Nova Scotia

Swimmers reach P.E.I. after 14K swim

The first of 34 swimmers have reached P.E.I. after entering the water at a New Brunswick beach near the Confederation Bridge early Sunday morning.

Swimmers brave cold waters of Northumberland Strait in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada and Camp Brigadoon

The swimmers have been training since January for the 14-kilometre swim across the Northumberland Strait for charity. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

The first of 34 swimmers have reached P.E.I. after entering the water at a New Brunswick beach near the Confederation Bridge early Sunday morning.

The first two swimmers reached land at Borden, P.E.I. just before 12:00 p.m. on Sunday.

The swimmers are braving the cold waters of the Northumberland Strait participating in The Big Swim, a 14-kilometre swim in support of Cystic Fibrosis Canada and Camp Brigadoon.

Each swimmer was supported by a kayaker and other support boats.

Suzanne Ferrier has been training for the event for months.

"When you're swimming for five hours straight and you’re in the water, you don't really see anything. Your face is in the water. It's a lot of time to spend with yourself, just thinking," she said.

"I’ll remind myself we’re doing this for the children. It may be tough for me right now, but they have this every day."

Never let it be said that Todd McDonald let his phobia of deep water get in the way of a good cause.

The Nova Scotia native faced his fears on Sunday when he swam alongside 31 other people from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island for the third annual Big Swim charity fundraiser in support of people living with chronic illness and disease.

"Unbelievable," said McDonald, after completing the 14-kilometre swim along the Confederation Bridge in under five hours.

"Just blessed — an incredible, incredible day. Perfect weather for the third year in a row."

The 2013 swim raised more than $130,000, which is almost evenly split between Cystic Fibrosis Canada and Brigadoon Village, a recreational camp in Nova Scotia for children living with a chronic illness, a condition or a special need in Atlantic Canada.

The swim takes several hours, depending on wind and wave conditions .

Record breaking swim

"I love going to camp," said 15-year-old Jessica Plummer from Hammonds Plains, N.S. "It's like my favourite thing — it's so much fun and all my friends go."

She says she thinks it is unfair that a chronic illness would stop anyone from being able to attend summer camp.

Plummer set a record on Sunday when she became the youngest female to cross the Northumberland Strait, adding that the final kilometre-and-a-half was "probably the hardest thing I've ever done."

She beat a 2004 record for youngest female swimmer set by 16-year-old Melanie Leger, according to the online database Maritime Open-Water Swims.

The record for the youngest person to ever swim the Strait goes to 14-year-old Ralph Brooks in 1964.

"It was so cool when I got to the beach and all my family was cheering for me and all the people on the beach were clapping," said Plummer. "It was such a great experience ... a once in a lifetime feeling."

The Big Swim 2013 set a second record, for the largest group to swim the Strait together.

The first swimmer to complete the crossing was Steuart Martens, who came from Washington, D.C., to participate in the event.

"It was pretty spectacular," said Martens. "Beautiful scenery — the bridge was gorgeous."

McDonald said finishing this year's event put him at a loss for words.

"I'm standing here looking at 300 people on the shore and all the volunteers and all the work they did and kind of humbled by it all," he said immediately after completing the crossing.

"One of our principles is achieving something that you think is extraordinary at the beginning but that you end up accomplishing."

With files from The Canadian Press