March 10, 2010

Channel swim must wait until 2011

ANN KIM

— By

Staff Writer

A Westbrook woman's attempt to swim the English Channel must wait until 2011.

Pat Gallant-Charette, 58, was hoping to become the oldest American woman to swim from Dover, England, to Calais, France.

Bad weather forced her to postpone her swim a number of times. Her last chance for this trip was at 1 p.m. Sunday, when 15-mph winds ruled out the possibility of a crossing.

''She's definitely upset,'' said her son, Tom Charette of Westbrook. ''The weather there is just like here: you can't control it.''

It's another disappointment for Gallant-Charette. Last year, she was within two miles of crossing the channel. But she had to call off her swim because of a riptide that virtually locked her in place for four hours.

Gallant-Charette, a registered nurse, won't be able to try again next year because her boat pilot is already booked completely. She plans to try again in August 2011.

The channel is 20.7 miles across as the crow flies, but swimmers cover a far greater distance -- 30 miles or more -- as they navigate the tides and currents, Gallant-Charette explained in her blog, www.patgalant.blogspot.com.

Gallant-Charette started swimming to honor her late brother, Robbie Gallant. He died from heart problems in 1997, at the age of 34.

When she first started out, she wondered whether she could even complete two laps at the swimming pool.

Gallant-Charette will be back in Maine on Tuesday. She already has plans for the time between then and 2011. They include big swims across the Catalina Channel in California and the Strait of Gibraltar.

Gallant-Charette's daughter, Sarah Midgley of Westbrook, said her supporters were hoping that the extension she received was a sign that this year would bring success at the English Channel. Swimmers' attempts are regulated by the English Channel Association, and Gallant-Charette's window of opportunity was initially set to expire Thursday. Her boat pilot was able to offer her another chance because the currents were unfavorable to his other swimmers, who planned double crossings, Midgley said.

''We were all, like, 'This is a sign, this is a sign. It's meant to be,''' she said.

Midgley said it's heartbreaking to think about her mother's disappointment after all the work she's put in. But she said this setback will only fuel her mother's resolve.

''When she returned from her last swim, she kind of took it easy for a couple weeks and then jumped right back in,'' she said. ''She works, she sleeps and she swims. That's what she does.''

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be contacted at 791-6383 or at:

akim@pressherald.com

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