July 8, 2013

Three Wildcats Swim Mackinac Straits

ST. IGNACE, Mich.Megan Crowder, Tara Dowling and Dakota Sechena, of the Northern Michigan University swimming and diving team, completed a five-mile swim, crossing the Straits of Mackinac on Sunday (July 7).

The trio left Straits State Park in St. Ignace at 8 a.m. and swam south to the Old Mackinac Lighthouse beach in Mackinaw City. Dowling completed the crossing in 1 hour 53 minutes while Crowder and Sechena finished in 1 hour 55 minutes. Coach Heidi Voigt escorted the swimmers in a kayak. There were also two other kayakers and a support boat in the group.

The conditions were near perfect with temperatures in the 70's and calm waters during the crossing. Water temperature at the Straits was in the mid to lower 60's. The swimmers encountered three Great Lakes freighters: a Canadian Lakes Steamship vessel, the 650-foot Arthur M. Anderson and the 1,000-foot Mesabi Miner. The swimmers had a 12-minute pause while waiting for the Anderson to pass before resuming the swim. Strong east to west currents also challenged the swimmers along with wakes from the freighters and ferries in the area.

Sechena was forced to remove her wet suit about one third the way across due to an equipment failure finishing the remainder of the swim in just a pool competition suit. Dowling was forced to reverse course several hundred yards into the shipping channel to yield to the Anderson.

The initial swim had been planned August 2012 but was postponed due to poor weather conditions. The swimmers were greeted by family members and friends as well as cheering vacationers in Mackinaw City. Assisting the swimmers was the United States Coast Guard who provided marine safety broadcasts to ships and other marine vessels in the area during the event.

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