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

LifeFlight Director of Communications Melissa Arndt said nearly 140 individuals swam in this year's event to raise funds for equipment and emergency rescue services LifeFlight provides. As of Aug. 14, more than $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 3-mile swim to the island. This was the first year of swimming for many of the participants, including Sara Washburn of Warren, 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," Washburn said Aug. 13.

To prepare, Washburn swam each week in Rockport Harbor for months, accompanied by her mother, Deb, who offered encouragement while paddling beside her in a kayak. Washburn, a lap swimmer, also trained in the pool at the YMCA to hone her skills. Her sister, Anne Lloyd, happened to be in town visiting from Missouri this month and was able to accompany Washburn 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 Washburn tried not to look into the water as she swam to avoid seeing any marine life that might distract her, Lloyd later told her that, while paddling beside Washburn, she had seen a seal hunting a school of mackerel in the periphery.

As a worker in the health care industry, Washburn said she has great admiration for LifeFlight from having seen its services in action firsthand.

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