Pat Gallant-Charette kept her word.

The 60-year-old Westbrook woman vowed to swim 21 miles across the English Channel this month, as long as the conditions were good enough to get in the water.

On Monday, she did it.

Or, as her daughter wrote, “OMG, she did it! she did it she did it she did it. I am just in awe! Holy Holy HOLY!”

It was the third time in just over three years that Gallant-Charette had flown to England to attempt the swim, but it was her first chance to break the record for the oldest American woman to make it across. The previous record-holder was 59 years old.

In 2008, Gallant-Charette was pulled from the water within two miles of the shore of France because strong currents were keeping her from progressing any farther. In 2009, she was never allowed in the water because conditions were too poor during the 10-day time slot allotted to her.

Similar scenarios threatened to thwart her third attempt.

Gallant-Charette posted on her blog Sunday afternoon that she’d be starting her swim that night, despite 9-foot swells. Her boat pilot thought the conditions would only get worse before next Sunday, the last day of her time slot.

“If I don’t make the attempt tonight, I would probably be going home without a swim,” she wrote.

And so, at 11:11 p.m. EDT Sunday (4:11 a.m. local time), she entered the water off Dover, England.

Back in Westbrook, Gallant-Charette’s daughter, Sarah Charette Midgley, took over the blog and started posting updates, which she received through text messages from family members riding on a boat alongside her mother.

The conditions weren’t great, she wrote, but Gallant-Charette was making progress. The positive reports continued: six miles into the swim … halfway … just four miles to go.

Then the first signs of real trouble.

“Pat is not making much progress due to issues with tides. Wind and waves are starting to pick up,” Charette Midgley wrote at 11:50 a.m. EDT Monday.

Friends and fans of Gallant-Charette started posting words of encouragement.

Among them was Virginia Wilder Cross, who had been watching the blog all night for updates. She started following Gallant-Charette two years ago, after watching her swim nonstop for six hours off Pine Point Beach in Scarborough.

More cheerleading came from the co-workers of Gallant-Charette’s brother, David Gallant, who was on the boat. He works at a doctor’s office on Brighton Avenue in Portland, where staffers were hitting the refresh button on computers throughout the day.

At the Casco Bay YMCA in Freeport, where Gallant-Charette trains in the winter, swimmers were checking the website between their morning laps.

Little news came from the boat crew until 3:14 p.m., when Charette Midgley made the post that they’d been waiting for. In under 16 hours, her mother had reached the shore of France.

Charette Midgley started calling family members with the news soon after the 3:14 p.m. post. They already knew.

More than 60 people posted their congratulations on the website.

“I can’t put it into words,” a choked-up Charette Midgley said later in a phone interview. “I’m so proud of her.”

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]