The first swim across Scotland from Loch Laxford to Bonar Bridge was completed yesterday by Christine Howson 58, and Saartje Drijver 47, from East Lothian. They raised upwards of £4,000 for charities Water Aid and Maggies Cancer. This latter is dear to Christine’s heart as she is currently in remission from ovarian cancer. The completion of the 85 km swim sees Christine back in fighting form after previous chemotherapy.
Both Christine and Saartje were glowing with big smiles as they were given a helping hand out of the water at Bonar Bridge, after concluding the second leg of 25 km over 4 days from Loch Shin to Bonar Bridge. Despite dripping and shivering in their wetsuits, they enjoyed the applause and welcome ashore, happily posing for photographs in front of a banner of congratulations with the team of family and friends.
After they had changed out of their gear, and got warm, they were glad to talk about their experience. Said Christine that she was “on a high”, and “buzzing”, and will be for the next few days. “People think we’re mad” said Christine, referring to the unusual feat.
On Monday, they had just swam the final 8 km in 3 hours, (with breaks) and finished close to two pm, an hour ahead of schedule. Christine said:- “We thought we’d finish at three”. This leg took four days, after a previous four- day stint in August. (This was the first coast to coast swim via this route, although a previous one on a different route is said to have taken place).
Christine said the final 100 yard stretch had been the hardest, they had received a kick to get going from Ian, Christine’s husband. She said she had “chickened out” in some parts, and walked, because the water had been “hairy scary” with rapids and high waves.
Motorboat safety Kenny Campbell confirmed the roughweather, and with his local knowledge had guided them safely around the scary and dangerous sections of the waters.
She said the swim had opened her eyes to the beauty of the area, and many special places, and said:- “like the [beer] advert, touched parts that others don’t touch”, a kind of “secret Scotland”.
The existence of ghillies and water baillifs are a part of Scotland the pair have never come across previously, and they agreed that “the local people :- “seemed fantastic” and very helpful. Kenny Campbell the local water baillif who keeps an eye on fishing permits and helps fishermen, escorted them through the waters on the safety boat. He pointed out dangerous sections to avoid, due to his local knowledge. He said:- ” They did really well, the conditions were really rough”
Ghillie Robbie Elliot whose job is to look after the fishermen and whose bosses Robbie and Andrew Douglas Miller own the Shin said: he “was giving them pointers” for example through his knowledge of the “dangerous rapids” which he told them to avoid.
Luckily, the weather which had been a major concern had held and the storm forecast had not arisen. In which case they would have had to postpone and said Christine that it would have been extremely difficult to get the team together on a weekend that suited many different schedules. The organisation of the whole event said Christine had been very difficult, and although they do have ideas for future ventures they would like to keep them simple and therefore easier to organise.
It was a real achievement and an enjoyable experience for both Christine and Saartje, who met 13 years ago through East Lothian Triathlon Club. With respect to Christine’s cancer, it is difficult for her and her family to understand why it occurred due to all the “fitness and clean living”. She said her sisters Judith and Mary (Howson) as a result see “no logic in this and joke about it”.