PORT ANGELES — A Victoria woman with multiple sclerosis who swam across the Strait of Juan de Fuca in 2017 plans to do it again — going the other direction.
Susan Simmons plans to swim 18.3 miles from Ogden Point in Victoria to Dungeness Spit on Sunday without a wetsuit as she continues to swim the “Salish Sea 3.”
She swam across the Haro Strait on Saturday, plans to swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Sunday and the Strait of Georgia in mid-August.
Among her goals is to inspire people living with MS to stay active.
“I’m trying to show people with MS that you can live an active life after being diagnosed,” she said. “Fitness is a great way to keep you healthy.”
She also is swimming to raise awareness for marine conservation.
“I wanted to point out that everything is connected in the sea,” Simmons said. “It’s not just one body of water in isolation.”
That became very clear on Saturday during her 6.5 hour swim across the Strait of Haro. The currents — at times up to 3 knots — were so strong she was nearly pushed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
She ended up swimming 10 miles in what was supposed to be a 7-mile swim.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said. She recalled at one point thinking, “Am I ever going to get across?”
“I’d see the same piece of land for half an hour,” Simmons said. “My crew kept working with me and reassuring me I was moving forward and I finally made it.”
Simmons said she believes she is the only person known to have swum the Haro Strait.
On Sunday, Simmons expects to get into the water at about 5:30 a.m. and begin making the estimated 12-hour swim to the Dungeness Spit.
Simmons in 2017 swam from the Dungeness Spit to Victoria’s Clover point. She became the 12th known person to swim across the Strait and the eighth known person to make it without a wetsuit.
Last year, she attempted to swim from Ogden Point to the Dungeness Spit and back, but called her swim off after about 9 hours of swimming in 48-degree water with 6-foot swells.
Sunday she expects far better conditions than what she faced last year.
She said that the water now is sitting between about 52 degrees and 55 degrees and she’ll be swimming throughout the day instead of at dark.
She said that what makes this swim unique, other than it being part of the “Salish Sea Three,” is that she is not aware of anyone else who has swum from Ogden Point to the Dungeness Spit.
“This is going the other direction,” she said. “Nobody has ever done that.”
Last weekend, the currents prevented Port Angeles native Rob DeCou from finishing his swim.
DeCou, who swam with a wetsuit, attempted to swim from the Dungeness Spit to Ogden Point.
What was supposed to be an 18.3-mile journey turned into 31.25 miles because of the currents. He came within 670 feet of shore before his crew pulled him back.
Simmons said she is not as concerned about the currents as she is the cold. She said her pilot knows the Salish Sea and she is confident her crew will make sure she stays on track.
Nine people have swum across the Strait without a wetsuit, eight of whom are recognized by the Northwest Open Water Swimming Association.
Those who have made the crossing without wetsuits are Bert Thomas, Cliff Lumsdon, Amy Hiland, Ben Laughren, Marilyn Bell, Vicki Keith, Andrew Malinak, Susan Simmons and Melissa Blaustein.
Simmons said she is thankful for the support she has in Port Angeles and said if people want to send her messages while she is swimming, her crew will read those to her.
She will post tracker information on her Facebook page so that people can see where she is in real time and will have regular updates on social media.
For more information, visit WithMS4MS.com.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].