Photo by John Degarmo
A swim across the bay
BRIGHTWATERS—Last Friday, 97 swimmers and an equal number of kayakers headed into the water near the Fire Island Lighthouse and began a swimming competition that has been around for 88 years: the annual Cross Bay Swim, which began in 1927. However, after a decades-long hiatus that began in the 1970s, the event was reintroduced in 1999 and rededicated in honor of Maggie Fischer, who had died in a car accident only a few months before.
Bob Fischer, Maggie’s father, who has been running the swim, said that it was a very successful fundraiser. In fact, he noted, “It was the most perfect day.”
Fischer referred to the camaraderie at the event that has been built up over the years and also the atmospheric conditions that day. “The bay was flat, no wind, the course was [great]. Everything fell into place,” he noted.
As the swimmers began their 5.25-mile course across the bay, an alumnus from this event, Barry Staebler, who was visiting from Florida, looked on from the event’s end point at Gilbert Park beach in Brightwaters. Staebler had been a 14-year-old Islip High School student when he won this race in 1952.
“The conditions were different back then,” Fischer remarked. “The wind and the tide kept taking people off course,” he said.
There were many other former swimmers that came back to cheer on their younger counterparts. “We’re building a big alumni group,” Fischer said. “And each year we get more spectators, many of them on Fire Island,” he added, noting that the mainland beach gets a good crowd, too. “For some people, it’s the first time they’ve ever been to Gilbert Park. It’s the tradition that draws the crowd.”
The top finisher this year was Morgan Wolfe of Manhattan, a Saltaire lifeguard in the summer. He finished with a time of 1:43:18. The top female finisher was another Saltaire lifeguard, Cynthia Drum of Patchogue.
In addition to the athletes, there were over 300 volunteers that helped make the day a success, which resulted in an expected $50,000 raised for Hospice Care Network and for a St. Anthony’s High School scholarship, the school where Maggie had been a student at the time of her death.
Fischer said he is grateful for the help of the dedicated volunteers and to all of the participants in this event.
“It was a fantastic day from start to end,” he said.
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