On June 20th, Night Train member Melissa Blaustein’s window to swim the English Channel opens. It will be an arduous, difficult task bearing cold water temperatures for up to twenty hours and 20+ miles with no wetsuit and no stopping to hold on to the boat.
But that seems like an easy task compared to the one that her swim mentor, best friend, and fellow Night Train swimmer Kimberly Chambers is currently undertaking. On May 6th, 2018 Kim was admitted to California Pacific Medical Center because she couldn’t feel her legs. A few days later, she was officially diagnosed with Guillain-Barré (Ghee-yan Bah-ray) Syndrome (GBS). This is a rare neurological illness which attacks your nerves and can render you paralyzed. Kim, the woman who has swam the oceans seven, considered the pinnacle of marathon swimming, and who was the first ever woman to swim from the Farallons to the Golden Gate Bridge, was unable to walk.
Melissa would never have begun swimming if it wasn’t for Kim. Not only did she inspire her to push herself further and to do more, she brought her along for the journey. Taking her with her to Lane 5 at North Bay Aquatics, early dips at the South End Rowing Club and on her first kayak adventure with Simon and Miguel. Kim has inspired so many of us with her strength, determination and ability to succeed. Now, Melissa is hoping to dig deep on this swim and inspire her.
Melissa will be using the swim to fundraise for the Guillan Barre Syndrome/ Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP Foundation International and will donate all funds raised in Kim Chambers’ name. Hopefully this funding will go towards earlier diagnosis, faster treatment and raising awareness about the debilitating disease she’s grappling with now. Help Melissa cross the channel and swim for Kim! Please consider donating today on the link on the right of this page, or at the bottom of the page if you are visiting this site on mobile. All donations made through the Night Train Swimmers will be sent to GBS Foundation.
Kim Chambers, a member of Night Train Swimmers will be attempting the longest solo swim ever recorded in California. The swim, commemorates the 15th Anniversary of 9/11, begins in Sacramento on September 9, 2016 and ends in Belvedere on September 11, 2016, totaling 93 miles over the course of 48 hours.
Chambers will utilize the Sacramento River and Steamboat Slough as she travels toward the bay, ending at the point of Tiburon. Night Train and Chambers are proudly teaming up with Warrior Canine Connection in an attempt to support recovering Veterans and their families.
Chambers will abide by English Channel rules prohibiting the use of a wetsuit and resting on the boat. “Since my previous swims have mostly been in large bodies of water, this will be a completely different kind of challenge, mentally and physically,” says Chambers. “With that being said, it pales in comparison to what many of our veterans and service members face for a lifetime.”
Compared to Chambers’ past swims that have been attempted by multiple swimmers, this one is about three times longer and has no recorded solo attempt to date. With this comes a whole new set of challenges. From knowing where her support crew should lead her, to knowing the tidal patterns, Chambers will be in uncharted water until she reaches the bay.
In 1967, Lt Colonel Stuart Evans became the first swimmer to complete the crossing from the Farallones to the California Coast, finishing at Bolinas, Calif. Since then, only three other swimmers have completed the crossing, two of whom made it all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Night Train swimmers Simon Dominguez and Kimberley Chambers each plan to be the first swimmers to complete the Farallon journey backwards, starting at the Golden Gate Bridge and finishing at the Farallon Islands.
Lurking some 30 miles off the coast of the San Francisco Bay are a mysterious group of small islands, rocky outcrops and submerged pinnacles known as the Farallon Islands.
Few people living in San Francisco even know the islands exist. Called the Devil’s Teeth by ancient mariners, they are assiduously avoided by sailors fearing the fate of ships suddenly sunk upon rocks shrouded by thick fog. The Miwok Indians called them the islands of the dead, the place where the ghosts rest. Normally these barren rocks lie unseen in the fog, wreathed in foam and inhabitant by seals and seabirds and patrolled by a large aggregation of great white sharks.
