A Bar Harbor woman is attempting for the second year in a row to become the first person to swim 44 miles all the way around Mount Desert Island.
Puranjot Kaur, 41, plans to set out Tuesday evening from Hadley Point in Bar Harbor and to swim clockwise around the island over roughly 24 hours.
Kaur, an assistant swimming coach at the local YMCA and an experienced distance swimmer, made her first attempt last year and made it roughly 17 miles. She swam into a stiff headwind as she rounded Otter Point and, after struggling to make progress, began to experience hypothermia before she abandoned the effort.
As in 2020, her attempt this year doubles as a fundraiser for Open Table MDI, a not-for-profit organization that Kaur founded and operates with her husband, Mahandeva Singh. The group, which is aimed at strengthening food security for area residents, has been preparing and serving food out of Bar Harbor Congregational Church since its inception in early 2018 but is in the process of renovating a former restaurant space at 116 Cottage St. into its new base of operations.
Kaur’s swim last year raised $50,000 for the organization.
“IT’S HAPPENING!!,” Kaur posted Sunday on Facebook about making her second attempt to swim around the island nonstop. “Unless there is a dramatic change in the weather forecast, Round the Rock 2.0 is kicking off on Tuesday, August 3rd at 7:27pm (yes, PM) from Hadley Point Beach.”
By starting at night — she started off at 7 a.m. last year — Kaur said she hopes to avoid a repeat of encountering afternoon winds off Otter Point. Also by making the attempt in early August rather than late August, she hopes the water will be a little warmer than it was last year.
“If the forecast holds, I should hit that same trouble spot early in the morning on Wednesday with almost no wind,” Kaur said.
Despite not making it all the way around MDI in late August of 2020, Kaur has swum all around the island — just not all at once. Last September and October, she completed the route in various stages, and she has been in training for the past few months, swimming long distances in lakes on MDI in the spring and early summer before switching back to ocean swimming last month.
Like last year, Kaur will be accompanied throughout her swim by boaters and kayakers who, without touching her, will provide her with food and water and monitor her health. The public will be able to track her progress by keeping an eye on the flotilla of accompanying watercraft, or by checking online at track.rs, a website for tracking endurance athletes on land or at sea.
A marathon swim is one that is longer than 6.2 miles, according to the Marathon Swimmers Federation. In order for a swim to qualify for inclusion in the international list of open-water marathon swims kept by the federation, swimmers are not allowed to wear wetsuits, though Kaur can smear her body with protective oil or grease to help keep her warm in the chilly water and to prevent chafing.
Aside from possible body grease, Kaur will wear only a regular bathing suit and cap, goggles and earplugs. As of Monday, the water temperature off downtown Bar Harbor varied between 57 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, according to weather buoy data posted online by NERACOOS.