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 paddlers. If you still have questions, contact us and we'll answer you as quickly as possible!
- Is the start a running start or in-water start?
- 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 paddlers 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 fundraising minimum by the day of the Swim?
- What do I do with cash and checks I’ve collected?
- When does fundraising end?
- How does team fundraising work?
- Do paddlers have to fundraise?
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?
In-water. Swimmers enter the water in multiple waves and once count is confirmed, they depart via a start gun. Swim times are back-timed to the start gun.
Swimmers have two hours to complete the Swim. Most swimmers finish the course in 30-70 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 or buy a wetsuit, contact:
Fins are permitted. However, swimmers who wear fins and other swim aids are not eligible for timing awards.
At the start line, there are vehicles 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 Swimmer Tent at the finish line and change out of your swimwear in the Beach Services Building at Fort Phoenix. Showers are available.
Kayakers must bring their own seaworthy vessel on the morning of the Swim. Your vessel 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.
No. If you need to rent a vessel, we suggest you contact Osprey Sea and Surf Adventures in Westport or Nemasket Kayak Center in Wareham. Due to the early start time, you will likely need to pick up your vessel the day before the event.
If a swimmer needs assistance during the Swim, your primary role as a paddle 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. See our detailed Kayak Safety Instructions. All rescues and transports will be coordinated by the Massachusetts Environmental Police.
Kayakers, 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 vessel 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 $300 for adults or $150 for youth (18 and under) 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. Prior to the Swim, you may drop off or mail donations to the Buzzards Bay Coalition office 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 contact information so we can appropriately record their donation on your Swim page. Cash and checks received within 24 hours of the start time will be posted online on the Monday after the Swim.
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.
Adult teams are required to raise $300 x # of swimmers (e.g. A team with 5 swimmers must raise $1,500, but 3 swimmers could each raise $400, and the other 2 swimmers raise $150. Any combination to get to $1,500 is acceptable). Youth teams are required to fundraise $50 x # of swimmers.
Paddlers do not have to fundraise. However, they have access to our fundraising platform and 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.
Safety & Water Conditions
Typical water temperatures in mid-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 and north of Route 6), 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 Coggeshall Street) 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 beyond the hurricane barrier, where the Buzzards Bay Swim takes place. The PCB cleanup in New Bedford Harbor is a high priority for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, and funds raised through the Swim helps support our advocacy on this issue.
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 paddlers, 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 announced live at the event, and also 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. Due to long lead time items like permits and safety resources, a rain date is not possible. 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 30th year in 2023. 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 the Cisco Brewers Kitchen & Bar parking lots. These areas will be clearly marked, and volunteers will direct you if you need help.
- Paddlers: Paddlers should unload their vessels at the sidewalk along the Start Line beach, and then immediately move their vehicle to the parking lot. Volunteers will be there to direct you.
- 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, paddlers, 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 paddler, you can take the shuttle to retrieve your vehicle while a volunteer stays with your vessel.
The Buzzards Bay Swim ends by 11am. See the full Swim schedule on the Schedule & Directions page.
The Fairfield Inn & Suites New Bedford is the closest hotel to the Buzzards Bay Swim. Visit the Things to Do During Your Swim Weekend page for more information about hotels and other travel suggestions.