After swimming 24 hours non-stop and despite being mildly hypothermic and queasy, Coast Guard Lt. Shannon Scaff walked an entire lap around the Martin Luther King Jr. Pool on Saturday, hugging, handshaking and greeting more than 100 people who showed their support.
The 42-year-old completed the grueling, often emotional, endurance feat to honor four Coast Guard helicopter crew members who died in a crash in Mobile Bay, Ala., on Feb. 28, 2012. Scaff started the swim at 2:28 p.m. Friday and finished at 2:28 p.m. Saturday.
Among those who perished was Lt. Cmdr. Dale Taylor, whom Scaff knew while working at the Savannah station. Taylor’s wife Teresa and their two boys, Evan and Emmett, came to Charleston to be a part of the event.
Along the way, about 75 swimmers from The Citadel, the military, the Palmetto Masters swim team and others kept him company, but there were points where fatigue got to him.
Local marathon swimmer Kathleen Wilson, who gave Scaff advice and encouragement, said one of the toughest “valleys” came after the eight-hour mark, likely when Scaff’s body was switching from burning carbohydrates to body fat.
In all, Wilson estimated that Scaff swam about 28 miles in the 50-meter pool.
Scaff said the halfway mark was tough, too, because he was relieved to reach it but also that he had another 12 hours to go. He also says he got emotional hearing Coast Guard helicopters, which made at least three different flights over the domed pool.
Scaff — who earned the Distinguished Flying Cross from the President for a rescue of two fishermen in the Atlantic in January 2000 — also is raising money via the swim for Operation 300, a charity which hosts adventure camps for children who have lost their fathers as a result of military service and seeks to honor the families of the fallen.
To donate, go to www.operation300.com/Page/donate and click “SARFROG 24 for DT.”
Reach David Quick at 937-5516.