By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Darren Bachiu, 36, thinks he may be the first person to ever make the attempt on the surfboard-like craft.
He cannot find any record of anyone making the crossing on a paddleboard, which he uses to explore Vancouver Island's coast.
“This is a challenge. I will give it a go and hope to get it done on the first run,” Bachiu said.
If, for some reason he fails to make it on that first try, he said he plans to try again until he succeeds.
“I will paddle until my arms fall off,” he said.
The timing of his attempt will depend on tides and weather.
Tides would work in his favor on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, and look even better on July 15, Bachiu said.
“Ask any sailor on [Vancouver] Island and without a doubt they will tell you that the Juan de Fuca Strait is commonly plagued by rough seas, strong winds that routinely blow down the Strait with a ferocity that is only rivalled by the current that aggressively pulls and pushes beneath the water's surface,” he said.
He said that rain and clouds don't cause him problems, but that wind and sea swells can.
Bachiu has been staring across the Strait at Port Angeles and the Olympic Mountains since he moved from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada to Victoria in 1998.
“I see it all the time. Port Angeles is always looking at Victoria and Victoria is always looking at Port Angeles. We have the better view. To paddle toward it is amazing,'” he said.
He made a practice run in a kayak on June 21, but intentionally failed to make landfall when he and his escort boat reached Port Angeles Harbor.
“If I came ashore, I would have to deal with customs,” Bachiu said.
He will begin his trip at Cheanuh Marina, 20 miles west of Victoria, and cross southeast, toward Port Angeles.
He aims to land in Port Angeles near the Railraod Avenue pier of the Black Ball Ferry Line Terminal, which operates the Coho ferry as it travels between Port Angeles and Victoria.
He will be escorted by Rich Gordon of Tail Out Fishing Adventures of Victoria.
Gordon, who also served as escort during the kayak trip, said that he clocked Bachiu paddling as fast as 5.8 miles per hour, and never slower than 4.8 miles per hour.
“He was cruising. I thought I would be able to put some poles out and do some fishing. But he was too fast,” Gordon said.
The six-hour, 16.9-mile trip “as the crow flies,” requires the paddler and boater to circle around several islands, a headland, and Ediz Hook, which added up to a total of 26.7 miles, according to the GPS unit on Gordon's boat.
“[Paddleboards] move a lot slower than a kayak, Bachiu said.
Gordon follows well behind, so that his wake doesn't disrupt Bachiu's paddling, and a pre-arranged signal — a paddle in the air — means Bachiu needs supplies or is in trouble.
Bachiu plans to carry his water using a wearable soft water pouch, and carry a few snacks to keep his energy up, but Gordon will provide supplies as needed.
“I can't carry much on a paddleboard,” Bachiu said.
Planning for the crossing includes contact with both the Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards, Canadian and U.S. Customs, as well as the vessel traffic authority responsible for the shipping lanes, Bachiu said.
It also includes a careful eye on tides and weather.
Tides can be unfriendly, swimmer Andrew Malinak discovered in July 2013.
After 6 hours and 10 minutes, with about a mile remaining to reach land, Malinak, a 26-year-old civil engineer from Seattle, quit his attempt to swim from the southern tip of Vancouver Island to U.S. shores at either Freshwater Bay or Crescent Beach, when the tides turned, and he found himself swimming against an outgoing tide.
Malinak was one of many to attempt the swim, but only eight have finished.
Bert Thomas was the first person to successfully swim the Strait on July 8, 1955.
Bachiu said he has spoken to iconic distance swimmer Marilyn Bell, 74, currently living in New York.
At age 16 on Aug. 23, 1956, Bell became the first Canadian, and the first woman, to swim the Strait.
“I always saw that Marilyn Bell plaque [on Dallas Road], and said, 'Can you believe someone swam this?'” he said.
He said she gave him tips for dealing with tides and weather from the swimmer's point of view.
“She seemed very excited to hear from me,” he said.
And who knows, he said, maybe a swim is in his future.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.