Dartmouth swimmer completes 16th Buzzards Bay Swim

Nancy Smith, 75, was the oldest person to participate in this year's swim.
Jun 21, 2015

She just keeps swimming.

On Saturday, Dartmouth's Nancy Smith joined 248 others in the Buzzards Bay Coalition's annual Buzzards Bay Swim, which raises money for the organization's clean water efforts in the area.

It was Smith's 16th time completing the 1.2 mile swim from New Bedford's south end to Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven. Smith, 75, was the top female finisher in the 70-plus division.

Smith said she wasn't confident the first time around, but her fears were quickly washed away after that first plunge back in 1999.

"Once I begun, I haven't stopped," said Smith.

She also raised $1,428 for this year's race, the eighth-most out of any of the participants. This year, swimmers raised over $100,000 in the 22nd annual swim.

"I grabbed my husband Howard's credit card to start the ball rolling," said Smith, noting that her children, Kate O'Donnell and Jonathan Smith, have been incredibly supportive as well in her fundraising efforts. "And I have wonderful friends and colleagues who have supported me over the years. I used email and Facebook judiciously. It's difficult to ask people for money as there are always worthy causes needing our support."

Smith said she's seen the race change for the better over the years.

"Certainly, the number of participants has increased over the years. Little things that matter, like a mat to walk down into the water so your feet don't get cut, electronic timing, Caribbean style music (from local steel drum act El Caribe) to welcome the swimmers as they exit the water, tents to wiggle in and out of wetsuits, large yellow buoys to guide the swimmers from New Bedford to Fairhaven . . . the Buzzards Bay Coalition has facilitated so many extraneous things for swimmers."

A retired teacher from within the Dartmouth school district, Smith said that although the swimmers get most of the attention, the organizers and volunteers deserve more credit.

"The individuals responsible for the organization of the swim deserve so much appreciation and credit as well: Mark Rasmussen, Deb Hood, Marc Belanger, Donna Cobert, Lynn Coish, and so many more whose names I don't know," said Smith. "The volunteers are the often overlooked unsung heroes. Bless them! What a devoted team!"

And as for her future plans?

"I plan to keep swimming the Buzzards Bay Coalition Swim as long as I possibly can," said Smith.