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Sandbar surprise at Great South Bay Swim

The Maggie Fischer Memorial Great South Bay Cross

The Maggie Fischer Memorial Great South Bay Cross Bay Swim, "The Cross Bay Swim" entails a swim of 6.2 miles across the Great South Bay from Fire Island to Bay Shore. The race hit a snag when the path crossed a unexpected sand bar, the swimmers, each were escorted by a kayak, had to walk part of the race. (July 12, 2013) Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Participants in yesterday's annual Maggie Fischer Memorial Great South Bay Cross Bay Swim got in just a tiny bit more walking and bantering this year than usual.

That's thanks to a surprise sandbar that got swimmers up on their feet in midcourse, likely due to a slight shift in the swim's starting point, organizers said.

The regular starting point -- the dock of the Fire Island Lighthouse -- was damaged in superstorm Sandy, so the swimmers ended up taking the 7:45 a.m. plunge a few hundred yards to the east, said Bob Fischer, 64, one of the swim's organizers. Event organizers had tried to plot the course to minimize the amount of sand, said Fischer, father of the young woman for whom the swim is named.

John McLoughlin, 51, in his fourth year swimming the 5.25-mile course, said he and others are used to encountering one sandbar about a mile and a quarter into the swim.

This year, he was surprised to find an earlier sandbar of maybe 150 yards or so about three-quarters of a mile into the swim, giving him and fellow swimmers an earlier chance to banter about water conditions and jellyfish sightings.

Eighty-three swimmers participated this year, Fischer said.

Besides being a community event, the swim, which has been around since the 1920s, is now a fundraiser named for Fischer's 17-year-old daughter, who was killed in 1999 in a car crash just a few days before she was to participate for the first time in the swim.

The event usually brings in about $50,000, Fischer said, with much earmarked for Hospice Care Network Children's and Family Bereavement program.

"It's a beautiful, heartstrings kind of event," said Daphne Hoffman, 51, of Brightwaters, a swimmer and organizer.

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