Yet on a clear day, the 357-foot granite pinnacle of Southeast Farallon Island stands in clear view from the Golden Gate, appearing within grasp to we mortals. A small group of elite adventurers called the Night Train even swim there.
Why do we travel to the moon? Why do we explore the deepest depths of the ocean? As Mallory described his fateful quest to reach Everest: “Because it’s there.”
Driven by this same spirit of adventure, a few intrepid spirits from the Night Train Swimmers endeavored to swim from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands on April 25, 2015. Dave Holscher, Patti Bauerenfeind, Kim Chambers, Simon Dominguez, Emily Kreger and Ashley Horn made up the team crossing the notorious Gulf of the Farallones.
The swim started in a spitting mist with Bauerenfeind leaping into a 2.5 knot ebb beneath the Golden Gate and spitting past the headlands like a watermelon seed. Stroking beneath a rainbow formed from the Marin Headlands to Land’s End, Patti’s first hour put nearly 5 miles behind the team.
The next 12 hours resembled a body surfing contest as the swimmers paddled and slid through a building 8-10 foot swell and West winds gusting up to 30 knots from the west. At times the swimmers disappeared beneath collapsing crests but the pink and white Night Train caps kept reappearing closer to the goal. Alone at the helm, Vito Bialla maintained steady contact, easing Sequel through the swells, as the support crew grabbed the incoming swimmers like gaffed tuna washed onto the stern step. By mid-channel the water temperature dropped to around 52 degrees and the exiting swimmers quickly climbed into the Sequel “sauna” (the boat’s head with a heater) to warm up. Approaching the island near dusk, the building wind gusted to 35 knots and the converging currents made the final hours a challenge. The team persevered, approaching the island with Stand-in Kate Webber accompanying Chambers, swimming together into the darkness accompanied by glowing plankton. Like an advertisement by an all night diner, Dominguez swam the anchor leg, pulling a strong and vigorous butterfly to the fishermen’s buoy among the bioluminescence and the calls of the cormorants.
Touching the buoy, Simon ended the swim at 9:10 PM in a record breaking swim of 14:10 hours. Why? Because it is there.
On September 6th 2015, Night Train Swimmerswill attempt to break the world record of the longest relay open water swim in history. The goal is to raise $100,000 to help Arthur Renowitzky walk again after being paralyzed by a gun shot wound to his spine.
English Channel rules apply which means they wear only a swimsuit, cap and goggles. Team members will swim continuously in one-hour individual rotations and expect to complete the swim in a little over 5 days. The co-ed team of six aim to reclaim the world record title from The Sea Hawks, who broke Night Train’s existing record in 2014. The Sea Hawks, from India, swam for 269 miles over 6 and a half days off The Konkan Coast off the western coastline of India.
“We are anticipating an event that’s unprecedented in the annals of distance swimming,” stated team captain Vito Bialla. “Our team of swimmers are some of the fastest and mentally toughest in the world and we pride ourselves in channeling this energy to give back to the community—this time to help give the gift of mobility to Arthur Renowitzky who was paralyzed after being shot during a robbery in 2007.”
The six swimmer team consists of: Grace van der Byl, Dave Holscher, Kim Chambers, Adam Eilath, Vito Bialla and Ashley Horne. Each team member brings unique experience in long-distance swimming– from swimming to the Farallon Islands from the Golden Gate Bridge, to holding the fastest female individual record for Catalina Island, to completing the legendary Ocean’s Seven.
Donations can be made through Night Train Swimmers here.
On April 25th 2015, Kim Chambers, Patti Bauernfeind, Simon Dominguez, Ashley Horne, Emily Kreger, and David Holscher swam in the worst conditions to the Farallon Islands yet. Escort swimmers were Kate Webber and Vito Bialla. Water Temp was 51.5 , wind 20 plus and waves to 8 feet. Total time from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands was 14:10:13, which set a new speed record. The attempt to do a round trip relay was aborted due to weather and safety. Swimmers are not able to board a boat at night in conditions like these.