By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
PORT ANGELES — A Seattle swimmer came up just short of completing his swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday, defeated by strong currents and cold water.
Andrew Malinak, 26, a civil engineer from Seattle, left Beechey Head, the southern tip of Vancouver Island, at 9:01 a.m. Sunday, intending to land in either Freshwater Bay or Crescent Beach on the North Olympic Peninsula west of Port Angeles at about 2 p.m.
But a westerly current pulled him off-course, and he gave up at 3:10 p.m. about 2 miles west of Crescent Beach.
“You're never guaranteed a successful swim in this sport,” he said.
Still, Malinak said he was happy that he managed to keep swimming for more than an hour after he expected the swim to be done.
He undertook the swim without a wetsuit for the 12-mile crossing.
Malinak spent eight months to train for the cold water.
The water was expected to be about 52 degrees, average for this time of year, but boat's instruments showed that water temperatures dipped to 46 degrees Sunday afternoon.
Wetsuits are not allowed by the rules of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, which records major open water swimming achievements.
“He's below [decks]. We have the heat on. He's shivering but OK.” said Capt. Charles Martin, captain of Livin the Dream, a 26-foot Sequim-based catamaran safety vessel that accompanied Malinak on his attempt.
Malinak would have been the eighth swimmer since Bert Thomas, the first man to document the international crossing in 1955.
Malinak prepared for the swim in Puget Sound, off Alki Beach in West Seattle, where he has trained since December.
For most of the swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca he used the front crawl, or “freestyle” stroke, and maintained his planned 60 strokes per minute during most of the crossing, according to tweets posted by his support team.
Malinak was accompanied by a four-person crew, flanked on one side by a kayak, and the other side by Livin the Dream.
The catamaran carried swim manager Caitlin Rosen of New York, an experienced open-water swimmer who monitored ships and boats in the area around the swim route and was in charge of communications, and swim handler Meghan Petak of Rhode Island, who monitored Malinak for signs of hypothermia.
Kayaker Steve Goodson of Seattle was responsible for Malinak's immediate safety, and stayed 5 to 10 yards from him to help if the swimmer got in trouble.
Crew members were allowed to throw food, powder-mixed fluids, Advil and Vaseline for Malinak's use during the swim but were not allowed to make supporting contact with Malinak or allow him to draft behind the vessels.
Malinak purchased an Automatic Identification System, or AIS, to mark the kayak's location in the water, to make it electronically visible to tankers, the Coast Guard, and other vessels in the Strait.
The system also allowed the public to follow the swim from their computers, using one of several websites that map AIS electronic signals.
Before making the swim, Malinak had to complete a 24-page safety and border-crossing plan, and work with U.S. and Canadian officials to cross the border .
A New York native, Malinak began competitive swimming at the age of 9, and has a 10-mile crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar and 28.5-mile circumnavigation of New York City's Manhattan on his resume.
Before the attempt, Malinak said that crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca would rank among his top accomplishments because of the cold water and windy conditions.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.