Live Blogging the English Channel


August 12, 2008 is the day we will remember as the day Jay and Reid swam 26.4 miles in the Dover Harbor.  And they did this in the choppiest water with the highest winds we have had all week.  Reid was in the water for a total of 5 hrs, 14 min and 23 sec and went 13.8 miles.  Jay was in the water a total of 6 hrs, 3 min and 30 sec and went 12.6 miles.  The actual start to finish time of swimming, including breaks, was 7 hrs and 36 min, while the combined swimming time was 11 hrs, 20 min and 26 sec.  Jay took 2 breaks of about a half hour each, while Reid took 3 thirty minute breaks.  Jay and Reid finished their final laps independently and then did a last half lap together.  They ended together, stood up, shook hands, and then embraced in the breakers.  We all met them on the shore and gave wet hugs! 

The Dover Harbor is where English people preparing to swim in the Channel practice every weekend, so it’s not just any old harbor with calm waters.  Because today’s weather was so windy (over 27mph winds ALL DAY), the water in the harbor was actually pretty much equivalent to the conditions they would have had in the Channel on a good day of weather.   Amazingly, when the guys were finished, they really weren’t that tired!  They feel confident that they would have succeeded had they gotten the chance to swim in the Channel.  But this was almost as good. 

D (Jay and Reid’s father), was in his element as a once again swim team father.  He recorded all of their splits, total time, calculated their average lap times, and more.  They swam a total of 26.4 miles.  Jay made about 18,150 strokes and Reid took around 16,640 strokes in the process.  Jay’s average lap time was 36 min 18 sec and Reid’s average lap was 26 min 56 sec.  A lap was 1.2 miles.  Not too shabby!

We took lots of video of today and hope to post some of it on this site when we get back to the US.  We also have lots of pictures, and will post some soon.  Thank you so much for your continued interest and support.  We may have not made it across to France, but this was almost better.  Papa John, Jay and Reid’s grandfather who so generously provided financial support so our families could help make this journey, was there to see his grandsons finish.  And most importantly, Caroline was there at the finish line to give both brothers a huge hug and a thank you.  Try and beat that, Calais!



The decision has been made.  Because weather conditions in the Channel are so bad, we will not be able to attempt a crossing any time in the next week.  Instead, we will be swimming 26 miles in the Dover harbor tomorrow morning starting around 8am.  This is 3am EST and we hope to finish in 8-10 hours.  In order to determine our route, we took a piece of Whitney’s hair (given willingly) and used it to help measure out the distance of the route we have been swimming during practice.  Amazingly, the route is almost exactly ½ mile.  This means we only have to swim it 52 times and we will have achieved our goal!

Not getting a chance to attempt the Channel is a big disappointment for everyone, but learning to live with the circumstances is the #1 thing that the Caroline Can! campaign means for all of us.  One of Caroline’s favorite quotes is (approximately) “Life is not about getting out of the storm, it is about learning how to dance in the rain.” Well, we are here in England and we are going to take a lesson from Caroline and make the best of our circumstances by “dancing in the rain” as we swim 26 miles in the Dover harbor. 

Jay and Reid will start their swims at the same time, and each will swim along the ½ mile route we have planned out.  We will take breaks during the swim, but at least one person will be swimming at all times.  This means that instead of doing one hour in the water and one hour in the boat (like a regular Channel swim) we will swim a little longer and rest a little less.  Whitney and D will be keeping official time on both Jay and Reid, so there will be results to report!  Other than the fact that we are swimming in the harbor and will not being taking exactly 1 hour shifts, we will follow all the rules of the Channel Swimming Association. 

Unfortunately our fans will not have ideal conditions and will literally be “dancing in the rain”.  A large storm will be coming in early in the morning, and it will likely not stop before the finish.  They will be drenched and cold in the rain.  With the weather so nasty tomorrow, we figure the conditions will closely simulate what Jay and Reid would have had in the Channel.   

We probably will not be able to provide regular updates during the swim, but we will take notes and put something up as soon as the swim is over.  Thank you for all your support as the rest of the family learns the lesson that Caroline has already learned so well.  Please check back in late Monday for results of the swim. 

Jay and Reid




Still in Dover, trying our best to plead with the weather to change for the better.  So far, our attempts are not producing much success.  Two of our crew took the ferry over to France today, and we heard back from them that they were on the 4th story deck of the boat and were getting splashed by the breeze from the breaking waves in the Channel.  A German couple arrived at our B&B tonight, and their ferry from Europe was delayed an hour and a half due to the weather, and the wife was still feeling queasy when she got here from the choppy seas.  And these are BIG boats that carry cars and tractor trailers.  We learned that no small boats at all were seen.  And our swimming boat is pretty tiny 🙂

There is a glimmer of hope.  Yesterday on the beach while the boys were swimming in the harbor, I met a woman who pretty much runs the other Channel swimming association here (we have learned there are 2), and I told her our story and asked if she knew any pilots that might be willing to take them out.  She told us then that the weather was going to be too bad all week to go out.  We later learned that there is a major shift of the tides in the Channel in mid-August that starts this weekend that prevents anyone from swimming for a week and a half.  So, the weekend is looking out too.  So, we all decided to head to Canterbury for a day trip today to take our minds off of things.  When we got back, I had a message from the woman on the beach who gave me a number to call and they might be able to help, but no promises.  I called that woman, and she is also part of this other swimming association and will talk to her people tomorrow to see if anyone is willing to take a relay out in weather that would be too rough for a single person to attempt (since there are two of them, they will be taking breaks and won’t wear out as fast as a single swimmer from fighting the rough waves).  She’s going to call me back tomorrow and let me know what she finds out.  A small chance, but we’re hanging on for that.

