Currents halt Cuba to Florida swim

TOWNSVILLE grandmother Penny Palfrey has failed in her historic bid to become the first woman to swim unaided from Cuba to the Florida Keys ... without a shark cage.

The 49-year-old went agonisingly close though.

Palfrey, who was born in England and moved to Australia when she was 19, was just 43km away from her final destination when she ran into trouble.

Not from sharks, or her numerous jelly fish stings, but from strong currents that made it impossible for her to continue.

The mother of three and grandmother of two had already been in the water for 41 hours and had covered 139km.

Palfrey treaded water as her support crew, which included her husband Chris, briefed her on the currents before she made the decision to call it quits.

"Penny has been 100% focused on this swim for a year, so she was quite upset," Chris, a long-distance swimmer himself, said.

"There were of course some tears. She didn't know what was happening until we told her, so it took a few minutes while she took that in.

"She was still mentally strong, but 41 hours of continuous swimming ... she was physically exhausted.

"It was really only her mental focus that was keeping her going.

"She was going really, really well, but she only had a few more hours in her."

After being pulled from the water, Palfrey was taken to hospital where she was put on an IV drip to help her recover from dehydration.

She was also suffering from painful blisters and ulcers under her tongue due to salt water exposure which made it impossible for her to talk.

Despite not completing the swim, Palfrey did break her own world record of the longest unassisted ocean swim of 110.45km which she set last year after she swam from Little Cayman to Grand Cayman Island, again without a cage.

Two years ago, she crossed the Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco in three hours and three minutes, setting a new record for women.

Former Australian marathon swimmer Susie Maroney swam from Cuba to Florida in 1997 when she was just 22, but she used a shark cage.



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