An Epic 24-Hour Swim—With Whales & Wine

May 6, 2022

At 9pm on April 30, swimmers from an open water relay team jumped into the inky black waters of the Napa River and embarked on an epic journey to San Francisco’s Aquatic Park.

The 36-mile swim was a benefit for San Francisco Baykeeper and a tribute to pioneering vintner and Obsidian Wine Co. founder Nicholas Molnar, who passed away in January 2022. The swim also marked the launch of Obsidian's new vintage of Rosé for the Bay. One-hundred percent of proceeds from this specially crafted rosé support Baykeeper’s work stopping polluters. In this spirit, swim captain Peter Molnar swam the final leg of the relay with a bottle of Rosé for the Bay in hand!

One of the relay’s intrepid participants, Tyler Meade, provided this first-hand account of the swim:

"Over the course of 36 miles and 24 hours we each swam eight 30-minute legs and arrived at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park a little before 9pm. Most importantly, we raised nearly $12,000 for Baykeeper.Relay swimmers aboard the boat

Our captain, Peter Molnar, jumped just before 9pm into an inky black, pleasingly warm river. We did not make much progress at first, as we were swimming against the incoming tide. Pushing forward, we made it to the Carquinez Strait around 5am. There was more wind and bigger waves than we would have preferred as we crossed San Pablo Bay, but a strong ebb current and the rising sun made it a spectacular crossing. We hugged the Marin coast for the next few hours as the tide came back in.

Around 2pm, we passed Pt. Blunt on the southeast corner of Angel Island. We spent the next few hours pushing towards Alcatraz against an unexpected eddy. Three swimmers made some progress. Then the eddy actually pushed me back. At this point, the water was cooler—around 57 degrees—and we were in the shipping lane, dodging massive ships with the help of the Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Services. They were true pros, monitoring our progress throughout and advising commercial traffic to help keep us safe.

With Peter cheering on, John Mervin, Will Stockard, and Matt Stromberg—all incredibly strong swimmers—completed the crossing. Peter jumped in at the end to finish the swim at 8:45pm.

Underscoring the purpose of this aquatic escapade, we were joined by two unexpected guests: We spotted a seal in the Napa River as we were getting ready, and a whale as we made the final crossing to Aquatic Park.”

Baykeeper would like to thank the participants of this incredible undertaking for supporting our work defending the Bay—for swimmers and non-swimmers alike! To make a donation in honor of this effort, click here.

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