Getting There: Open Water Swimming to Islesboro

Oh, the lengths to which some people will go for fried food.

“I just wanted some onion rings, and they’ve got really great ones on Islesboro,” says Shannon Thompson. The open water swimmer and her friend, Jessica Stammen, recently swam from Lincolnville Beach, Maine, to the island of Islesboro — a three-mile trip through the fifty-seven-degree waters of Penobscot Bay. They were accompanied by a kayak and a sailboat (under power) in case either of them tired, but this great video by Camden-based photographer Jim Dugan makes it look like the swimmers were just hitting their stride when they climbed onto the Islesboro shore. Make sure to pay attention about four minutes into the video, when the two try to answer the ultimate question: why?

Thompson and Stammen endured frigid feet and hands and faced a building sea breeze during their open water swim, but Thompson says the worst thing about the trip came at the end, when they discovered that the snack bar at Grindle Point was closed. “You should’ve seen the look on the face of the woman at the snack shack at the ferry terminal,” Thompson says. “We were absolutely crestfallen — you mean we swam all that way and there aren’t any onion rings?”

Thompson, who last summer completed the swim from Alcatraz to the mainland — “Not as far, but more sharks,” she remarks — says her next long swim, tentatively planned for September 24-25, will be on the St. George River from Warren, Maine, to Thomaston. Though that trip will be twice the length of her crossing to Islesboro, Thompson remains undaunted. “Hey, it’s all downhill,” she says.

Sounds like folks in Thomaston better get those onion rings ready.