With a little help from my friends
By Felicity Inkpen
Swimming for such long distances and staying in the water for around 4 hours a day, the mind can wander. Andre disclosed what goes through his brain as he fights against the waves and the currents:
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming... I keep an eye on the safety swimmers around me, I keep an eye on the waves. Usually I think about spotting jellyfish, or I have a game I play where I count each stroke that I swim and see how close that is to a metre per stroke, which gives me an idea of how fast I am going, compared to the distance on my watch: how efficiently I am swimming.”
And for Jon, was it something similar?
“Mostly when I’m swimming, I’m thinking about how to breathe without breathing in a chunk of salt water. You can sort of zone out, like you’re on a long walk on your own, and think of random stuff.”
Happy but tired, and really quite hungry, Jon hadn’t lost any enthusiasm for getting back in the water:
“I live in St Andrews, so I’ve got a nice swim from East Sands to West Sands, right on my doorstep, so I’ll be back in the sea soon."
Feeding an Endurance Swim
By Felicity Inkpen
“Whilst swimming, every 45 minutes I have a banana and 600ml of electrolytes, sugar and protein, and chocolate bar. I’ll repeat this up to 3 times whilst I’m in the water.
“Once I’m out of the water I am hankering for a cheese toastie, more coffee, cake, and anything else that I can get my hands on. Luckily for me, the cake selection in the cafes around Arran is incredible.
“I’ll have an afternoon tea of cheese sandwiches, a bowl of cereal, a protein shake, all the while listening to whatever my body is craving.
“Throughout the day, I also have to mouth wash with coconut oil, to stop salt tongue. After 3 days of swimming, I found that my tongue was becoming raw and painful. I’ve followed the career of endurance swimmer Ross Edgley, who did the Great British Swim. One thing I’ve learned from his experience is that the salt water will destroy your tongue and mouth. Swilling the coconut oil around my mouth helps to stop this.
“When it comes to my evening meal, I’m eating whatever’s on the table – four portions of it. So far in this adventure, I’ve had veggie fajitas, burgers, pasta... anything that gets the calories in.
“A special thank you to The Shore Café of Whiting Bay, who have given me two free toasties when I’ve stopped by.”
Wildlife off the coast of Arran
By Felicity Inkpen
A benefit of his posse of seals is that they eat Andre’s main adversary: the jellyfish. There are only two species of stinging jellyfish around the coast of Arran: the blue jellyfish has a sting like a nettle, but the lion’s mane jellyfish sting can give more than seven hours of pain.
“So far, I have caught one blue jellyfish sting across the face. It actually wasn’t that bad, though that may have been because my face was numb with cold.”
Other jellyfish, Andre has been happier to see, including the sea gooseberry jellyfish:
“I giggle to myself, feeling like I am going through a gooseberry patch whenever I swim amongst them”
Alongside the sea-gooseberries, sea comb jellyfish have also been visible in abundance: These jellyfish, roughly 6cm in length, phosphoresce – give off light that they generate themselves
“Sea comb jellyfish are like exciting landing strip lights, directing me onwards.”
Other supportive marine organisms include a host of the common edible crab.
“When I was swimming above the crabs, they sensed danger and raised their pincers to attack, but from above it looked to me like they were waving and cheering me on. It was quite motivating!”
Around the south coast of Arran, on his fourth day in the water, Andre met an altogether more elusive habitant of the sea.
“Out of the gloom appeared the distinctive triangular fin shape of a shark. Fortunately for me, it was a foot-long dogfish, entirely unbothered by my presence.”
Throughout, there have been scatterings of starfish, sea urchins, and a barrel jellyfish the size of a car tyre. The flora has been just as stunning as the fauna. Andre has swum through beautiful sea grasses and kelp forests. According to Andre, “These have been possible thanks to extensive marine protected areas around Arran.”
Felicity Inkpen is Andre's friend, a keen swimmer herself, and an artist and writer based in Edinburgh, UK.