Questions & Answers


Who sponsors the Swim for Life?

The Provincetown Community Compact, which sponsors the Swim for Life, is a non-profit, 501 (c) 3, tax-exempt organization, established in 1983.

When was the Swim for Life started? Who started it and who sponsors it?

It was created in 1988 by Jay Critchley and Walter McLean, and has since been directed by Jay, under the auspicies of the Provincetown Community Compact, Inc (The Compact), a non-profit, tax-exempt organization.

Swimmer BreakWhat’s it for?

To raise funds and awareness of HIV/AIDS, women’s health and community health, AND, to celebrate the magnificence and vitality of Provincetown Harbor and the Provincetown community. Primary beneficiaries for 2017 are are the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, Helping Our Women. Community beneficiaries include: Provincetown Rescue Squad, Outer Cape Health Services, Lower Cape Ambulance, Soup Kitchen of Provincetown, The Compact Community Fund, Provincetown Public Schools, Accessible Provincetown, West End Racing Club and Cape Cod Children’s Place.

What is the distance of the Swim?

1.4 miles across Provincetown Harbor, from Long Point to the Boatslip beach.

Why swim?

Because you can, because it’s a personal challenge – physical, mental or emotional, because of the enormous healing energy you’ll feel after the event, because it’s a way to stay connected to the quintessential spirit of the community, because you’ll raise funds for important health organizations, and because it’s fun.

What is the water temperature? Do I need a wetsuit?

The water temp is usually around 65 degrees (about as warm as it gets all summer, although last year it was 70 degrees!), but it is impossible to predict due to occasional upwelling of colder water, wind, tides, moon, sun. It can be chillier. We suggest you wear a wetsuit; we provide free wetsuit loans on the day of the Swim, after swimmers are registered.

When do I have to register?

Not until the morning of the event, at the Boatslip Beach Club, 161 Commercial Street, from 9-10:00am. Pre-registration is not required, but we do have a voluntary sign-up to assist us with accurate and legible data collection. You will still need to register on September 9 to confirm your pledges and receive your cap, number and t-shirt. Please bring your pledges with you – do not send in advance (unless you have used PayPal or FirstGiving. You will be given a number and a bathing cap. The number will be written on your arm or leg and on your cap.

Registration/logistics on Swim Day:

  1. Bring your pledge sheets and the total pledges collected: all checks and cash and totals from FirstGiving (PayPal no longer allows you to designate your pledge to an individual swimmer) (we will FirstGiving totals as of Thursday, September 7)
  2. Arrive at the Boatslip and line up to register
  3. While in line sign Liability Release Form given to you by a volunteer
  4. Enjoy the camaraderie
  5. At registration you will receive a ribbon, a coupon for a 2017 t-shirt, a transportation assignment and a numbered swim cap
  6. Proceed to the person numbering your arm or leg
  7. Proceed to the t-shirt table for your free t-shirt
  8. Proceed to the clothes check (if you bring a sweatshirt/jacket to Long Point bring a bag with your number and we will take back to the clothes check
  10. Quickly prepare to depart for Long Point with your assigned transport: on the trolley to MacMillan Wharf, from the beach or from Flyer’s Boat Rental
  11. Enjoy the ride across the harbor
  12. Please allow experienced and competitive swimmers to the front for the start. Remember, this is not a race. Thanks!

All swimmers are required to wear their caps in the water for safety reasons.

I can swim but…?

Many people used to swim on a high school team or swim more frequently years ago, but don’t consider themselves a “swimmer”. To many, a swimmer is one who is in training or in a club, etc. If you can swim, you can participate. Many people use the event as a training goal for themselves as part of a fitness program. It may take some a few years to feel confident, but it’s all part of the process. If you are hesitant, join us as a volunteer or kayaker and experience the event close up.

Is it a race?

NO, NO, NO. The beauty of the Swim is that everyone swims his or her personal best, and we keep the times of all swimmers. The Order of Finish is sent out around the end of the year. We respect everyone’s personal challenge and the event is not over until the last swimmer hits the finish line. And, the last swimmer receives a massage!

May I use flippers, tubes, water wings, etc?

YES, whatever it takes to get you in the water and motivate you to participate. The one rule we have is that the safety of the swimmers is our top priority. Make it fun, and don’t hesitate to seek help, a drink of water or a rest from one of the kayaks or safety boats. You are a winner whether you finish the entire distance or not!

How do we get to Long Point for the start?

Transporting 400+ swimmers across the harbor as quickly and efficiently as possible is a logistical challenge. As the number of swimmers has increased we have become reliant on larger boats from nearby Flyer’s Boat Rental and from MacMillan Wharf – transported by the Ptown Trolly.

We encourage swimmers to wear a sweatshirt or jacket to Long Point while waiting for the Swim start. Be sure to bring a bag from the Clothes Check with your name and number on it. We will return them to the Clothes Check.

Is it true I can solicit pledges on Provincetown streets without being picked up for panhandling?

YES, it’s true! Keep collecting pledges after you arrive in town, right up to registration. The year that an entangled right whale showed up in the harbor before the Swim started we had to delay the event and reconfigure the swim course. James was $200 short of the $1,000 Club so he went back out on Commercial Street and collected enough to reach his goal!

I want to swim but I can’t raise money?

