'We all have busy, stressful lives and to get into the cold water and swim is absolute heaven,' says Catherine. 'It’s a really big stress-buster, a challenge and it’s really enjoyable. When you come out, you’re buzzing.
’We don’t ever plan to do any swim that is going to involve the RNLI. My brother was coxswain here for years and my brother-in-law was crew. The lifeboat crew are very good, they support us in everything we do and it goes both ways because we do a lot of fundraising for them. You just don’t ever plan on calling them out!’
Catherine has some practical advice: 'I hope our experience will make others think when planning long winter swims.
'My advice: don’t overestimate your abilities. Whatever you think you can do, assume you can do less and work to that. Figure in plans for what happens if someone gets into trouble at different points and how to keep everyone warm and safe while helping them.
‘In the winter, we try to use an estimated 40% of our effort getting out and 60% getting back. Know yourself, know your body, and don’t ever wait until you get cold before you turn back.'
‘Sean and Catherine did well, carefully planning their swims and making sure they looked after each other in the water,' says Nick Fecher, a community safety manager for the RNLI.
‘It’s important to remember that, whatever your activity, things can go wrong in the water at any time of year. Average Irish and UK sea temperatures are just 12°C and rivers are colder - even in the summer. If you’re going in during the colder months or for extended periods, wear a wetsuit of appropriate thickness.
‘For year-round swimmers, consider buying a surface float such as a diver’s Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) which can be used as a rescue float. Also attach a waterproof VHF radio or place a phone in a waterproof pouch onto the float to call for help.’
For more advice on enjoying the coast safely, see our water safety pages.