EARLIER STORY — Seattle man attempts swim from Vancouver Island to North Olympic Peninsula today
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Distance swimmer Andrew Malinak stands with the Ediz Hook monument that commemorates the first modern swim to Port Angeles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca by Bert Thomas in 1955. Thomas died in 1972 (see accompanying story on homepage).
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Map by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

How to monitor progress

The progress of the crew accompanying Andrew Malinak in his swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca can be monitored on vessel tracking websites such as www.vesselfinder.com by searching for ship number 367575160.

The crossing also will be live-tweeted on Malinak's Twitter page, www.twitter.com/AndrewSwims.

Additional information about the swim is available on Malinak's blog at www.tinyurl.com/mymavus.
PORT ANGELES — Andrew Malinak isn't crazy.

What he plans to do this morning, however, could be regarded as a little insane.

Malinak, a 26-year-old civil engineer from Seattle, intends to swim from the southern tip of Vancouver Island to U.S. shores at either Freshwater Bay or Crescent Beach.

He plans to make the 12-mile, six-hour crossing of the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 52-degree water without wearing a wetsuit.

“Anticipated water temperatures indicate that hypothermia will be a consideration,” Malinak wrote in a 24-page safety and border-crossing plan.

Video Link: http://www.king5.com/news/cities/seattle/Seattle-man-Strait-of-Juan-de-Fuca-no-wet-suit-217109551.html

Since moving to the Pacific Northwest from New York in December, Malinak has been swimming several times per week in the frigid waters of the Puget Sound off Alki Beach in West Seattle.

He has spent several months planning for a bid to become the eighth swimmer in recorded history to cross the Strait since Bert Thomas first accomplished the feat in 1955.

“I'm trying to do something with local meaning to it,” Malinak said in a Wednesday interview.

An experienced open-water swimmer, Malinak follows the rules of the Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association, which prohibits wetsuits.

“The more you jump in, the easier it gets,” Malinak said of the cold.

“The body does begin to acclimate.”

If all goes according to plan, Malinak will make contact with Canadian shores at 8 a.m. today and arrive at one of two potential landing sites west of Port Angeles at about 2 p.m.

“The wind this weekend could make this very interesting,” Malinak said.

If high winds scratch today's swim, Malinak will attempt the crossing Monday.

Malinak has assembled a four-member crew to accompany him on two vessels.

He will be flanked on one side by Livin' the Dream, a 26-foot catamaran piloted by Capt. Charles Martin of Sequim, who operates The Water Limousine private cruise service out of John Wayne Marina.

“I think it's nuts because the water's so cold,” Martin said of Malinak's planned adventure.

“But he seems to be very knowledgeable about what he's doing and very thorough, from the interactions we've have so far.”

On the other side of the swimmer will be a kayak powered by Steve Goodson of Seattle, who will be responsible for Malinak's immediate safety.

“Someone will be in a kayak 5 to 10 yards away at all times,” Malinak said.

The other members of the crew are swim manager Caitlin Rosen of New York City's Brooklyn, an experienced open-water swimmer who will monitor vessel traffic and handle communications, and swim handler Meghan Petak of Rhode Island, who will closely monitor Malinak for signs of hypothermia.

Additional shore assistance will await Malinak and crew at Freshwater Bay or Crescent Beach.

Crew members will toss out food, powder-mixed fluids and possibly Advil and Vaseline for Malinak, but at no point during the swim will Malinak make supporting contact with any person or object, or draft behind the vessels.

Malinak plans to use a front crawl for the duration of the swim, maintaining a consistent 60 strokes per minute.

A lifelong swimmer, Malinak began competitive swimming at the age of 9.

The New York native has a 10-mile crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar and 28.5-mile circumnavigation of New York City's Manhattan on his resume.

“The ocean is free,” Malinak said of the advantages of open-water swimming.

“You don't need a membership.”

For Malinak, crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca would rank among his top accomplishments because of the cold water and high winds.

And unlike previous marathon swims, Malinak handled the entire planning for the Strait of Juan de Fuca crossing by himself. He had to jump through hoops to gain clearance from U.S. and Canadian authorities to cross the international border.

Landing at one of the two beaches in Clallam County would be “ideal,” Malinak said.

But unlike the Strait of Gibraltar, getting a mile or two off course in the Strait of Juan de Fuca won't leave Malinak in the open ocean.

“I still see it as a huge challenge,” he added.

Malinak purchased an Automatic Identification System, or AIS, tracking device for the kayak that will accompany him on the swim.

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 28. 2013 11:28AM
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