Yes, Toby and Katie, I can definitely see how lack of immediate feedback can lead to a slower time in OW whereas in the pool you can correct yourself if you don't see the tiles move like they should or if you slip your stroke count at the end of a lap. Out in the dark water you just do what you do and it's more or less just your muscle memory and feel that you have to rely on. If that's the case at least what I've got is reliable if not optimal.
Andy, I measured and measured again that it is yards. This was the first place I tried to justify the time. Certainly I measured wrong...but no. Although I did mean to say it was 550 yards from ramp to island and back but that was just a typo.
Someday I'll set up my video camera to see just how straight I really am. Perhaps I am overestimating my straightness. I am usually not too far off when I sight but a lot can happen in 20 strokes. Of course, 'not too far off' itself is maybe where I am wrong especially out in the middle of the water. Maybe I should choose 2 targets so that I can have better feedback, kind of like how you line up rifle sights. Right now I think 'hey, the ramp is ahead.' Maybe I should think 'hey, I must have gone a few degrees to the left because that tree behind was lined up with the right side of the ramp and now it is in the middle'. That might take up a bit of time to see/process that but maybe worth a try just for the sake of investigation.