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Year in Review: Island adventurers reflect on epic journey

This week, the Reporter brings you some of the top stories of 2019.

One storm “put the fear of God in me,” Tom Cronin said, safe at home on Shelter Island in July.

The retired Shelter Island Police officer was 22 miles offshore on his jet ski when he was in the middle of 5-foot waves and lightning strikes. Unable to get to land, he had to ride out the storm for about two hours.

During another storm in waters off North Carolina, he and his partner, Toby Green, had to head into the beach and seek shelter from lightning. They saw a house up from the beach. Four couples staying there took them in.

Those were just a couple of tales Mr. Cronin had to tell after returning to a hero’s welcome at Wades Beach on the afternoon of July 17, 17 days after leaving from the same spot. He had gone all the way to the Bahamas and back to beat the Guinness World Record for the longest jet ski trip.

Mr. Green was on hand at the beach that afternoon to greet his fellow adventurer when he came ashore. He had been forced to abandon the final leg of the trip after traveling about 1,600 miles, reaching Key West. A skin infection prohibited him from re-entering salt water.

Mr. Cronin said he never considered abandoning the journey when he learned Mr. Green couldn’t continue. “I made a commitment to go the distance,” he said.

The commitment was not just to try to break the Guinness record but, more importantly, to solicit contributions to support his great-niece’s fundraising for the Scleroderma Foundation.

Julia Ceresnak, 8, has Scleroderma, a hardening and contraction of the skin and connective tissue that can affect the entire body.

Thanks to the efforts of the two men, and many contributors who followed their journey on social media, another $30,000 has been raised to date for the Scleroderma Foundation from those who visited Julia’s site at scleroderma.org/goto/JetskiforJulia.

Mr. Cronin and Mr. Green had notified Guinness, registering their intentions to go for a new record, and had been approved by the record-keeping company. Mr. Cronin said he’s broken the world record for the longest jet ski trip, covering approximately 3,300 miles from Shelter Island to the Bahamas and back.

Until July 17, the record stood at about 1,900 miles, set by South Africans Adriaan Marais and Marinus du Plessis, who followed the west coast of North America south to the Panama Canal in 2006.

The two Island adventurers rode 2019 Yamaha FX Cruiser SVHO Jet Skis, with onboard GPS, headlights, bilge pumps, a second battery, USB charging parts, Blue Tooth music and a secondary 60-gallon fuel tank.

“I will never do this again,” Mr. Cronin said as he climbed off his jet ski.

But after a night’s sleep and some rethinking, he said that although he wouldn’t repeat the same trip, if he had sponsors such as Yamaha or others whose equipment was used on the trip, he would go anywhere and would be willing to promote their products.

Mr. Cronin credited Sea-Tow of Southold with providing safety equipment and help along the route, saying he and Mr. Green couldn’t have taken on the trip without them. He also thanked South Ferry for its support.

In some ways, the two men found themselves unprepared for what they encountered, including the dangerous weather conditions.

Both developed rashes due to sun poisoning and salt water constantly pounding their affected skin. Mr. Cronin suffered this on the second day out. He said the rashes were confined to his legs, and he quickly learned he had to wear his wetsuit, no matter the weather.

Mr. Green had rashes all over his body. Medical personnel in Key West told him that he couldn’t consider getting back on the jet ski, since it would have been impossible to ride without reopening sores.

For most of the trip, the men were out between 15 and 20 miles from shore and would head to beaches at night to rest before continuing the following morning.

Along the way, people offered candy and water. Filling stations provided fuel for the jet skis at discounted prices. At a restaurant, a waiter and waitress contributed cash, and in Cape May, New Jersey, they were offered tacos and iced tea.

The take-away from the trip was “how incredibly kind people were,” Mr. Green said.

Overall, Mr. Cronin described the trip as “a humbling experience.”