Despite being met with weather challenges, Ben keeps swimming the Pacific Ocean
When we last left Ben Lecomte, he wasn’t feeling to great following a storm he and his crew had to wait out. He was focusing on his nutrition and paying attention to how that was affecting his swimming. He’s now finished day 41 of his swim, and he’s doing great.
Heavy weather slowed progress, but not for long
In the days following the relaunch into the Pacific, Ben and his crew were met by a lot of wind and waves. That slowed his progress each day, but he still kept going. On Day 19, he finally had a clear day that made swimming conditions great. Lauren joined him in the water for a bit, and was able to get some underwater photos.
On day 20, not only did Ben and his crew get to have a dolphin encounter, but they almost got run over by a large container ship! It was a day of excitement, for sure. They sailed by on their starboard side, and after getting communication with the ship, they were able to get the ship crew to blow their horn.
When technology fails…and there’s so much plastic!
Ben and his crew have had a rough time with the RHIB. Once again, it failed on day 21. Seeker, the 67 foot sailboat, wound up pacing Ben – and it made him swim faster to keep up with the long stream line.
Even though Ben’s crew is keeping an eye on him and his pacers, the crew has been spotting a lot of trash in the ocean. Maria wrote:
It is interesting because The Swim is just one line across the Pacific Ocean, a fraction of its entirety, if we are seeing this much rubbish, then imagine the amount that must be in the entire Pacific and our other oceans! Integrated in formal science protocols, our observations will be a valuable source of information to find “accumulation zones” of plastic and have an idea about how the debris is being moved through the ocean.
It’s definitely sad that so much trash is out there – even this soon into his journey across the Pacific.
More weather setbacks
The wind and weather kicked up to be nemesis to Ben again, and he sat out one day to wait out the storm. The next day, day 24 of his journey, Ben was determined to get out to swim. They set him up with the sailboat to pace him, setting up the fiberglass spinnaker pole to attach his streamline to it. However, the pole broke, and by the time they got everything secured, they’d drifted too far off Ben’s starting point. The weather wasn’t favorable, and they called it a night.
The next day, they had the same conditions, but they were able to get Ben out into the water. He was able to get a few hours of swimming in, but not a full day.
Plastic…and more plastic
When conditions returned to favorable for Ben to return to the water with the RHIB pacing him. They also were able to find trash – lots of trash. Ben wrote:
They spotted a yellow plastic box flipped upside down. As I turned it over to drain the water out, a school of small fishes left the box. I put the box back in the water and the fish came back in. I repeated this action few times, and each time the fish went back to their shelter. We decided to leave the fish their plastic home.
A few yards away we spotted a cracked plastic bucket. When I drained the water out, again another school of the same type of fish came out of it and they also kept coming back in it each time I put the bucket back in the water. I decided to bring all the fish under the same roof, the yellow plastic box, and collected the bucket.
Everyday I am astonished at the amount of plastic with see floating and the amount I see under the surface.
I’m shocked at how much plastic he’s encountered as well. I knew about the trash circle out in the Pacific, but I wasn’t expecting him to encounter this much so early in his swim.
Ben had another good swimming day on the 27th day he was in the Pacific – and he even got to swim with turtles! On the 28th day, he had an encounter with a shark, but some more good weather where he swam until sunset. Day 29 brought another shark encounter, and he put a shark repellent bracelet on.
An ear infection stops progress for a day – then back to swimming
On day 31, Ben rested to recover from an ear infection. The next day, Ben got back in the water, where he found more plastic and some jellyfish. The water was 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit – certainly warmed up from what it was when he began his journey. On day 33, Ben made a little crab friend when he picked a piece of plastic up and the crab took refuge on his shoulder. The crab stuck with him for a while for lunch and swimming, but was gone by the end of the day.
Some more troubles with the RHIB
On day 34, they started out with more problems with the electric outboard engine. It was a tiring day. Ben wrote:
I had to swim beside Seeker. Once the crew got the streamline ready and the safety line with the kayak secured I lowered myself in the water and started to swim. During the first 15 minutes, the speed was constant and close to my pace. Very soon after, it increased and I couldn’t keep up with it and found myself falling behind the sailboat. It was first just 50 meters, then 100, then 150… at times I could only see the top half of the sails and mast. I always had a visual on the boat but I knew it wasn’t possible for them to maintain a visual on me because of the waves. It took me more than 20 minutes to catch-up.
The next day, after a hard time keeping up with Seeker again, they got out the kayak to pace him in hour four. Day 36 was also a good swimming day, with the kayak once again pacing him. Seeker’s crew was able to count 8 whales that he wasn’t able to catch to swim with. More plastic was collected, and by the end of 8 hours swimming in the ocean, Ben was very much ready to eat dinner.
So much plastic!
Day 37 started with needing to sail and motor back to the starting point. On the way back, Ben spotted a lot of plastic on the way. He was following the kayak again, and Maria picked up every piece of plastic she saw int he water.
At this point in the journey, Ben had swam 427 nautical miles with 4,573 left to go and spent 144 hours swimming.
On day 38, the wind and waves were picking up, and Maria wasn’t able to keep the kayak on track. She planned to switch out with another crew member, Ben’s nephew Paul, but by the time that the sailboat got to them, Ben was too cold, and decided to stop for the day. Day 39’s conditions weren’t much better than day 38’s, but Paul got on the kayak to pace Ben while Ben reminisced about Paul’s days as an infant.
That night brought squalls with lots of rain and strong winds. In the morning, that meant that day 40 came with being way off course for the beginning of the swim. It took all day to get back to the starting location, and Ben wasn’t able to swim for long, so he took the day to catch up on rest and emails. His crew rescued an exhausted bird.
Ben’s meeting his challenges head-on
It cannot be easy to be met with a variety of challenges, but Ben Lecomte and his team have been preparing for this journey for the past years. It’s exciting to continue to watch his journey across the Pacific Ocean, and we’re certainly cheering him on!