Marathon swimmer starts long Cuba-U.S. journey
By Jeff Franks
HAVANA (Reuters) - Marathon swimmer Penny Palfrey, a 49-year-old grandmother, dove into the clear waters of the Florida Straits on Friday to try to break her own world record by swimming 103 miles from Cuba to the United States without a shark cage.
With the just-risen sun casting an orange glow in the eastern sky, Palfrey dove into the calm sea from a rocky point at Havana's Hemingway Marina, then stroked methodically away as a handful of spectators looked on.
"Beautiful sea, beautiful sunrise, it's a lovely morning in Cuba," the compact, muscular Palfrey told reporters just before entering the water.
She described herself as "a little excited, a little nervous."
She wore a blue bathing suit and gray bathing cap. Her body was coated with sun block lotion and grease, the latter to protect against chafing on the long journey.
Palfrey, who was born in Britain but lives in Australia, hopes to arrive somewhere in southern Florida within 40 to 50 hours.
Because of variances in the size and speed of the Gulf Stream, which flows through the straits toward the east, it was hard to know exactly where she would come ashore.
Her swim follows two unsuccessful attempts last year by American swimmer Diana Nyad, now 62, to cross the dangerous body of water that separates communist Cuba from the United States, its longtime ideological foe. Continued...