2018 Maggie Fischer Memorial Swim

Friday the 13th No Match for Tradition of Great South Bay Cross Bay Swim

By Emma Boskovski // Photos by Sean FitzthumFor 95 years, the community’s best swimmers hop on a sunrise ferry over to the Fire Island Lighthouse where they share in the tradition of swimming 5.6 miles across the Great South Bay to Bay Shore.In 1999, Maggie Fischer, daughter of Robert and Mary Fischer, passed away a few days before the swim, and she was one of the 15 scheduled competitors that year. Since then, the swim has been dedicated to Maggie, and the Fischer’s play an instrumental role in organizing the event.“It is such a rewarding event,” said Robert Fischer. “The fact that it has my daughter’s name on it, and that we can brand the swim as the safest, best run, well organized event – it is like a big family party that we throw every year.”Last year, the swim donated $65,000 to the Hospice Care Network Children’s Bereavement Fund, and $20,000 to the Maggie Fischer Scholarship Fund.“We do this for such a good cause,” said Fischer. “Each year we raise more money for those causes. There is nothing better in life than being in service like that.”At 10 years old, I watched my mother, Julie Boskovski, cross the finish line, just under the fourhour mark. Training since November, my mom talked about completing the Cross Bay Swim as if she had conquered the world – and to me she did. I was determined to conquer the world too, with a faster time than she did, of course.At 16 years old, I joined in the tradition. I have come back in the years following to demonstrate the same grace, determination, and strength that my mom showed me in 2011, and that other participants of the race demonstrate every year.“We choose the day of the swim depending on the tides,” said Fischer. “We try our best to find a day where there is no current. There was no day available this summer; we had some slightly better days in June and August, but they were not as favorable to us as doing it in July. We know that we can do the swim with a slight incoming current, but we have never had this much incoming current. This was going to be a test for the swimmers.”There was a strong incoming tide flowing from east to west, at a right angle to the course. The Fischer family advised swimmers to reconsider the advisability of attempting this year’s swim under these conditions.“I think the tide was even harder than we expected it to be,” said Fischer. “The swimmers all responded to it because they certainly knew that there was going to be a strong tide, but I don’t think anybody expected it to be quite as strong as it was.”With the mad dash of swimmers and kayakers grabbing their kayaks off the ferry, this year’s conditions created a second mad dash for kayakers to move as far west down the beach as they could – setting up the ideal situation for the current to carry them towards the first yellow buoy.Despite the westward start, I quickly became jolted by the current, constantly popping my head up to make sure I was on course. I kept my eyes on the yellow buoy that we had to swim past to get to the first mile. Once I passed it, I thought I was in the clear.With the perfect conditions, and virtually no wind, I had anticipated that I would swim a 30 minute mile. After about 45 minutes and no indication that I had completed a mile, I popped my head up and shot a look of confusion at my kayaker, Heather Joinnides.“We are almost at the first mile marker,” she said. “The worst is almost over.”I whipped my head around to realize that in a sea of swimmers and kayakers, the yellow buoy that marked half of the first mile, was right behind me. Had I not been moving? What was I swimming towards?I was fighting the current, and I was tired. The words, “Onto mile two, three, four” and finally, “five” came so much easier, than that “mile one.”“You could say that in a way, we tried to optimize the tides for the swimmers in the past,” said Fischer. “This time we threw a little bit of a monkey wrench at them, a challenge, and we wanted to see how it all worked out. Frankly, it worked out very nicely.”For others, the tides presented no challenge. Two new records were set by 19-year-old Christopher Area of Amityville, completing the swim in one hour and 38 minutes; and 17-year-old Justin Meyn of Brightwaters, who finished in one hour and 41 minutes; meaning both first and second place cross bay swimmers this year broke Morgan Wolfe’s former swim finish record of one hour and 43 minutes set in 2015.Megan Donnelly, 17, of Sayville, was the first female to finish, in an hour and 56 minutes.There were 150 spots this year, as opposed to 120 last year, and 100 in 2016.“We have slowly been increasing the numbers but nothing substantial,” said Fischer. “I do not think we will ever have more than 150 swimmers. We officially registered 127 swimmers and had 116 the day of, which is not unusual. We know that logistics will allow us to do this.”Other than beating my mother, the Cross Bay Swim has never been about winning. The reward of crossing the finish line is that with every breath between every stroke of the last half mile, you hear cheering. Cheering of the crowd comprised of your family, your friends, and your community – the people who keep this tradition alive.“Running this event is not just us,” said Fischer, “or the committee that we have with us. It requires the entire Fire Island community, all of the services of the Great South Bay, the village of Brightwaters, and the Town of Islip. So, there’s no way to say ‘thank you’ adequately to all of the people and services that do it – but it shows the warmth of tradition here.”Myself and 114 others crossed the finish line on Friday, July 13 – and despite all the bad luck Friday the 13th presents, it was a great day to swim across the Great South Bay.