The Westbrook woman, 65, enters the record books by completing a 21-mile North Channel swim.
Pat Gallant-Charette of Westbrook is now the oldest person to successfully swim the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, a 21-mile marathon that took her 14 hours to complete.
At 65, the now-famous long-distance swimmer completed a channel crossing that had eluded her during a string of impressive swims.
Due to the strong currents, the North Channel is known as one of the most challenging in the world. According to her boat captain, Gallant-Charette actually swam about 26 miles before finishing on Aug. 24. Last year, her scheduled attempt never occurred due to poor weather, and during a prior attempt, officials called it off when Gallant-Charette was only a half-mile from the finish.
This time, she said on her blog, “Mother Nature was kind and gave calm conditions.”
There are drawbacks to the calm, however. During her swim, Gallant-Charette said she was stung by jellyfish “on every inch of my body.”
Early this week, Gallant-Charette was still in Ireland. Along with her son, Tom, who served on her boat crew, she will return home Thursday, Sept. 1.
“The most challenging part of the swim was the last mile, because tidal flow was getting stronger and pulling me away from the finish line of Scotland,” she said. “There are many concerns during a swim of this magnitude – cold water temps, jellyfish, sea sickness, etc.”
The average ocean temperature during the swim was 55 degrees.
She was the 41st person in history to successfully complete the swim. Her boat crew also consisted of boat captain Quinton Nelson, friend Fergal Somerville, and an official from the Irish Long Distance Swim Association.
Gallant-Charette began marathon swimming in her 50s, and has since attempted and completed some of the most challenging routes in the world. The marathon swims have taken her on trips to Europe, California, New Zealand and Japan.
Her swimming began as an homage to her brother, who died from a sudden heart attack at 34. She swam the Peaks to Portland race with her son, and was quickly addicted. She then pursued longer challenges.
Sarah Charette, her daughter, said her mom is a continuing source of inspiration.
“It’s strange for me to hear people talking about (Gallant-Charette) being a legend in the marathon swim world. To me, she’s just my mom,” she said. “She’s an inspiration to me and such a good example that age is just a number. She’s still chasing her dreams at age 65. And she never gives up.”
On her blog, Gallant-Charette described a jellyfish that had lodged itself onto her goggles (and her face) during the swim.
“My skin was inflamed by the stings but the cold water helped soothe my skin,” she said. “It was a unique experience!”
Somerville also penned a blog post following Gallant-Charette’s successful swim, describing the experience of watching her friend.
“Pat Gallant-Charette has shown that ‘65’ is a number and physical activity is not monopolized by the young,” she said.
Sarah Charette said that when her mom returns home Thursday night, she’ll receive a police escort from the Portland Jetport.
Pat Gallant-Charette, pictured here training at Pine Point last year, became the oldest person to swim the North Channel between Ireland and Scotland.
Pat Gallant-Charette is the oldest woman to swim the North