PORT ANGELES — Strong currents combined with wind and fog ended Michelle Macy’s attempt at swimming across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Monday, about 2 miles from shore.
Macy, a consultant from Portland, Ore., left Freshwater Bay at 7:10 a.m. Monday, bound for Beachy Head on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, but came about 1½ miles short as currents caused her to drift east toward Victoria.
She was pulled out of the water at 2:31 p.m.
Despite the disappointment of not making it to land, Macy said she’s happy about the results.
“It showed I had all the training in to complete the swim, had Mother Nature participated,” said Macy, who did not wear a wet suit. “I had done the work I needed to be successful.”
She said she hopes to return to Port Angeles to attempt the swim again.
Though she was more than a mile short of hitting land, Macy swam 13.39 miles over 7 hours and 20 minutes. If she could have swam straight without getting caught in the current, the swim should have only been about 12 miles.
She initially got caught in a current heading east before correcting her route and heading west. As she approached Beachy Head, the current took her.
Macy knew before she entered the water the weather would be working against her. On a good day the swim is a challenge, but Monday thick fog covered the water, 20 mph winds were expected and waves were about 2- to 3-feet tall, which led to a small craft advisory being issued.
“I would consider myself a very small craft,” Macy said before starting her swim. “We’ll just motor out there, see how it is and we’ll see how it goes.”
She said the weather seemed to change every 10 minutes.
Just received word that she was pulled out of the water, just short of hitting land. It appears she was drifting too far east to complete the swim. pic.twitter.com/LOPJAnWHrQ— Jesse Major (@jessemajor) August 6, 2018
Macy was the first American, second woman and third person to complete the Oceans Seven, a marathon swimming challenge that involves swimming the North Channel, the Cook Strait, the Molokai Channel, the English Channel, the Catalina Channel, the Tsugaru Strait and the Strait of Gibraltar.
Macy said that despite having those swims under her belt, she still found the Strait of Juan de Fuca intimidating.
“This water is very cold and has strong currents,” she said, prior to her swim. “I’d say it’s up there as one of the most challenging swims, even though it’s one of the shorter ones.”
Macy, a marathon swimmer, swam completely unassisted and the swim was sanctioned by the Northwest Open Water Swimming Association.
She was attempting a the same route Melissa Blaustein, who NOWSA recognizes as the eighth person to cross the Strait unassisted after making the swim last year.
Two other swimmers, Susan Simmons — who is planning to swim across the Strait twice in one go — and Jill Yoneda, crossed last year, as well. Simmons swam unassisted, though NOWSA did not sanction her swim.
Macy said that in preparing for the swim she spent time in Columbia River to prepare for the distance and she swam in Clear Lake in Oregon to prepare for the cold.
She said that though the fog doesn’t make the swim more challenging, it can play a role mentally.
“It can make it more mentally challenging because you’re not seeing any progress,” she said. “You feel like you’re swimming in a circle.”
She said she was able to overcome that aspect, but the fog also blocked the sun from warming her as she swam in the chilly water.
Coastal water temperatures near Port Angeles were at about 55 degrees, though she was told to expect closer to 50 degrees once she was away from shore.
“I honestly didn’t look because I didn’t want to know,” she said.
Macy said she is thankful for the U.S. Coast Guard and Canadian Coast Guard for coordinating on the swim and that without the support from her sister, Katie Schwarz; her friend, Erin Stone; and NOWSA President Andrew Malinak, the attempt wouldn’t have been possible.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].