Pete Palmer's wife thinks he's crazy. And years ago, when friends tried to convince him to try open-water swimming, he thought they were crazy, too.
But the 77-year-old Palmer is now in his seventh year participating in the Beaufort River Swim and has grown to appreciate the event, a change of pace from indoor lap swims.
"Open water is a whole different world," he said.
The river swim will be held again Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. Participants are shuttled from Beaufort Downtown Marina to Port Royal Landing, where they will swim a little more than three miles back downtown, with the tide.
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Palmer, a longtime YMCA board member who helped conceive the Beaufort River Swim, said the event is important for its cause. Proceeds from the race go to the YMCA's Learn-to-Swim programs and water safety classes.
The event raised $32,000 for program scholarships in 2012, and 640 people participated in the Learn-to-Swim program.
"Every time somebody drowns around here, it just breaks my heart," Palmer said. "I know we've saved lives."
Palmer also swims for the Beaufort Masters swim team, which meets a few times a week at Beaufort Indoor Pool. Open water requires more attention to site lines, Palmer said. Swimmers, at eye level with the water, can't always make out the next buoy. The trick is to find the buoy once and pick a bigger target beyond it -- like a tree, building or flag.
"I wouldn't want to do it all the time, but it's a marvelous change," Palmer said.
7TH-ANNUAL BEAUFORT RIVER SWIM
What: 3.2-mile open water swim
When: Saturday, 8 a.m.; Check-in 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 a.m.; pre-race meeting at 7:50 a.m.
Where: Beaufort Downtown Marina
Cost: $40, $50 day of race
Details: Packet pickup is available at the YMCA on Friday from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. Registration available at ymcabeaufortcounty.com or active.com.