Swim Commuting: Fad, or Here to Stay?

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    “Swim Commuting Growing in Popularity”

    Oct. 24, 2017, Washington Examines–Ferries that regularly carry commuters and sports fans from Georgetown and Alexandria to the new Southwest Waterfront and Nationals Park have added a new kind of customer–swimmers taking advantage of an unusual means of getting to work.

    Starting last June, Poseidon Transport, Inc., the major operator of ferries in the metro region, began offering support for people wanting to swim all or part of the company’s routes. For years, Poseidon’s ships have traveled from Alexandria, National Harbor, and Georgetown to the Waterfront and back, transporting thousands of tourists and commuters daily.

    Under its new program, and for an extra $10 fee, aquatic commuters board a Poseidon ferry, then swim alongside the slow-moving boat for as long as they want. Swimmers are tethered to the ship, and lifeguards onboard add an extra safety precaution. When a swimmer tires, he can climb back on board for a rest, or stay in the water and have crew members toss him energy drinks, fruit, or electrolyte gels. The swims are long as seven miles and as short as a bracing dip.

    The swim-ferry commutes have proven especially popular with area triathletes, who are often pressed for time to get in their swim workouts.

    “Weather permitting, I swim every morning from Georgetown to Nats Park, and back,” said Harper’s Ferry resident Heather Prow, an Ironman finisher who works near the Waterfront. “And because I bike to Georgetown too, I have two-thirds of my workouts out of the way by the time I get home.”

    Prow swims both ways, both to and from work, but many aquatic commuters swim only downstream, with the current, depending on the river’s tide charts for the day.

    “Normally I stroke with the current in the morning,” said Poolsville resident Joan Joyce, “then run or Uber it back home in the evening, so I don’t have to fight the waves.”

    For those who might be put off by the rumored pollution in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, Poseidon’s ferries provide showers and even gargling stations for swimmers when they get out of the water. (An on-board bar allows one to ‘gargle’ with whiskey if one so chooses.) The company also offers paddleboard rentals for those wanting to skim to work along the surface of the stream. Water skiing behind the ferries’ powerful turbine engines is another alternative.

    Last week, Poseidon began providing full breakfasts to its swimmer clients. “We aim to provide one-stop shopping for the busy commuter-athlete,” said Potomac, Maryland resident Franklin Bryan, Poseidon’s Chief Aquatic Officer, or CAO. “When they step off our boats, the swimmers have already worked out and eaten, and are totally ready to meet the working day.”

    Bryan noted the unusual commutes help decrease Washington’s notorious traffic gridlock and aid the environment too. “Instead of sitting in frustration on 495 for two hours, our customers actually enjoy their trip to work, and produce no carbon emissions in doing so, and begin work calm and relaxed.”

    “Aqua-commuting,” noted Georgetown Hospital cardiologist and Lake Barcroft resident Holly Finn, “may be a partial solution to the region’s epidemic of obesity and related diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The exercise makes you fitter and, believe me, swimming in an urban river reduces your appetite for at least a week.”

    Poseidon plans to further expand its offerings this winter, with skate commuting for those eager to slide to their jobs along the frozen Potomac.

    This option is tentative, however, as a rival firm plans to operate an ice cutter on the river in order to offer its own swims throughout the year.

    In any case, swimming has joined cycling, the Metro, and the combustion engine in D.C.’s growing mix of commuter choices.

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