Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a question about your Buzzards Bay Swim? The FAQs below answer some of the most common questions we get asked by swimmers and kayakers. If you still have questions, contact us and we'll answer you as quickly as possible!
- How long do swimmers have to complete the Swim?
- How old do swimmers have to be to participate?
- Do swimmers need to wear a wetsuit?
- Can swimmers wear fins?
- Where should swimmers put their belongings before they get in the water?
- What do kayakers need to bring on the morning of the Swim?
- Are kayaks available at the start line?
- What if a swimmer needs assistance or there’s a medical emergency during the Swim?
- What happens if a kayak capsizes?
- What does my fundraising support?
- What if I haven’t raised my $150 fundraising minimum by the day of the Swim?
- What do I do with cash and checks I’ve collected?
- When does fundraising end?
- Do kayakers have to fundraise?
- What is a “virtual swimmer”?
Safety & Water Conditions
- What is the average water temperature?
- What is the water quality like?
- Will I encounter marine life (jellyfish, etc.)?
- What type of safety protocol does the Swim have?
- What is the Swim cancellation policy?
- Who runs the Buzzards Bay Swim?
- How long has the Buzzards Bay Swim been held?
- Where do I park at the start line?
- How do I get back to my car at the start line?
- When does the Swim end?
- I need a hotel for the night before the Swim. Where should I stay?
Swimmers have two hours to complete the Swim. Most swimmers finish the course in 20-70 minutes.
Swimmers must be 11 years of age or older on the day of the Swim.
Roughly 80% of swimmers wear wetsuits, while others swim in bathing suits or bathing suits and a swim shirt. You should train in open water before the Swim to ensure you’re comfortable wearing your wetsuit or other chosen swim attire.
If you need to rent a wetsuit, contact:
- Fast: Splits Multisport in Needham
- Wakefield Running Company (formerly Camire's Athletic Soles) in Wakefield
Fins are permitted. However, swimmers who wear fins and other swim aids are not eligible for timing awards.
At the start line, there will be a vehicle marked “Swimmer Belongings” that will transport swimmer bags to the finish line. Make sure your bag is clearly marked with your name and contact information. You can retrieve your belongings at the finish line and change out of your swimwear in designated changing tents on the beach.
Kayakers must bring their own seaworthy kayak on the morning of the Swim. Your kayak must be equipped with a whistle and two adult U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal floatation devices (PFDs). Extra whistles and PFDs will not be available to rent or borrow at the start line.
If a swimmer needs assistance during the Swim, your primary role as a kayak escort is to notify the safety vessels so they can help. Do not attempt to rescue a swimmer yourself. First, toss your swimmer a personal flotation device. Then blow your whistle and raise your paddle vertically over your head to alert the safety vessels.
If your swimmer gets tired during the Swim and needs to rest, instruct him/her to hang on to the bow of your kayak, not the side. (If your swimmer hangs onto the side, your kayak will capsize.)
If you capsize, clear yourself from the kayak and hang on to it. A safety vessel will come to assist you.
The Swim is a fundraiser for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, a membership-supported nonprofit organization that protects clean water in communities across the Buzzards Bay region. Every dollar you raise helps support the Coalition's work to improve the health of the Bay ecosystem for all through education, conservation, research, and advocacy. Visit the Fundraising page to get tips and ideas for fundraising.
If you have not raised the minimum of $150 by the morning of the Swim, you’ll need to secure the funds with a credit card hold. You can continue to raise money for two weeks after the Swim to reach your fundraising goal. If, after two weeks, you still have not reached your fundraising goal, we will contact you and your credit card will be processed for the remaining balance.
You can bring cash and checks to the start line on the morning of the Swim. You can also mail either to the Buzzards Bay Coalition at 114 Front St., New Bedford, MA 02740. All checks should be made out to the Buzzards Bay Coalition and include the name of the swimmer on the check. For cash gifts, please include the donor's name and contant information so we can appropriately record their donation on your Swim page.
Online donations are processed until 5pm on the Thursday before the Swim. After that time, any new online donations will not be counted toward your Swim-day fundraising total unless you show your Participant Center page (on your smartphone or by printing it out) when you check in at the start line. Cash, checks, and credit card payments made at check-in will be counted toward your fundraising total.
