At 7:59 a.m. Monday, when Doug McConnell set out to be the first to complete a swim from Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard, nature appeared ready to play nicely. The winds were minor, the air temperature favorable, the current had been studied and Mr. McConnell ready to complete the journey he first attempted in 2019.

But as the swim progressed some warning texts began to come in from his wife, Susan McConnell, who along with Deb Blair, Dana Gaines, Eamonn Solway and Spa Tharpe were stationed in boats alongside Mr. McConnell, helping to navigate and jump in if necessary.

“Needing to take big bites out of the water now,” Mrs. McConnell reported around noon, referring to the waves and currents that were building out there and shoving her husband around.

At 1:30 p.m., Mrs, McConnell checked in again. “The ocean played hell, won’t have it with our swimmer. The crossing will wait for another day. We pulled our swimmer on the boat.”

Mr. McConnell is no novice to long distance swimming. In the last decade he has successfully completed swims across the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Molokai Channel, the length of Tampa Bay and around Manhattan, to name just a few.

Mr. McConnell's son Gordy helps him onto the boat. — Susan McConnell

But the Nantucket to Vineyard route has thwarted him twice, proving how fearsome a competitor the Vineyard Sound can be. The journey as the gull flies from Eel Point on Nantucket to Lighthouse Beach in Edgartown is 18 miles from beach to beach. But the southern current which arrives in force after passing Tuckernuck and Musgeket islands, knocks a swimmer off course for about two hours, adding another eight to 10 miles to the swim.

On Monday the winds and currents whipped the ocean up to a degree that was too much for Mr. McConnell’s body.

“When you have the current going opposite the wind you get really confused seas,” he said, after coming ashore. “I got banged up pretty bad and damaged my shoulder.”

He was about three quarters of the way through the swim, 15,000 strokes, he said, when he had to give up.

“I’m disappointed as you can imagine,” he said, while thanking his team who he said did everything right. “But ultimately Mother Nature is in charge.”

As in 2019 when he was within sight of land but had to stop due to harsh currents, this defeat is also a victory. As of this afternoon the swim has raised over $70,000 for ALS research, the disease that claimed the life of his father and his sister. All money donated goes directly to research funding at Northwestern University.

And Mr. McConnell is definitely not admitting defeat, not in the long term. At 63 years young, he is already mapping out his plan to return.

“Oh, for sure,” he said. “We are not letting this one go. We will be back. But first I have to let my shoulders heal.”

Tonight at 6 p.m. Mr. McConnell and his team will be at a reception at the Harbor View Hotel. All are invited. 

For more information or to contribute to Doug McConnell’s ALS foundation, visit