FORT MYERS, Fla.-A Southwest Florida boat captain is sharing what it was like to guide Diana Nyad to a world record. On her fifth try, Nyad finished the 110-mile swim from Havana to Key West on Monday, becoming the first to do it without a shark cage.
Bruce Blomgren was the captain of the Voyager, the boat that accompanied her.
"This was almost not about water to me. This was about a person," Blomgren said of the star swimmer.
Nyad first attempted swimming from Cuba to Florida at age 29 with a shark cage. She didn't try again until 2011 when she was 61.
She tried twice more in the past two years before beginning her fifth attempt Saturday morning with a leap off the seawall of the Hemingway Marina into the warm waters off Havana. She paused occasionally for nourishment, but never left the water until she reached the white sand beaches of the Keys and waded ashore.
Blomgren met Nyad in 2011 when she was preparing for her third attempt.
"This is her dream, and by God she was going to make it this time," Blomgren said.
Blomgren started training with Nyad in May when she would swim 12-15 hours every other day. He said this record attempt had all the right ingredients.
"We had no sharks. We had no box jellyfish. We had really exceptional winds (and) really exceptional currents, so it was all up to Diana," he said.
The team was made up of 46 people, including doctors, observers, boat crew, and shark and jellyfish experts. Blombren admits the group was worried when Nyad started vomiting 33 miles into the 111 mile swim.
"This lady brought from her psyche the power and energy over to her muscles, and she didn't do it with food," he said.
Nyad stayed on course by following a ribbon hanging from a large boom on the 32-foot catamaran the "voyager." Four miles before reaching the shore, she did something Blomgren said he will never forget.
"We all came in, in a big huddle, as tight as we could, and she spoke to us from the center and thanked us for helping her reach her dream, and finally this was going to be it," he said.
Hundreds of people cheered as Nyad, 64 staggered to shore after spending almost 53 hours in the water without rest. Those who helped her make history, like Captain Bruce Blomgren, witnessed it up close.
"I think this gives a lot of hope. What she did and how she did it, at what her age, and the fortitude of following the dream, and making sure it happened, you have to respect that. I certainly do," he said.