Maryland Swim for Life Course

Course: There will be 5 very large inflatable yellow buoys on the course at ½ mile intervals. Each wave will turn around at the buoy that marks the halfway point of their swim. Five milers will swim by all 5 buoys, turning around at the 5th, at mile 2 1/2. Each buoy is spray-painted with its respective wave number (i.e., the first buoy, located ½ mile from the start, is labeled “1 mile” because that is where the 1 mile swimmers turn around). The 2.4-Mile Triathlon Challenge buoy, at 1.2 miles from the start, will be marked with a special orange buoy. All swimmers will start the swim in the same direction – up river (North). Upon reaching the appropriate buoy, swimmers will go around that buoy and swim back down river (South).

Swimmers should always keep buoys on their LEFT going NORTH. Swimmers should always keep the buoys on their LEFT going SOUTH, with the exception of the 2nd buoy (at mile 1), which you must keep to your right on your return. Kayakers will be there to be sure you swim to the correct side. This prevents unfair shortcuts.

Please Note: Sometimes there is a fishing weir between the first and second buoys. This is basically a net stretched across the river. You will know you are getting close to it when you see sticks standing up in the water in a row perpendicular to the shore. You can easily swim right over the net. Look for kayakers directing you towards the easiest crossing points. You may also choose to swim around the net and directly to the second buoy.

Start procedure: All swimmers must wear a timing chip on a velcro strap around the ankle. Swimmers will start in the water, in 6 waves according to distance: 5 milers first, followed by 4 milers, then 3 milers, the the 2.4-mile Triathlon Challenge Swimmers, the 2 milers, and 1 milers last. Each group will begin 5 minutes after the preceding group has started.

Water: Water temperature on swim mornings is usually in the upper-70s or lower-80s.  Wetsuits are allowed if the water temperature is less than 78 degrees (but most swimmers do not wear one as the water is very comfortable); other flotation devices (e.g., pull buoys, paddles, fins) are not allowed. For safety against heat stroke, USMS regulations prohibit wetsuits when water temperatures exceed 78 degrees.

Water quality is monitored by the Queen Anne County Department of Health on a weekly basis in the summertime. Advisories are issued when bacteria (Enterococci) counts exceed thresholds for a Tier 3 Advisory. For more information, you can call the Queen Anne County Department of Health at 410-758-2281 or go to for updates of beach closures throughout Maryland.

Additionally, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are known for jellyfish (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) encounters in the summertime. Occasionally, these sea nettles, as they are often called, can exist in the tidal river near the event in rare circumstances. The chances of encountering sea nettles are dependent on water temperature, salinity, and recent rainfalls. NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center has prepared a map depicting the Probability of Sea Nettle Encounters as well as the Sea Nettle Forecast. Neither of these probabilistic tools are validation of the existence of sea nettles in the area.

Swim for Life is an “at-your-own-risk” event - information on advisories will be communicated as available and each swimmer will make the individual choice to swim on race day.

Safety: Safety support at the swim will be provided by the U.S. Coast Guard and their Auxiliary, Maryland Natural Resources Police, the Chesapeake Paddlers’ Association, the Kent and Queen Anne County Rescue Squad, and other local volunteer boaters and kayakers.

Safety Boats: For your safety, USCG and NRP patrol boats are located near 3 locations: start/finish, half-way along the 2 ½ mile course (3rd buoy, 1 ½ miles upriver), and by the final buoy (5th buoy, 2 ½ miles upriver). Paddlers in kayaks will be stationed at all turn buoys and along the outside length of the course. Boston Whalers will also patrol swimmers along the course. Kayakers and Whalers will keep swimmers on course, provide swimmers food and drink, act as a buffer between swimmers and boat traffic, and be available for any water assistance. A local rescue boat with medic/dive personnel will also be on hand.