Despite a rainy start to the day, droves of swimmers and their attendants in kayaks or paddle boards took the plunge into West Penobscot Bay on Aug. 12, making their way from Northport to Islesboro in the sixth annual LifeFlight of Maine Islesboro Crossing.

LifeFlight's Director of Communications Melissa Arndt said that nearly 140 individuals swam in this year's event, which seeks to raise funds for equipment and emergency rescue services that LifeFlight provides. As of Aug. 14, over $480,000 had been raised by the event, far exceeding initial fundraising goal of $300,000.

Colorful swim caps and kayaks dotted the water beginning at 7 a.m., as swimmers and their paddlers embarked on the three-mile swim to the island. This was the first year swimming for many of the participants, including Sara Washburn, who served as a volunteer for the event in each of its previous years.

"I have always wanted to participate in the Islesboro Crossing as a swimmer, but each year there were reasons that I chose to volunteer in a different capacity. This year, the only barrier to participating as a swimmer that remained was my anxiety about open-water swimming, including swimming through seaweed, [but] I knew that it would be a fantastic opportunity to push the boundaries of my comfort zone while also supporting a service that is vital to our local healthcare system and the communities that we serve," said Washburn on Aug. 13.

To prepare for the event Washburn had gone swimming each week in Rockport Harbor over the past months, accompanied by her mother, Deb, who offered encouragement while paddling beside her in a kayak. Washburn, a lap swimmer, had also been visiting the pool at the YMCA to hone her skills. Washburn's sister, Anne Lloyd, happened to be in town visiting from Missouri this month and was able to accompany her sister on the crossing as her paddler.

Washburn said she gained additional insight on how to prepare by attending a "rookie's night" where she had the opportunity to speak with men and women who made the ocean jaunt in previous years. Although she wasn't sure how long the swim would take her, Washburn shaved minutes off of her anticipated time reaching the island.

Although she said that she tried not to look down into the water as she swam to avoid seeing any marine life that may distract her, Lloyd shared with her sister after the event that while she has paddling beside Washburn she had seen a seal hunting a school of mackerel in the periphery.

"I'm absolutely looking forward to swimming the event again next year, and I would encourage others to consider participating in future Islesboro Crossings in any capacity – whether as a donor, a volunteer or a swimmer – as each of these roles is vitally important to the success of the event," said Washburn, who works in the healthcare industry and said that she has great admiration for LifeFlight from having seen their services in action firsthand.

More information on LifeFlight of Maine can be found at LifeFlightofMaine.org and information on the sixth annual Islesboro Crossing may be found at lifeflight.donordrive.com.