Glenn Vickery’s nickname is ‘fish’ for good reason—he feels as at home in the water as he does on land. But this summer he’s undertaking a project that is on a scale greater than any swimming he’s done in the past. He plans to circumnavigate Lake of Bays, a distance of approximately 200 kilometres.
Rather than just make it a challenge for himself, he decided to use the project to draw attention to a cause: raising awareness about the importance of preserving the natural shoreline of Lake of Bays and preserving its water quality.
“It’s not just about the swim, it’s about the awareness for shoreline preservation, and even to get people out and doing something self-propelled, in a kayak or canoe or just back on the water enjoying it the way you did 100 years ago. That’s the goal overall,” says Vickery.
He began swimming competitively when he was eight years old, and his family often spent time near and in lakes. “It’s been a lifelong thing… but this is much grander than anything I’ve attempted before,” he says. “I wanted to tie it into something and make it count, to bring lakeside residents together and turn it into a cause. And to sort of pay back all those years that people helped me in competing, this is a way to thank everybody.”
He’ll begin the swim at the public boat launch at South Portage on the western shore of Lake of Bays, and will swim in stages of five to eight kilometres each time. The total distance will be somewhere between 170 and 210 kilometres. (Jeff’s Map pegs the shoreline distance of the lake at 210 km but when Glenn mapped his planned course on GPS it fell short of that length.)
To prepare, he’s been swimming in Huntsville’s Centennial Pool four times per week and spent five weeks in Mexico in February training in the Pacific Ocean to get used to swimming longer distances in open water.
And he’s been working through the logistics, coordinating entry and exit points with property owners willing to share their docks and shorelines with him.
Vickery plans to remain flexible in his timing. He’ll be swimming most of the stages in order, completing about three per week, but if there’s a property owner or group who really wants to be there for the stage that involves their dock, he’ll adjust his schedule to accommodate theirs. Some are even planning parties for when he lands at their home or cottage.
Along the way, he’ll be accompanied by various support groups. First up will be Lake of Bays Boat Tours, who will provide a larger support vessel for the first few sections given the cold water—there were still chunks of ice on the lake last week. Captain Bruce (Jamieson) also took it upon himself to produce t-shirts for the project, proceeds from which will support three charities on the lake: the Andrew Daniels Fish Stewardship Foundation, the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, and the Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation. The former two of the groups will also provide support for the swims between Vickery’s South Portage launch and his stop in Baysville.
Other groups providing support include the Lake of Bays Association, Port Cunnington Ratepayers’ Association, SS Bigwin, and Blueseventy wetsuits.
And through it all will be his wife, Arlee, who has been his kayaker for all of their married life. She plans to be along side him for every stroke, in a kayak for most sections and in the support boat at the beginning.
Glenn says that now that his inaugural swim is so close, he can’t wait to get into the water—though when we met he said he’d feel better when a special thermal wetsuit from sponsor Blueseventy arrived.
“I’m really eager to start. It seemed like it was months away and then weeks and now the week leading in it’s really exciting,” says Vickery. “It’s just incredible seeing all the different groups come on board. Every time I get into a roadblock, a different association is helping me find a way to do it. So I have no qualms about getting around (the lake) because now I know the support is here.”
He’ll be swimming counter-clockwise around Lake of Bays, with his inaugural swim on May 19 taking him from the South Portage boat launch to Bona Vista. Local physician and triathlete, Rich Trenholm, will accompany him. His second swim on Monday, May 21, will go from Bona Vista to Clovelly Point, and local swim coach Jane Wolfe will be joining him in the water. Each swim around the lake will have Vickery swimming for 1.5 to two hours.
There are events in the works for when he arrives in Dorset on July 1 and at Dwight Beach at the end of July. He’s aiming to wrap up the project back at South Portage on the August long weekend.
“I’m hoping to start a conversation to get people talking about the importance of preserving the shoreline that we have now and protect it for future generations,” says Vickery.
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