You can continue to raise money for two weeks after the Swim to reach your fundraising goal.
Kayakers do not have to fundraise. However, they are welcome to fundraise to support the Swim. The easiest way to fundraise is to log in to the Participant Center and customize your personal page. Then you can share the link with friends, family, and colleagues via email and social media.
A “virtual swimmer” is someone who signs up to fundraise for the Buzzards Bay Swim but does not swim in the event. Anyone can be a virtual swimmer.
Safety & Water Conditions
Typical water temperatures in late June range from 68-70 degrees F. Buzzards Bay can be slow to warm up in the spring, but water temperatures reliably increase 5-10 degrees in the weeks leading up to the Swim.
The Swim takes places in outer New Bedford Harbor, which is clear and well flushed by Buzzards Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. We coordinate closely with local health departments, which test the water every few days in summer for bacterial pollution. If bacteria levels were above safe standards, we would not hold the Swim.
In the inner portion of New Bedford Harbor (inside the hurricane barrier), the U.S. EPA is working to clean up legacy contamination from PCBs. The only human risk from PCBs today comes from direct exposure to the muddy bottom (primarily north of Route 6) or from eating fish and shellfish caught in the harbor. There is no risk of exposure to PCBs in the water itself, especially in the outer harbor where the Swim takes place.
Outer New Bedford Harbor is largely open to the waters of Buzzards Bay. Most swimmers encounter harmless marine species such as seaweed, eelgrass, small fish, and the occasional comb jelly. (In fact, many of these species are a sign of clean water!)
The Buzzards Bay Swim has a robust and experienced safety team and tested protocol in place.
- Along the Swim course, there are 20+ motorized vessels on the water from agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, Massachusetts Environmental Police, and local rescue personnel. These vessels enforce the channel closure, monitor swimmers and kayakers, and provide rescue services if needed.
- More than a dozen trained kayak safety squad members line both sides of the course and watch for swimmers in distress.
- EMTs are stationed at the finish line with an ambulance on standby in case immediate medical help is needed on shore.
The Swim is a rain or shine event. Cancellation could occur if unsafe conditions exist such as storms, heavy fog, choppy water, or high bacteria levels from heavy rains. Any decision relative to safety is made on the morning of the Swim in consultation with the Massachusetts Environmental Police and the US Coast Guard. Cancellation notification would be provided by email to all participants and volunteers, and also posted on the event homepage (savebuzzardsbay.org/swim) and on the Coalition's main Facebook page. Donations and registration fees are non-refundable. In the event of a cancellation, free registration codes will be provided for the next year's event, however the fundraising minimum would still be required for all swimmers.
The Buzzards Bay Swim is organized by the Buzzards Bay Coalition, a nonprofit organization that works to protect clean water in communities across the Buzzards Bay region.
The Buzzards Bay Swim will celebrate its 25th year in 2018. The first Swim was held in 1993. Visit the Past Swims page to learn more about the Swim's history.
- Swimmers: Parking is available in two lots adjacent to the start area. These areas will be clearly marked, and volunteers will direct you if you need help.
- Kayakers: Kayakers should unload their kayak at the sidewalk and then immediately move their vehicle to the parking lot. Volunteers will show you where to park.
- Spectators: Spectators must park on the street.
- Handicapped: Please contact us to reserve a parking space in one of the parking lots.
Alternatively, you can park at the finish line and take a free shuttle to the start line. You must sign up for this shuttle in advance of the Swim. To sign up and get more information about parking and shuttles, visit the Schedule & Directions page.
Swimmers, kayakers, and volunteers can take a free shuttle from the finish line back to the start line. Shuttle service will run from 8-11am. You do not need to sign up for this shuttle in advance of the Swim.
Shuttles will not transport kayaks. If you’re a kayaker, you can take the shuttle to retrieve your vehicle while a volunteer stays with your kayak.
The Buzzards Bay Swim ends by 11am. See the full Swim schedule on the Schedule & Directions page.
The Fairfield Inn & Suites New Bedford offers a special group rate for the Buzzards Bay Swim. Visit the Things to Do During Your Swim Weekend page for more information about hotels and other travel suggestions.