This is a tough one. Is there anyone who likes to raise money (besides the IRS)? Raising pledges is part of the process of building up your enthusiasm, commitment and a support team for your swim. You might be surprised if you end up recruiting others to swim with you! Social media has made it easier for some swimmers. You may set up your personal funding page on FirstGivingCheck out our Fundraising Tips page, and don’t forget to request matching corporate funds from your workplace.

How much do I have to raise?

We have not changed the $100 pledge minimum since we started in 1988. We encourage people to take the plunge, to make it easy to join in, but this is a fundraiser and local health organizations count on these funds to provide yearround services to the community. The average swimmer raises over $450.

Do I receive a t-shirt or prize?

All swimmers receive a ribbon and swimmers, kayakers and volunteers receive a free t-shirt; we have prizes for top fundraisers – the $1,000 Club and the Circle of Honor (those who have swum ten years or raised $10,000). And of course a complimentary Mermaid Brunch!

Is it safe out in the harbor?

Safety is the primary focus of the Swim organizers.

Watch for the large orange buoys (tetrahedrons) along the swim lane, and the orange banners at the Boatslip finish line. The Pilgrim Monument should be slightly to your right when swimming.

The Provincetown Rescue Squad is on hand at the finish line as well as our medical team; dozens of kayakers are an important link in the safety chain as well as a contingent of lifeguards on boards, safety boaters, stand up boarders, the Provincetown Harbormaster and the US Coast Guard. We provide snacks and hot tea before and after the swim and the Boatslip provides hot showers to those determined in need by the Rescue Squad and our medical team.

If you do not complete the Swim, you must check in with the finish line so we know you are safe.

What about sharks?

With increased attention in the media about a variety of shark sightings, particularly white sharks on ocean beaches and in Cape Cod Bay near seal populations, we would like to assure participants that swimmer and kayaker safety will continue to be the event’s top priority.

To address this risk, and consistent with prior years, the Swim for Life is working closely with the Provincetown Harbormaster, who patrols the harbor for any unusual activities or animals and keeps a watch on the seal population in the harbor the morning of the event, alongside the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies’ research vessel, Ibis. The US Coast Guard will also be out on the water to assist in water safety.

We follow protocols developed by the Shark Working Group in the event of confirmed sightings and response procedures. The group comprises representatives of the Cape Cod National Seashore, the towns of the Lower Cape, including the Provincetown Harbormaster, lifeguards, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

Last year we began working with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy by setting up two receiver buoys with the Provincetown Harbormaster, one near Long Point and the other in the bay. Tagged sharks are recorded by these receivers and assist in research by the conservancy and the Commonwealth.

If you need to contact the Provincetown Harbormaster’s Office, the phone #: 508 487-7030

What is hypothermia?

Shivering is your body’s automatic defense against cold temperature — an attempt to warm itself. Constant shivering is a key sign of hypothermia.

A person with hypothermia usually isn’t aware of his or her condition, because the symptoms often begin gradually and because the confused thinking associated with hypothermia prevents self-awareness.

Early symptoms of hypothermia include:

  • Shivering.
  • Cold, pale, or blue-gray skin.
  • Lack of interest or concern (apathy).
  • Poor judgment; difficulty thinking.
  • Mild unsteadiness in balance or walking.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Drowsiness, low energy
  • Numb hands and fingers and problems performing tasks.

Late symptoms of hypothermia include:

The trunk of the body is cold to the touch.

Muscles becoming stiff.

Slow pulse.

Breathing that is shallow and slower.

Weakness or sleepiness.


Loss of consciousness.

Shivering, which may stop if body temperature drops below 90°F (32°C).

Do you need volunteers? How many?

Yes, please sign up. This event requires over 150 volunteers to run smoothly. Tasks include: kayakers, kayaker support on beach, t-shirt sales, Mermaid Brunch servers, boaters, finish line, wet suit distribution, lost and found, transportation, registration, clothes check, set-up/clean up, prizes, water and snacks, medical team, swimmer and kayak registration, Prayer Ribbons, welcome committee and many other functions.

We will be increasing the number of safety boats during the Swim. Please let us know if you have access to a motor boat or cruiser to back up the kayakers and paddlers along the Swim route.

Also, we need volunteers for the Celebration of Life Concert the night before the Swim, at special Swim events, the week of the Swim, and administrative help after the event.

How may kayakers participate?

The “Paddler Flotilla” was created to acknowledge the importance of kayakers for the safety of the event. The Flotilla provides assistance to swimmers – water, rest, support and reassurance. Kayakers are asked to stay out on the water with the swimmers until all are safely covered by a kayak. See special kayak page. Paddlers need to register at the Boatslip beach and are encouraged to raise pledges and receive prizes like the swimmers, but that is optional. Kayakers should wear safety vests and will be given whistles to alert safety boats for swimmer help, extra water and a ticket for a t-shirt (up on Boatslip deck).

What else happens that weekend?

The Celebration of Life Concert (free) on Friday evening, 8:00pm at the UU Meeting House, produced by John Thomas; the Mermaid Brunch following the Swim, along with awards and entertainment.

The Mermaid Brunch is free and open to the public (donations accepted) and catered by Far Land Provisions.

What is The Compact’s mission?

The Swim for Life is organized and sponsored by the Provincetown Community Compact, Inc. (The Compact), a non-profit, tax-exempt organization established in 1993 that manages this event. Our mission is to enhance the well-being of the community. We also run two dune shack residencies in Cape Cod National Seashore and provide fiscal sponsorship for artist and community projects through our “Think-ubator”.

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Take the Plunge!