Crossing the channel

Calm weather welcomes 434 swimmers Monday

Swimmers’ strokes were all that disturbed the smooth Columbia River waters on Monday.

Under brilliant sunny weather, and with not a bit of wind, the 434 swimmers made the crossing under conditions radically different than 2001, when the annual event had to be canceled.

“After last year, this is beautiful,” said Craig Schmidt, director of the sponsoring Hood River Chamber of Commerce, who had to make the tough call last year to cancel the race, as weather reports showed increasingly strong winds coming west from Cascade Locks.

What a difference a year makes.

“This is as nice a day for the swim as I can remember,” said Cindy Winfield, who has volunteered for the event for “between 10 and 15 years.”

The swim was “very, very good,” said Anne Collson, of her first Cross-Channel. The St. Helens resident came last year, and was disappointed at the cancellation. She was enthused enough about trying the event again that she also coaxed her daughter’s swim team coach into doing the 60th Annual Cross Channel.

“It was really calm today. There were no waves, which made it easy to go straight,” said Scott Roy of Mililani, Hawaii, who finished first. His wife, Tristan, was not far behind.

The Roys were one example of how the Webster swim is a family affair. The Euwer family of Hood River and “Team Smith” of Portland both had five swimmers, and four members of the Boyce family from Fair Oaks, Calif., also made the 1.1-mile crossing.

But it was the Websters who had 12 members dive into grandpa Roy’s legacy. That made about one-eighth of all the Websters who had gathered for the family reunion in Hood River over the weekend. Another 20 members of the Webster clan rode the Sternwheeler Columbia River to the Bingen side, courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce, to watch the swimmers dive into the water in stages of 10 at a time.

For Roy’s daughter, Sharon Harvey of Hood River, the large numbers of participants, Websters included, is a gratifying tribute to Roy Webster.

Harvey was on shore greeting swimmers and taking photos, but she has done the Cross Channel three times. She got her start swimming literally on her father’s back.

“I was four years old and he had me climb on his back and we dove into Puget Sound. That’s how I learned to swim,” Harvey recalled.

“He instilled in us the love of swimming and how special a sport it is,” Harvey said.

Some people love the Cross Channel so much they’ll do the event with a broken ankle.

“My doctor doesn’t like it, but I really wanted to do the swim,” said Tami Wagonfeld of Hood River, who injured her ankle while windsurfing five weeks ago.

She couldn’t kick with her left leg, so she supported it with a flotation device.

The Cross-Channel’s sturdiest participant, Joe Sullivan of The Dalles, swam for the 32nd consecutive time. Not far behind at 29 straight crossings were Doug Brenner of Portland and Jeff Gubman of Lake Oswego, and Jane Conn of Colville, Wash., with 27.

Swimming as teams were Stumptown Dog Paddlers of Lake Oswego, Salem Norm of Salem, Roy Robsters of Beaverton, and Guinness Athletic Club of Portland.

Dozens of boats lined the crossing route to help any swimmers in need of a rest. However, all participants made the crossing unassisted, including Eric Zimmerman of Roseburg, who swam with his six-foot inflatable alligator, known as Fred.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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