Penny Palfrey defeated by jellyfish

12 Nov Penny Palfrey defeated by jellyfish

I’m so sorry.  I felt so bad for being so determined to do it with everyone who has helped me.  But the Portuguese Man-o-War stings really hurt.   In the end, I didn’t know when there was a new one [that was going to sting me again],” recalled Penny Palfrey of her 72-mile attempt between Oahu and Kauai. 

jelly fish stings


It was constant punishment for 7 hours and 39 minutes, déjà vu from her earlier attempt in April when she was pulled out after 12 hours for the same type of encounters with the Portuguese Man-o-War.

I got hit over and over again, but I was right on the same pace as before.  I thought I might have been going a little slower than before, but I was at 16 miles around the 7 hour mark.  The Man-o-War were hanging off of my arms on both sides.  .  I had them on my hands too as I was trying to get them off.  But I couldn’t get them off, their tentacles were wrapped around my arms.  They were all over the place.  Then I got hit right in the face and that really hurt.   But the one which stung me on my ear is what is really hurting now.”

She swam through 3-5 foot swells in the tropical paradise, the last major channel in the Hawaiian Islands to be uncrossed.  The ancient Hawaiians in outrigger canoes did it.  Stand-up paddlers have done it.  Paddlers have done it.  But it remains the last channel  standing in Hawaii – perhaps it is taboo and will never be crossed.  Jonathan Ezer, a Molokai Channel swimmer, attempted the channel in 1976 and then Penny being crossed in April and yesterday. 

The Man-o-War are preventing me from finishing – or perhaps they are protecting me from the cookie-cutter sharks that want to take a bite out of me,” theorized Penny in retrospect.

Because big sharks and cookie-cutter sharks are always a real fear, Penny used two Shark Shields as protection.  However, it was the much smaller poisonous denizens of the Pacific Ocean that crossed her path, leading to convulsions and long cries of pain at the end.  “Oh, it hurts so bad,” as she repeatedly said onboard Captain Don Jones’s boat. 

Captain Don did everything possible to keep Penny on track.  He kept her on the optimal rhumb line, he jumped in the water and escorted her on a paddle board, he cheered and teased her along, always enthusiastically giving her something to think about.  Captain Don lined his boat with glow sticks, ready for a 12-hour night of swimming.

But her long night never came.

Dusk was her downfall in April and it was the same time in November’s 78°F (27°C) waters. 

It was a truly valiant effort – based on a dream to do all the major channels in Hawaii and succeed at the most difficult one.

I can prepare for distance, tides and other things under my control,” said Penny.  “But there are things you cannot prepare for, like Man-o-War.  During the previous attempt when I got hit by one, I thought it was a one-off, especially since others have swum in the other channels and not been hit.  Even in my Maui-to-Lanai and Hawaii-to-Maui swims, I hit ocean swells and currents, but I didn’t hit Man-o-War.  I think I can do the distance, currents and swells, but they were still there.”

Unfortunately, yes.