Dartmouth father-daughter duo complete 10th Buzzards Bay Swim

Jun 29, 2016

Bryan and Laura Robertson were only looking for a fun family get-together when they first participated in the Buzzards Bay Swim. Now in their tenth season, the father-daughter duo has turned the swim into a family tradition.

"It's nice to know we'll always be home for this event," said Laura, who first suggested the pair participate in the fundraiser when she attended Connecticut College. She now lives in New York.

Hosted by the Buzzards Bay Coalition, the annual swim raised $120,000 to support the nonprofit's work in protecting clean water, land conservation, and education initiatives. It's a project close to home for the Robertsons, whose West Smith Neck Road home overlooks the bay.

"We just loved what it stood for—to keep the bay we grew up on clean," said Laura.

The Robertsons were two of 240 swimmers to clear 1.2 miles of the New Bedford Harbor on June 25, and celebrate at the Fort Phoenix Beach finish line.

"I swim to get the pancakes," said Bryan, referring to the pancake-glutted after-party—complete with complimentary massages and live music.

Both Robertsons received the Cuttyhunk Award for their 10th swim—representative of the 11-mile swim between New Bedford and Cuttyhunk Island—which they’ll add to the shelf memorializing their more competitive years.

Bryan swam competitively through high school, and Laura through eighth grade. Now, it’s just for fun.

“We do get super competitive every year, but we never place,” said Laura.

“Normally it’s Laura at the finish line, grinning as I get out of the water,” said her father.

“You have beaten me twice,” Laura reminded him.

“It’s every man for himself,” Bryan joked, recounting the five minutes preceding the swim. “People are treading water… It’s a little hectic when they say ‘go.’ There’s thrashing and kicking.”

“You catch up to someone and there’s feet in your face again,” said Laura about the delicacies of the 30-minute swim.

Crowded waters are only one challenge presented by the race. Trying to keep your eyes on the yellow buoys is another, but the Robertsons lean on each other to overcome those obstacles… sometimes.

Laura’s mother Pattie used to kayak the race, and even guided Laura during her first Buzzards Bay Swim.

“She was my kayaker, which ended up not being great because she went off course,” Laura laughed. “Now she’s in charge of bringing the car over.”

Laura’s sister Sarah normally participates in the swim too, but this year she was in Australia.

In preparation for the swim, the two train for four to six weeks, “carbo-load” the night before, and grab their wetsuits and goggles out of the bin of swimming gear the family has collected over the years.

It’s coffee the morning of, half a banana at the start line, and they’re off.