74-year-old Mattapoisett man to take on Buzzards Bay Swim one last time

Jun 23, 2018

Peter Burlinson isn’t much of a swimmer. But since February, the 74-year-old Mattapoisett resident has been swimming laps at the Gleason Family YMCA in Wareham once a week, preparing for the 25th annual Buzzards Bay Swim hosted by the Buzzards Bay Coalition.

“I’m not someone who enjoys swimming,” Burlinson said. “But I really admire the Coalition and the work that they do. They really do an awful lot of good and I’m happy to help raise money for them.”

The Coalition is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting and preserving Buzzards Bay and its water systems. The organization advises surrounding municipalities about environmental issues, sponsors educational programs, and conducts environmental research.

Swimmers who partake in the Coalition’s annual swim challenge raise money for the organization through sponsors. The course is a challenging 1.2 miles long, stretching from the South End of New Bedford across the open harbor to Fort Phoenix Beach State Reservation in Fairhaven.

This year’s swim will take place on Saturday, June 30, beginning at 7:15 a.m. Burlinson, who served as board member for the Coalition for seven years in the early 2000s, has raised $1,200 for the Coalition so far.

This will be Burlinson’s first time participating in the swim in 14 years. It will also “definitely” be his last he said, laughing.

The first time Burlinson swam in the challenge was in 1997, and only about 30 other people participated. But the swim has grown exponentially since then. The Coalition expects about 350 participants to make the swim across New Bedford Harbor this year.

Even during his hiatus from participating, Burlinson was at least indirectly involved in the event. Before retiring four years ago, he worked for the Edson Corporation in New Bedford, where he helped design the medals awarded to each swim participant. The company supplies the medals each year, free of charge.

Burlinson said he didn’t prepare for the swim at all the first time he participated, a mistake he was determined not to make again.

“I just about died,” Burlinson said, letting out another laugh.

But he stressed that swimmers are supported along the course by safety personnel in boats and said that although the swim is challenging, it’s also accessible and rewarding.

Since beginning his training in February, he’s worked his way up to swimming more than a mile in the YMCA pool, the equivalent of 42 laps or 84 lengths. While he only began swimming again this winter, Burlinson said he stays in shape regularly by going to the gym three times a week and playing golf as much as he can.

When Buzzards Bay Coalition President Mark Rasmussen asked Burlinson if he’d participate again this year for the 25th anniversary, he was reluctant before ultimately deciding to do it.

“What I’m not reluctant about saying though is that the Coalition is one of the finest nonprofit organizations in the region,” Burlinson said. “I really admire and am inspired by the people working there.”