Aug 26, 2014
10:27 AMHealth & Wellness
Lyme Man Swims Coast of New England to Aid Children Battling Cancer
With only about an hour left before completing his epic solo swim from New York to Canada earlier this month, Lyme resident Fred Brooke emerged from the bone-chilling, 50-degree northern Maine water ready to call it quits.
This was the first time during his 13-year journey that he was forced out of the water, and the only time he even considered not finishing what he started in 2002.
“I was so cold and I just didn’t see how I could swim another hour,” Brooke recalls. “I normally will just hold onto the kayak and Lynn (a member of his support team) will feed me in the water and this time I said, ‘I can’t do it, I’ve got to get out,’ and I said to my support guy on the boat, ‘I don’t see how I can go back in that water.’”
Yet nothing was going to stop this 63-year-old from completing his 850-mile quest in support of his local charity, AngelSwim New England. ("Unlike the kids with cancer and other illnesses, my undertaking was my choice and I could stop at any time," Brooke says in the AngelSwim website. "During the solitary hours in the water each year, I began to grasp their uncertainty and suffering.")
Going part of the way each summer, Brooke, a financial consultant, believes he is the first person to swim the entire New England coast.
AngelSwim was started in 2002 as a way to support a Westbrook girl, Angel Uihlein, and her family during her treatment for leukemia. Then in 2003, every summer, Brooke began swimming the coast of New England as a means to raise money and awareness for more children battling cancer. The nonprofit organization has provided financial assistance to families from Connecticut to Maine.
With the assistance and support from his ever-present team, he overcame the cold and swam into the frigid Canadian waters. In addition to Lynn McCarthy, who has been alongside him every stroke of the way in a kayak, support boats captained by, Mike Sturges of Vermont and Bob Turner of Connecticut, accompanied Brooke.
While a wet suit was fine for most of his swims, Brooke admits that a dry suit, which provides thermal insulation, would probably have been more sensible for this last leg.
“The wet suit helps, obviously, but still, in 50 degree water, you still get very, very cold.”
It only took a splash of hot water down his back and Brooke was able to warm up enough to jump back in and complete the 850-mile quest