Nova Scotia

Big Swim organizers change route due to Northumberland Strait swells

Participants were in the water around 7 a.m. at Cape Jourimain, N.B., and plans to swim the strait alongside the Confederation Bridge were nixed due to concerns about weather and two-metre water swells.

Participants were in the water around 7 a.m. at Cape Jourimain, N.B.

Sixty-two swimmers and kayakers began their 14-kilometre journey along the New Brunswick coast on Sunday, raising money for a Nova Scotia camp and recreational facility for kids with illnesses and special needs. (Give to Live/Facebook)

Sixty-two swimmers and kayakers began a 14-kilometre journey in the waters of the Northumberland Strait Sunday morning, but on a different route than originally planned. 

Each year, people travel far and wide for the Big Swim, a fundraiser that challenges participants to cross the strait between New Brunswick and P.E.I.

Participants were in the water around 7 a.m. at Cape Jourimain, N.B. They were to travel alongside the Confederation Bridge, but organizers were concerned about weather and two-metre water swells. 

"We had a really experienced kayaker go out there and he said he didn't feel safe, so that was the ultimate call for us," said media volunteer Tracy Ashley.

'A challenge, mentally'

Participants instead travelled along the New Brunswick coast, finishing at Murray Beach Provincial Park in Murray Corner. 

With the tide at their backs, the first swimmers were crossing the finish line by 9 a.m. 

Bobby Lou Reardon, a 53-year-old swim coach from Yarmouth, N.S., has participated in the Big Swim twice before. She says the route change was "a challenge, mentally."

"But very quickly we were reminded by Todd [McDonald, an organizer] why we're doing this," Reardon said. "I think that sort of humbled and put everything back into persepctive." 

Fundraising goal nearly reached

This year's participants have so far raised $148,000 for Brigadoon Village, a year-round facility and camp in Nova Scotia for children, youth and families living with chronic illness or special needs.

The event's goal is to raise $150,000 — which would send 150 kids to summer camp programs. Donations will be accepted until September.

The majority of participants are from Nova Scotia, but some have travelled from as far as Newfoundland, Ontario and Alberta to take part. 

Spirits still high

The route change disappointed some, Ashley said. 

"A lot of them have been swimming and training since February or March with the idea of landing and touching their toes on that red sand," she said. "Everybody's spirits are still really high."

Reardon says she has a few connections with Brigadoon Village, making this year's event extra special. 

"I have one particular swimmer who's very dear to my heart who has been at Brigadoon," she said. "Kids still need to go to camp — bottom line."