San Francisco Bay's Chilly Currents Stoke The Flames Of Romance A husband and wife swim together in San Francisco Bay. But the choppy water can separate them. To find one another, they've developed calls which began decades ago under secret circumstances.
NPR logo

San Francisco Bay's Chilly Currents Stoke The Flames Of Romance

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/694175086/694175087" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
San Francisco Bay's Chilly Currents Stoke The Flames Of Romance

San Francisco Bay's Chilly Currents Stoke The Flames Of Romance

San Francisco Bay's Chilly Currents Stoke The Flames Of Romance

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/694175086/694175087" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A husband and wife swim together in San Francisco Bay. But the choppy water can separate them. To find one another, they've developed calls which began decades ago under secret circumstances.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We have a story of a romance. It's a love affair that heats up in the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay. Here's Chloe Veltman of our member station KQED.

CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: On a cold, gray morning, Roberta Guise and John Rohosky greet each other on the dock outside their swim club.

ROBERTA GUISE: Hey, bruiser.

JOHN ROHOSKY: How you doing, doll?

VELTMAN: The couple, both in their 70s, swims in the bay several times a week. It's played a central role in their relationship for more than 30 years.

GUISE: (Singing) Oh, what a beautiful morning.

VELTMAN: He's sporting a black Speedo, a red swim cap and bright green fins. She's in a black one-piece and canary yellow cap. The conditions on this particular morning aren't exactly beautiful. There's debris all over the shore and shallows and a fast-moving current.

ROHOSKY: Have to go in backwards with fins.

VELTMAN: The water's around 50 degrees. So for safety, Roberta and John have developed this highly distinctive call-and-response system.

ROHOSKY: I'll do the rebel yell. Yahoo (ph).

VELTMAN: John tells me his call puts him in the fighting spirit. Roberta's call is also wild but in a different way.

GUISE: (Imitating seal). I didn't pick the seal sound. It picked me. That's just what came out, and it stuck.

VELTMAN: They're longtime members of the South End Rowing Club, a San Francisco institution dating back to the 1870s. They met at the club in the 1980s and started using their calls soon after they became involved in a clandestine romance.

GUISE: Well, originally we didn't want people to know that we had made it official. So that, I believe, is how we started those calls.

VELTMAN: You mean they were like a secret code?

GUISE: They were like a secret code, yes - originally.

VELTMAN: They'd use the calls to find out if the other one was around at the club.

GUISE: I would call to you to see if you were here. And if I heard something, then I knew you were here and vice versa. So...

VELTMAN: After Roberta and John went public about their relationship, they also put their calls to a different use.

ROHOSKY: When Roberta and I started swimming together more regularly, it was a good way to signal to each other. Yahoo.

GUISE: (Imitating seal). He'll know by how far away the call is where I am in the water, and he'll know to locate me in the water. And ditto with John.

VELTMAN: Roberta recently had a hip replacement, and John has dealt with heart arrhythmia. So their piercing vocalizations can be especially useful in rough conditions. About 15 minutes into their swim, they've been keeping up a steady stroke side by side. But in no time, he's pulled far ahead.

GUISE: John.

VELTMAN: Roberta can't reach John.

GUISE: Hey. Can't hear me, can you?

VELTMAN: Roberta's treading water, trying to figure out which of the several heads bobbing about in the distance belongs to her husband.

GUISE: I can't tell which is you.

VELTMAN: It's time to bring out the seal.

GUISE: (Imitating seal).

VELTMAN: At first, no luck. So she tries again.

GUISE: (Imitating seal).

VELTMAN: Then...

ROHOSKY: Yahoo.

VELTMAN: John swims towards his wife. They embrace and belt out one last call.

ROHOSKY: Yahoo.

GUISE: (Imitating seal).

VELTMAN: For NPR News, I'm Chloe Veltman in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF IHF'S "AWAKE")

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.