The following has been submitted by Clean Ocean Access.
Ben Tuff swam 23 miles around Jamestown, Rhode Island on August 5, 2019 and sets the record for without wetsuit timing at nine hours and seven minutes and raised over $54,000 for Clean Ocean Access. This event started years ago with a personal goal set by Ben to swim around the island, and more recently last summer the goal to bring awareness to the mission of Clean Ocean Access and raise funds for their environmental efforts to improve ocean health.
The morning started with cool northeasterly breezes at Kettle Bottom Rock, just southwest of Fort Wetherill, with Ben jumping into the water from a boat at 5:41 a.m. With the wind on his back, he quickly approached Beavertail Point with folks from the community cheering him on and rounded the island for long leg up the west passage. With the northeast winds and the outgoing tide, Ben hit fierce conditions, but that was just the first of many challenges that he would overcome. With Meg Myles from Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation providing excellent navigation of the local waters, the team took a course to approach Fort Getty by 8:30 a.m. With the current now flooding into the Bay, Ben started to make up time with a calculated inward passage of Dutch Island.
Heading up the west side of the island, Ben approaches south of Jamestown Bridge at 9:30 a.m. with residents, visitors and Clean Ocean Access staff taking full advantage of the numerous public rights of way along Seaside Drive to cheer him on. Ben’s epic journey required immense hydration and the proper constant source of energy. Fortunately, Ben’s trainer David Martin was on the boat and managed the right balance of fuel during the 40-minute intervals of swimming. With spectators cheering him on at Shores Beach, Ben had the final approach towards the northern tip of Conanicut Island.
As the team headed north, they were joined by a kayaker Dennis Nixon, Jamestown Resident and Director of Rhode Island Sea Grant at the University of Rhode Island. Dennis reported “It was a very cool experience. I met the group at Dutch Island and stayed with them up to Capstan St. Ben can swim almost as fast as my kayak, and there were some pretty good waves he had to punch through. Nice to hear cheering crowds on shore in several places.”
Five hours into the swim, Ben was making up time and riding the current northward and right by his side was good friend Jake Linley on a stand-up paddle board. Jake had the responsibility to watch over Ben’s every move, and likely did the longest and slowest paddle of his life. As the team approached Conanicut Point, Ben experienced the next hurdle to overcome, swimming through thousands of jelly fish for several minutes. With cheering sections lined up along the east passage, Ben made his strokes and kicks southward.
Spectators lined the shoreline from the Northeast side of the island to Fort Wetherill Fishing Pier. With Ian Owen and Ben Pelletier from Clean Ocean Access leading the swim with a big flag, the crowd was able to initiate cheers as he approached.
As Ben approached Potter Cove, a massive shoreline cleanup came together by Clean Ocean Access at Taylor Point and they removed fishing line, single-use plastic packaging, plastic bottles, glass bottles, and plastic bags full of trash. Kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders and additional boats joined the support team. Ben charged on, never one showing a sign of weakness, and pushing forwards at a nearly constant pace for the entire journey.
Ben had been swimming for nearly 8 hours as he passed in front of his home at Racquet Road and taking the inside path of Clingstone Rock and getting ready for his final mile to the finish line. With the crowd cheering him on from land and on the water, and an amazing team of water safety and support crafts, Ben’s wife Gretchen, a triathlete, jumped in the water to give ben the boost of encourage to get to Kettle Bottom.
With southwest breezes picking up and sailboats taking to the Bay, Ben made his final strokes with total confidence and passed the finish line at Kettle Bottom Rock at 2:48 p.m. Ben got on-board the boat and headed back to East Ferry landing in downtown Jamestown where he was met by his entire family, supporters, and the community of Jamestown.
To celebrate this amazing accomplishment, Clean Ocean Access reached out to Anchor Bend Glass to create a one-of-a-kind Glass piece with a machined topographical map of the island surrounding in deep blue glass representing Ben’s epic journey around the island he calls home.
Clean Ocean Access Executive Director, Dave McLaughlin gave Ben the award and remarked “This was a personal goal that you trained for over a year, and with commitment and dedication that transformed into a laser focus to raise awareness and funds for the mission of Clean Ocean Access to improve ocean health. Your hard work ends today, and hard work starts tomorrow to take bolder action to achieve greater impact to advance our mission so that future generations can enjoy ocean activities”.
About Clean Ocean Access: Since 2006 our mission is action today so future generations can enjoy ocean activities, with a primary focus on Aquidneck Island. Living on Aquidneck Island defines a coastally inspired life; so, our cause of working for clean beaches, healthy oceans, safe swimming water, and public access of the shoreline is what we do, all year long. We are a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization, learn more at www.cleanoceanaccess.org