If no Channel swim can be attempted, we have decided to make our own 26-mile swim inside the harbor.  The inner harbor is about a half mile wide, and there is an outer harbor we learned about tonight that would simulate the real Channel conditions even more.  We’ll look into the distance of the outer harbor as well.  The boys will simulate the relay and swim the equivalent distance that they would have swum to France.  It’s not nearly as exciting, and they’re less than thrilled with this option, but you have to do what you have to do.  We have all been repeating one of Caroline’s favorite quotes today, “Life’s not about getting out of the storm, it’s learning how to dance in the rain.”  Or, swim in the harbor, if you will……




Well, the rest of the family arrived in Dover today.  Everyone came in shifts, but they all got here okay.  A little tired, but they made it.  Caroline did very well on the two planes and the bus to Dover.  Quite a feat for any traveller!  Papa John, Phil, Suzie, Owen, and Kristen are all staying in the same B&B as us.  Bill, Angie, Russ, and Carlye are at a B&B a few miles away.  And Jay’s law school friends Michael and Chandrika arrived today as well, and are staying at a B&B across the street from us.  We have a whole crew here!

Unfortunately, the weather is not cooperating for the swim attempt.  Jay and Reid went and met with their boat captain today, and he gave their money back and said the weather was too bad to take them out.  (Hey, at least he gave the money back.)  We are frantically trying to find another captain who is willing to make an attempt.  There is a storm blowing in that will make Channel conditions bad on Saturday and most of Sunday.  There’s a chance for a swim on Sunday, but we’ll just have to wait and see.  We’ve been told the weather may not break until Wednesday, so we are prepared to stay in Dover as long as needed.  We may have to forego the rest of our itinerary, but hey, we’re here for the swim first and foremost.  Please pray for good weather and that we can find a captain who will give the guys a chance!





Jay, Reid, and Whitney are here at our B&B in Dover, and they have a computer with Internet we can use for free!  We had our first full English breakfast this morning with sausage, bacon (canadian style), mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, eggs, and toast.  We also had tea and orange juice.  Reid was chastised for his repeated request for more orange juice.  The owner told us when he was growing up in the 50s and 60s, OJ was a real delicacy here, and he still maintains that mentality, even though the price is now equal to milk. 

We walked down to the town center today and went in various shops trying to buy things for the swim, like Vaseline for the guys to use under arms and on their shoulders to prevent chaffing from repeated rubbing during the swim (you put it on the shoulders to prevent facial hair from rubbing the shoulders raw).  We went to a pharmacy where they make the combination most swimmers use for insulation of lanolin and Vaseline mix, but we were told their manufacturer is behind on the shipment and won’t get it here before Saturday.  It’s okay though, because they went swimming in the Channel yesterday, and it wasn’t that cold.  Plus, since they will be switching off every hour, they would have to take it off and reapply before each leg, so they’re going to skip it.  It’s more important for single swimmers who don’t stop than for Jay and Reid since they’ll be taking breaks.

It is raining right now, typical English weather.  The forecast is looking okay for Saturday’s attempt, so that’s good news.  We connected with their boat captain today, and will try to meet him later today or tomorrow.  The rest of the family arrives here in Dover tomorrow (Friday), so pray for their safe journey!  We’ll post again soon.  Thanks!  Whitney


17 thoughts on “Live Blogging the English Channel

  1. You never know how far reaching your actions are. Thank you for making a difference in so many lives and hearts
    Becky Ferguson

  2. Hey guys,
    Sorry to hear weather is bad. Hopefully things will change and plans can go on. Everyone is in our thoughts and prayers.
    Love to all,
    Mack, Terri, Dale,Cody, Christy and soon to be baby Karson !!!!

  3. Hey Guys, we are praying for good weather for you guys.this is DANIELLE from therapy @Pat Neil we are thinking of you all as you go through your journey there.

  4. Hello to the Owen family,
    Hope weather is better, I know how much this means to everyone.
    You are all in my prayers, but this is a much need vacation for everyone, enjoy. God bless you all.

  5. Jay, Reid, and Whitney, you are all in our prayers here at FBC. The deacons and the congregation have you all in their thoughts and prayers. 🙂

  6. Papa John and your wonderful family ~
    Greetings from Delaware!

    We are sharing your disapointment yet
    praying all goes well in the Dover harbor swim.

    With you ih Spirit ~ Blessings

  7. Jay/Whitney/Reid–

    Back in Memphis! Miss DC. Enjoyed having lunch with y’all on Sunday a week ago.

    Sorry to hear that the weather is not being cooperative. Your spirits are amazing!

    It’s raining in Memphis today as well.

    I love Caroline’s quote. That’s a wonderful philosophy.

    Please know you this group is in my thoughts and prayers, and I have passed along news of this activity to our ministerial staff at FBC Memphis to include in prayer concerns.



  8. GREAT JOB you guys!!!!! We are SO PROUD OF YOU!!! And to Whitney and the rest of the family….thanks for working so hard to make all this happen and to be the support Jay and Reid needed in all this…and especially for your support for Caroline! This is a huge accomplishment (
    Channel or not!!!). So, now go and have some well deserved fun!!
    Mom and Dad

  9. Congrats guys…you all have done a great job!!!
    Have a little fun and enjoy the rest of your trip.
    Love to all,
    Mack, Terri and family
    Martha and Johnny send their love too

  10. Congratulations Reid and Jay! We have been thinking of you all and your family….glad to hear everything went well.

  11. Hey Dr. O,
    We are all cheering for your family in England from the Fort!!! Caroline’s story has been inspirational for us all. Also, observing the incredible support of your family is heart warming. Thank you for sharing so much!! I look forward to some good stories and pictures of a phenomenal journey.

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