Mark Johansen tackled the 16km Bocaina Strait while on holiday
On a holiday in May 2023, my wife and I swam across La Bocaina Strait, a 16km stretch of water between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
The swim was not pre-planned, we were there for a holiday, but we wanted to do a lot of swimming to help me prepare for my Catalina Channel attempt later this year.
This is how the swim came about and how it went.
We had been on the island four days and had already swum around 32 km, when I saw that Colin Hill had just done the swim, so I decided to investigate.
After a few messages to Paul at Swim Lanzarote, I secured a potential slot for the following week. At this point, Judith (my wife) said that she fancied doing it too, so I messaged Paul again to see if it would be feasible for us to swim in tandem.
I am not sure if he believed me at first as he kept asking if I was sure we would be able to swim at the same pace all the way. But in the end, I convinced him and we were in the diary for the following Wednesday. It was the only day we and he could do, so, with fingers crossed we backed off the training and just did short 2 too 3km swims, a bit of cycling and got plenty of rest.
We had taken some CNP maltodextrin/carbohydrate powder with us for our training, but realised we did not have enough left for two of us on a 16km swim. So, we took a trip up to see the helpful guys at Mas Desportes triathlon shop in San Bartolome to get some extra fuel.
We were able to obtain some Match 27 cluster dextrin jelly bars (I was so impressed by them that I’ve just ordered 50 bars).
Everything worked out perfectly for the day of the swim. It was the only day that week with relatively light (for Lanzarote) winds forecast. We got the nod that we would be meeting the boat at the marina in Playa Blanca at 6.30 am for a 7.00 start.
As swimmers, we are used to early mornings, though 4.30 when you’re on holiday is a bit of a stretch for anyone!
We had a light breakfast, got our kit and feeds together, and drove to the meeting point.
We met Angela (crew member) at the dock and waited for Paul and the boat to arrive as the sun began to creep up behind the hills over Playa Blanca.
The boat arrived, we boarded and were briefed by the crew as we got ourselves ready while the boat motored around to the start point.
The sun had just risen as we jumped off the back of the boat and swam to the beach for the start. Once there, we cleared the water, raised our hands, and strode back into the water to start our swim with a beautiful Canary Islands sunrise our backdrop.
There was now enough light for us to see the sandy bottom, and we were both taken by how long we were swimming through shallow(ish) water. Apparently, the strait is only about 40m at its deepest.
Conditions were lovely with a gentle swell and just a bit of added chop from passing ferries to make things interesting. The water temperature was a comfortable 21 degrees. The air temperature was in the high teens when we set off, climbing to the mid 20s as the day progressed.
We swam for an hour before our first feed, the same for the second and then every 45 mins for the rest of the swim.
The first feed was 300ml of CNP mixed with a teaspoon of fructose and flavoured with summer fruits squash. Next feed we had a jelly bar and a bit less liquid, and this is how we alternated the feeds throughout the swim.
We managed to find a decent pace we could both hold comfortably and after about three hours we could see Isla De Lobos up ahead, and knew we were making good time.
Isla De Lobos is an uninhabited nature reserve, home to lots of marine life and we were fortunate enough to see a turtle swim below us as we were passing.
When we stopped to feed at 3hrs 30m, the crew told us we had around 3.5km left to swim, we decided we would stop for another feed rather than doing without, and we were glad we did as it took us a bit longer than we might have hoped for.
We exited the water after 4hrs 52mins, hugged in the glorious sunshine and swam our way back to the boat with Angela and Paul for company.
On the way back to Lanzarote we saw another turtle, this time a huge loggerhead feeding on the surface out in the main channel, the perfect end to a perfect day!
The training we had done at home through the winter and the volume we swam the previous week had set us up perfectly.
Anyone contemplating this swim should already be competent at marathon distance swims in open water, and be correctly prepared for a swim of five hours or more.
Who should consider this swim?
Anyone wanting a greater open water challenge than the usual 10km marathon swims, specifically in the open sea.
In my opinion, it is a perfect early-season swim for anyone doing any of the big Channel swims and will give you a good marker as to where you are and how well your training is paying off.
At 16km It is approximately half the distance of the English Channel and is a nice distance you can do while UK waters are still too cold.
Lanzarote is a swimmer’s paradise. We stayed in Costa Teguise where there is a beautiful sheltered sea lagoon to swim in, and a fantastic 50m outdoor Olympic pool where you pay 6 euros per swim.
There are lots of other beaches to swim from, so no matter what the wind or weather is up to, there is always somewhere safe to go.
Of course, there is always Club La Santa, we have not been but know the facilities there are first class.
If you are interested in the swim contact Paul Cardwell Hounam firstname.lastname@example.org
The triathlon shop where we got our feeds is worth a visit. They also stock lots of lovely swim costumes
“Más Deportes” Lanzarote, Ctra. Arrecife a Tinajo, nº12, local B, 35550 San Bartolomé, Las Palmas, Spain