where it is always painful and will probably remain so for the next few months, hey ho! never mind, it is going to make 12-15 degrees seem like we are in the Bahamas 🙂

So, the shoulder is holding up well, I seem to have lost my ability to tolerate getting in without a serious case of tourettes and I cant wait to torture myself, Louise and maybe Sarah Taylor and Vicki Watson next month…heres hoping I can do front crawl next time and start preparing for the 2swim4life 24hour swim at Guildford lido which defeated me after 17miles in 2013 and is something I have a score to settle with!!

Watch this space

When Training Goes Bad


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you-have-to-fight-through-some-bad-daysI am a nurse, and I knew that I had a month of night shifts, so I had planned my swim training around them.  The plan was to go straight to the gym in the morning, allowing myself time to sleep and recover, as well as get in some quality training. However, as per life, not everything went to plan.

The first week started ok, getting to the gym by 07:30 just in time to see some of my fellow Trent dippers; but halfway through that week I got informed that I needed to attend some training at work, which meant that the following week I would be back on days.  This pattern followed me, and rather than working 15 nights over a month in blocks of 5, I worked 1 week of nights, 1 week of days, followed by 1 week of nights and another week of days.  I lost track of the date, day and what shift I was supposed to be on.  Training stopped, and most of the month was lost

Vicki & Andy at Felixstowe Beach

Vicki & Andy at Felixstowe Beach

My first proper day shift saw me start a new job role, a  promotion and  the additional pressures that brings.  But  I also got back  into the pool.  I had so missed it.  I didn’t  look at my  training plan, I just swam.  The following  week it was  Christmas, and I knew that I wouldn’t be  able to train as  much, so I used the week to get myself  back into the  water.  My husband joined me in the pool  as well, and we  enjoyed drinking coffee afterwards.

Boxing Day Dip 2014

Boxing Day Dip 2014, Caroline is a Christmas Elf

I have been able to get a couple of open water swims in,  a birthday dip, and with fellow team mates a sea swim at  Felixstowe with Louise, and the Boxing Day dip at  Activities Away with Caroline.

For at least the next three months I know that I will be working 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, rather than shift work, which means that I can follow my training plan with hopefully no disruptions.

My Training Plan includes before and after work sessions.  Swimming at least 4 times a week, 2 runs and flex, pole, kayak and turbo/ run brick session once a week.  I am also aiming to travel down to Felixstowe once a month for some sea swimming, and will be back swimming in the River Trent & at Activities Away in March

I know that training plans can’t be fixed in stone, and that I need to be adaptable.  And whilst I am used to training on my own, I was surprised about how much I really missed catching up in the changing room with my gym and swim buddies.  They may have different focuses, and we are of differing abilities, but we all have the common goal of pushing ourselves to our own personal limits, whilst having fun, and I am glad to be back!

Sarah Taylors first blog….Rivers, seas and shivers


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Making the most of the cold weather, I enjoyed 11 minutes in 4.4 degrees river water. The swim was lovely but the dressing afterwards was hindered by severe shakes. Planning a sea swim on Monday- will see if that’s any easier!

Sylvias’ Advent Blog


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It’s December 1st and we are now officially winter swimmers. Over the next few weeks I will be consuming copious amounts of chocolates, cakes and alcoholic beverages–not because it’s Christmas, well yes, but to lay down a nice layer of bioprene to keep me toasty warm in the ever decreasing sea temperatures. Last weekend I was swimming in a reservoir in Bolton and it was 7.5 degrees, took until Tuesday to start feeling my finger tips again. Ha Ha.
I swam today, my first advent swim of 2014. It was more being knocked over by waves than swimming but it keeps the acclimatisation going.
I’ve booked a 3 hour swim session with a coach on Sunday. I’m hoping to get her to reiterate what Adam Walker showed us, she’s done his swim camps so I’m expecting miracles! So watch this spot!!

Sylvia Bland 1

Sea 1 Caroline 0


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Well, here is my first ever blog

Swim week is complete and I would like to extend many thanks to the Felixstowe swimscapers for hosting me again.

Louise and I embraced early morning North sea swims with more alacrity towards the end than at the start of the week (something we are working on). Temperature was holding at about 10 degrees.

The sea state was calm for most of the week but with the wind and rain picking up Fridays swim was through big rollers, which insist you get in quickly or they will help you with that 🙂 I actually really enjoyed that swim, the challenge of dealing with the ups and downs most definitely keep you focussed and stop your brain from heading in directions you really don’t want it to go! right at the end, whilst getting out one of those charming waves snuck up behind me and loomed over my unsuspecting beach facing head. It then proceeded to smash over me, trying to steal my goggles and throwing me to the sandy bottom for a dose of gravel rash. I surprisingly found the whole thing funny, a shame there was no video footage for you, maybe next time. I did take a picture of afterwards for you but it does not do it justice. I am now left with some quite impressive  bruises.


I will be back for seconds next month and there may be silt beard pictures if you get lucky.

Winter is here


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NorthumerlandSo winter is here, presents are being bought, cards are written and we are all turning the heating up and getting cosy.
Except, I’m still dipping daily in the North Sea which is now down to a refreshing 8 degrees. it’s not advisable to stay in more than 35 mins at these temperatures,so it’s just to keep myself used to the waves, floaty things and the unpredictability of the sea.
I’m doing 3 pool sessions a week now with Alnwick Tri Club, it’s tough going but I need to build my legs up to cope with the currents we will face.
I’ve asked Santa for a swim spa for Xmas so I’m being a good girl, training hard and keeping fingers crossed!!


New Challenges


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goldfish jumping - improvement and career conceptI first met Caroline in 2012 at Activities Away in Lincoln at the Winter Swim Club, and last November we went on a “100% Swimming” road trip to the outdoor lido at Hathersage in Derbyshire. It was unheated, and we were all in training for the Chill Swim in Windermere the following February. Caroline asked me if I was up for a challenge. I was cold, I said yes! It wasn’t until I warmed up that I realised what a massive challenge I had agreed to. To swim a two way relay crossing of one of the hardest oceans in the world, in an all ladies team, non wetsuit and, oh, it had never been done before!!

It turns out that Caroline had a few other friends that would say “Yes” with no questions asked, and a team was put together. We decided that we needed some swimming support/coaching and as we had met at the 100% Swimming Winter Swim Club we initially approached Paul Fowler, who suggested that a mutual friend, Adam Walker, would be a better qualified coach and mentor for our challenge. Adam at that point, had already completed 5 of the massive Oceans 7 challenge. Adam agreed, and the “Ocean Walker Ladies Relay Team” was born.

I spent the next 11 months not really thinking about it, and concentrated on competing at the Windermere Chill Swim (2nd in age group) the World Quadrathon Championships (4th in age group) and Challenge Vichy (PB’d in the swim despite having to stop repeatedly to be sick). As someone who only started swimming a few years ago, I don’t think that I had any idea of what I had agreed to. I went onto the internet to find out more information, and became very scared.

Luckily I have a great husband and bunch of really inspirational friends, who like to encourage the people around them to test themselves beyond what they believe to be their limits, and to see how far they can push their own boundaries. This has meant that I have had the opportunity to support friends swimming a mile each hour for 24 hours; I have climbed through fences to swim in secluded rivers, driven to picturesque mill ponds, got over my hatred of sea water, and regularly swim under the Trent Bridge.

The next 9 months can only bring more adventures, and I love knowing that!

Vicki x