Whalsay sisters Shona Moncrieff and Kristina Simpson braved the elements in the name of charity when they took on the grisly challenge of swimming home from the Mainland.
Setting out at 11.30am on Thursday from Bonidale in Lunnasting, they swam over two miles to Symbister to raise money for Cope Ltd, the social enterprise company of which their father, Michael Simpson, is one of the directors.
It was Mr Simpson who originally had the idea to do something to raise funds for the company’s latest project, a cafe and shop in Whalsay, but Shona said he conveniently “chickened out”.
The idea to swim came to them just after Christmas, and training began soon after. Having not taken part in much serious swimming since their school days, when they swam with school clubs, Shona said they had to knuckle down and get back into the way of training.
“We did our own training. We really just did a lot of hours in the pool. Kristina would do hour swims four or five times a week and I did an hour a half to two hours a couple of times a week.”
She said they trained separately, however: “Kristina didn’t want to do my swimming and I didn’t want tot do hers, so we didn’t train much together.”
Usually swimming breast stroke, Shona said they had to build up their front crawl as the special suits they would be wearing in the sea meant mobility was limited.
The suits, designed for triathlon events, were donated by Whalsay fishing boats the Charisma and Research, along with the goggles and hats.
While they practiced a bit in the voes to prepare for being at sea, Shona said they weren’t sure what to expect of the challenge.
The half way point in particular proved difficult: “Around half way my hands and feet were starting to bend with the cold, I couldn’t get my hands closed to form a cup. The cold was really taking its toll and I couldn’t swim properly.”
And while they had been preparing to swim around two miles, with the strong winds and tides of the day it is thought they swam much further. The final distance is not yet known but was being plotted by the boats who accompanied them for safety.
“It was a bit demoralising at times, we were told to swim hard when the tides were strongest but you felt like you weren’t getting anywhere. It was hard to get a lot of breath; there was a lot of water swallowed!”
The challenge took around one hour and 40 minutes and so far has raised an impressive £3,000, however donations are still coming in.
Shona said: “We’re really blyde. Folk have been so generous, we’re really chuffed.”