SI Vault
Dan Levin
August 28, 1978
Diana Nyad failed to swim from Cuba to Key West when adverse winds, whipping up huge swells, forced her out of the water
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August 28, 1978

An Ill Wind That Blew No Good

Diana Nyad failed to swim from Cuba to Key West when adverse winds, whipping up huge swells, forced her out of the water

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"The current is good and the wind is bad," du Moulin said, "but it will quiet down as we get closer to Florida. And the waves should get smaller tonight. You're doing very well."

Nyad swam on but soon she stopped again, pointed to her mouth and said, "Candace, I have to see a doctor."

"I was talking to a doctor today," Hogan said, "and he assured me your tongue will be normal in a few days."

But Nyad was crying again. "Tell me what he really said. It's bull about how far I've gone. How much more is there?"

"Boy, you're a smart cookie," Hogan told her. "But don't you worry. We'll have someone look at that mouth. Now let's get going. You're still strong and you should be proud." Nyad vomited and swam off.

At 8 p.m. Monday the wind was gusting to 18 knots. The ocean swells were huge, some of them to seven feet, but Nyad plodded on, stopping now and then to announce that there were lizards in the bottom of the shark cage. Finally she observed that the cage had turned into a cave, with stalactites and stalagmites.

At 7 a.m. Tuesday the swells were up to eight and nine feet. A rubber boat left the shark cage and headed for the press boats. The man in it said, "We want the reporters at the shark cage. We're way off course and we'll never make it, so we're taking her out." Soon after—41 hours and 47 minutes from when she set out—Diana Nyad was in a boat headed for Key West.

While Nyad was sleeping in Key West that night, two men were looking back at the swim and replotting her course. They were du Moulin and Bob Tittle, captain of the Best Revenge, one of the press boats. "We never hit the Gulf Stream right," du Moulin said. "It's so complex, with side currents along the edges; and the wind stopped us at every turn." He concluded that Diana had gone 76.1 miles, though in a very circuitous fashion, first northwest, then north, then northeast, and finally, way to the southeast. She had been taken out of the water only some 50 miles from the start and about 80 miles from Key West. Du Moulin and Tittle agreed that Nyad had the capacity to swim from Cuba to Florida.

Tittle spoke of how a more effective cage might be built. "It would have to be much less wind resistant," he said. "But get her out there in late June or early July, with no wind, and she could swim to Key West, jump on the dock and order a drink."

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