Category: Logistics

Why do you need my contact information?

Your contact information is needed for two main reasons:

  1. To be able to provide you with any last minute information about the race in case something comes up without enough time to post here, or expect you to read here.
  2. As an extra layer of safety to reach you in case we can’t confirm you are off the water after the race. Having an emergency contact helps with that as well.

I do keep track of every volunteer for these races, but if you want me to no longer contact you, I remove you from the master list. From time to time, other event organizers ask if they can have your contact information. I only give that out for people who expressly give me permission to do so. You may however get an email from me on behalf of another event organizer (this has happened twice in a little over three years).


What should I know about the 4.4 mile swim?

Swimmers will leave the Sandy Point State Park beach in two waves, roughly 15 minutes apart. They will enter the bridge spans between the two big beach ball buoys, follow the spans, and exit between the other two big beach bouys near the end of the bridge, to follow the jetty to the beach at Hemingway’s.

There are numbers on each bridge pylon, and they are different on the north and south sides. If you need to provide location, use those numbers and be sure to specify north or south.

All kayaks should line up at the start to guide the swimmers in (between pylons N10 & N13), and then break off to provide coverage as the swimmers span out. The general rule for kayak coverage is, if you see other kayaks, keep paddling until there are swimmers and no kayaks. If you run out of swimmers, turn around and see if there are any gaps.

With that said, the slower swimmers are ones that usually need the most help. There is no hard and fast rule; if the rest of the Safety Fleet notices a gap, they will tell us and we will react accordingly. If you see a gap, and have a VHF radio, call it out on channel 69.

The only possible hard and fast rule is, we cannot give individual support to a swimmer. Unless, of course, they are showing signs of duress or stress, at which point we make sure they’re OK.

Swimmers must stay within the spans. If they exit due to any reason (unplanned is usually because of currents overwhelming them), they get disqualified and have to be pulled out. The most common interaction with a swimmer to date has been telling them to turn, because they really can’t see where they’re going when they’re 110% focused on swimming.

We always need four strong kayakers to keep station by the main bridge pylons with the wood slats in the center of the bridge, to make sure swimmers do not get too close and try to hold on. That’s a recipe for injury or worse, if swimmers get stuck there due to wave action.

There are big orange mile markers to help determine how much farther swimmers have to go, at miles 1, 2, 3, and 4.

There are food boats (the only propeller’d craft allowed inside the spans, only because they’re anchored) at miles 1.5 and 3, for swimmers to get a snack or drink. They frequently ask how far it is to them, so if possible, try to keep track of where you are in relation to miles 1.5 and 3.

Swimmers exit the bridge spans between pylons S55 & S57 and then follow the jetty to the Hemingway’s beach.

When it’s time to exit the water, be sure to stop by the DNF pier and hand in the numbered wrist band given to you at the briefing, and exit the water via the floating dock by the boat lift, on the far right corner of the marina as you’re entering it from the Bay.

What should I know about the 1 mile swim?

The swim course is triangular, starting at the beach by Hemingway’s, marked by large buoys at each point and smaller markers defining the edges, going in a clockwise direction. Sometimes swimmers get confused at the turns, so it’s common to have to point out the correct direction.

There are multiple waves of swimmers (up to 4) to help spread the legs and arms a bit.

The water is pretty shallow here, so most swimmers can always just stand and walk if they had to. However, if they are exiting the race, they must exit via a power boat, taken to the Did Not Finish (DNF) dock, for accountability.

Where do I go for the 4.4 mile swim?

Head into Sandy Point State Park. Plan to get there early as the traffic backup getting into the park can get pretty heavy as the race approaches. Also be sure to display your parking permit (provided to registered kayak volunteers) so that the gate attendants will let you in for free. There has been some confusion about this in the past, so ask the gate attendants to call their supervisor if any issues arise.

You can unload your gear by the small craft launch area (left turn just before the last parking lot before you hit the water; there have been years past where someone put up a road closed sign, but that is not correct – just go around it). The image and dashcam video below shows a map of the area and where to turn (hint: follow the Jeep). This has caused significant confusion in the past, so please make sure you understand this.

Where do I go for the 1 mile swim?

There will be a parking area available for kayak volunteers in the Bay Side Marina. From the DC area, take route 50 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, to the first exit, #37 (route 8). Head south towards Romancoke & Stevensville. Coming from the east, take route 50 to the last exit before the bridge (#37), also heading south towards Romancoke & Stevensville. Take the first right on Pier One Road and follow the signs directing you to our designated parking area (there are sometimes ways to get in without having to go all the way to the water; follow the signs). There will be staff directing traffic at the entrance as well, so please be sure to display your parking permit (made available to registered volunteers). The image below gives a rough idea of how to get there.

There is a floating dock by the boat lift, which is our launch (and landing) area. If you have never done a floating dock launch/exit, ask for help — it’s not hard, the trick is to keep your weight centered.

Can I get a ride back to my car after the race?

There are times when people park their cars at Sandy Point State Park for the 4.4 mile race support, and then have to paddle back across from the Bay Bridge Marina after the race ends. Many conditions can make this less than ideal (exhaustion, weather, not enough time, etc.).

There is no formal transportation back to Sandy Point State Park, but there are usually fellow kayakers who can give you a ride. If this is going to be a known issue, try to coordinate before race day. Otherwise, during our briefings and post-race camaraderie, just ask.

Worst case, we do modified fox & chicken exercises.

What conditions can I expect?

The 1 mile swim is relatively protected. Unless there’s a really strong wind, coming from the south or west, things don’t typically get that difficult.

The 4.4 mile swim, however, is an open water paddle. One foot waves are expected. Two foot waves are common. Sometimes you’ll get three footers or more from other boats, reflecting waves within the bridge spans, and wind conditions. The timing of the race minimizes the current for the swimmers, but near the end it will be noticeable.

If the weather is too bad, the race will be canceled; if it’s canceled with swimmers in the water, our primary duty is to help get all swimmers off the water, with full accountability for both swimmers and kayakers (and anyone else involved).

If you’ve never done something like this, the 1 mile swim is an excellent way to test your skills, and you can always support the end of the 4.4 mile swim as well if you feel up to it.

How much paddling is required?

For the 1 mile swim, you typically spend a couple hours on the water paddling around the one mile triangle course in shallow, partially protected waters by Hemingway’s. This is the easiest swim to support from a kayaking perspective.

For the 4.4 mile swim, things are more challenging. This is an open water paddle, and you can expect to spend over four hours in your kayak and paddle anywhere from eight to twelve miles, not including any paddle back across the Chesapeake Bay after the race is over (if necessary); that would add about 5 miles and roughly 90 minutes total time, including breaks and stops to avoid other boats.