Swimmer Melissa Blaustein makes her way to the Race Rocks area west of Victoria, B.C. around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Blaustein completed her trek across the Strait of Juan de Fuca at 3:43 p.m. (Northwest Open Water Swimming Association)

Swimmer makes it across Strait in less than eight hours

PORT ANGELES — Orcas made an appearance at the finish.

Seven hours and 41 minutes after embarking on her approximately 12-mile swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Melissa Blaustein arrived at a rock face on Cape Calver to the sound of boaters yelling, “Get out!”

Several whale boats apparently spotted a pod of orcas around the corner, said Andrew Malinak, Blaustein’s support boat pilot.

“I was happy to get out when I did,” Blaustein said, laughing.

Blaustein, who lives in San Francisco, and her crew aimed to finish at Beechey Head, Malinak said, but the tides pulled Blaustein toward Race Rocks. Rather than attempting to arrive at Beechey Head, they headed in the direction of nearest land: Church Point of Cape Calver on Vancouver Island.

When she finished, Blaustein felt “very cold and emotional,” Malinak said.

“She looked good to the end,” he added.

Blaustein confirmed, as she said in a previous interview, that PB&J, Michael Phelps, “Hamilton” and “Little Mermaid” pulled her through — with the addition of “Moana.”

She also said a humpback whale swam in front of her about three-fourths of the way through the swim.

“It was really magical,” she said.

Blaustein, 29, started swimming in her late 20s, she said.

She does not recall the memory of her first swim — a triathlon with a distance swim portion — fondly in any way.

“I kind of hated it,” she said. “I didn’t know how to swim.”

But with a little training, she grew to appreciate the sport and realized, “Maybe this is something I was supposed to be doing my whole life,” she said.

Blaustein recently began “Chasing Amy,” setting out to complete as many of Amy Hiland’s swims as possible as a tribute to the late marathon swimmer.

On Aug. 18, 1956, Hiland swam across the Strait (a distance of about 18 miles) in 10 hours and 51 minutes.

In addition to raising awareness to Hiland’s legacy, Blaustein has been raising money for the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston, an organization that has been active in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, via a GoFundMe page, Chasing Amy for Houston. The page had raised $1,010 as of Saturday evening.

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Reporter Sarah Sharp can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].

A support boat carrying swimmer Melissa Blaustein of San Francisco approaches the rocky shore at Observatory Point along Freshwater Bay west of Port Angeles prior to her attempt to swim across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Saturday. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

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