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On a quest to be adopted as an aquarium animal, I'm swimming as often as I can in as many places as possible. Following a recent move from New York City to Seattle, I'm slowly turning into a pinniped. This is that story.

  1. Strait of Juan de Fuca: A short thank you

    by , July 28th, 2013 at 11:45 AM (Please tap on the glass)

    The swim has started. I’ve just jumped in. It is 8am here on the coast of Vancouver Island. There are six hours left to go.

    Yes, it is 6am and I’ve only just jumped in, but I’d never have made it this far without you. There are many, many people who have helped make this swim a success. And this swim IS already a success. Who would let the outcome of a piddly twelve-mile swim define the success of something that has taken eight months to plan? Not me. The planning was the challenge, the adventure, the thrill.

    The planning has been the adventure, and along the way I’ve met people who have offered everything, few who’ve offered nothing, and many who gave what they could, even a mere point in the right direction or a kind consideration. All of you are remembered, and all the help has been deeply appreciated.

    So, while I swim, here’s a quick thank you to those of you who helped make this swim possible:

    • Mark and LCDR Meridena at Sector Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service: thank you for being positive, thorough, and professional, for going beyond what your job requires, and for helping me resolve some of the most difficult parts of the planning.
    • Dan the Port Angeles Port Director, Customs and Border Patrol: thank you for your flexibility allowing me to take the route of my choosing.
    • Donna, at the Pacific Coast Highway CANPASS Application Center: thank you for your personal touch to the CANPASS process, including all the phone calls and faxes to see that these went through on time.
    • Captain Bob, Randy, and the staff of West Marine Store 1271 Seattle: thank you for patiently helping me with a lot of questions about your products (which eventually, after several months, ended in a sale).
    • Doug, and the staff of Milltech Marine: thank you for repeatedly explaining how an AIS works and listening to me explain what I was trying to do (also, eventually ended in a sale).
    • Vicki Keith and Peter Urrea: thank you for taking the time to tell me about your Strait swims. I love knowing your stories. And thank you to those who helped me track Peter down.
    • Evan M, Dave B, Phil W, Steve M, and the marathon swimming community: thank you for fielding some early questions about this swim.
    • Faculty and Staff of various oceanographic institutions, Scripp’s, UW, NOAA, Seattle and Vancouver Aquariums, WS DFW: thank you for offering what advice and guidance you could with regards to tides, currents, and sea creatures.
    • Doug S (PA Power Squadron), Ernie N (USCG Aux), Todd (PA Boat Haven), Ken V, Tom Y (Tommycod Charters), Jeremy & Jack (Arrow Launch) and others: thank you for being a part of the emotional roller-coaster ride that was finding a suitable boat.
    • Open Water Swimmers everywhere, especially CIBBOWS and those out here in Seattle: thank you for listening, and thank you for asking. Thank you for offering, and thank you for giving. The Open Water community is the greatest group of people I’ve ever met.
    • To my family and my almost-family: thank you for supporting my crazy things, and for teaching me how to do them.



    My crew – Charles, Steve, Meg, and Caitlin: thank you.
  2. Strait of Juan de Fuca: The 24 page pre-plan

    by , July 21st, 2013 at 01:04 PM (Please tap on the glass)

    ->> skip straight to the document <<-

    This is it, my final post before the swim. Meghan and Caitlin are in town, the weather remains sunny and calm, and all indications point to a go on 28 July 2013. But we wouldnt be able to start without the pre-plan being approved.

    Last summer, I began typing up a so youre going to crew for me type document to make early morning pre-swim discussions with an unfamiliar captain and crew a little easier. It is two pages and goes over what I want and expect from them on the average swim, and what they should want and expect from me. This document, along with the one-page supplement, makes up the last three pages of this swims pre-plan.

    Early on in the planning, it became clear that the swim manager would need to have a lot written down to get across the borders and shipping lanes, so I began to draft a swim-specific pre-plan. As July approached, VTS recommended I submit a pre-plan for them to distribute to various agencies, and I was like, easy, here it is! They made one set of comments (thorough comments) and included emergency numbers, proper VTS procedure, and asked me to clarify some whys and hows. When they passed it on to the Port Angeles USCG station, USCBP, CBSA, and the Canadian Coast Guard, they got unanimous approval on the first try something Im told is a feat in itself.

    The document is attached for your use, review, and enjoyment. Its sections are broken up as follows:
    1. definitions; vessel details
    2. entry into Canada
    3. entry into US
    4. communications
    5. emergency numbers
    6. VTS
    7. CANPASS worksheet
    8. safety goal
    9. safety authority
    10. crew responsibilities
    11. go/no-go decision
    12. safety plan
    13. escort craft description
    14. swim rules (taken from Santa Barbara Channel Swimming Association rules)
    15. current overview
    16. daily route plans with current info
    17. general crew info
    18. specific crew info.


    The document can be found at my old MIMS2012 website:
    http://andrewswimsmims.com/wp-conten...y-redacted.pdf

    Thanks for sharing in the adventure!
  3. Strait of Juan de Fuca: Customs

    by , July 18th, 2013 at 11:05 PM (Please tap on the glass)

    As the more astute among have realized by now, there are international borders to be crossed in this swim. In fact, the question I get more often than Where is that? (get a map!) or With a wet suit, right? (glareno) is Do you have to carry your passport? Yes. Yes I do.

    This is a long post, and you can blame Congress for that. Things got way tricky in 2002 as the Department of Homeland Security came onto the scene. Also, having the Canadian Navy sail into my path, megaphone in hand, shouting, soorry to bother you, but if you could please stop swimming, wed like to arrest you, if thats alright, would get in the way of Goal Number Two. Rule following is key.

    At the beginning of April, I took a scouting trip to Port Angeles to look for boats, look for access to the finish locations, and chat up the folks at the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). Fortunately, Port Angeles is a port of entry into the US, so theyve got a customs house that handles the occasional ferry passengers and cargo ships entering via the local port. Even more fortunately, the port is relatively small, so getting in touch with the Port Director is pretty easy (far easier than it was when I tried calling the Miami port, for example). So, we chatted.

    After I got Port Director Dan to believe that I was actually planning something legitimate, we began talking details. Apparently, every commercial vessel (defined as anyone for hire, including my escort boat) is subject to some amazingly complex requirements for entry into the US. This includes things such as the 24-hour Electronic Manifest Rule using the Automated Commercial Environment, and International Carrier Bonds (ICB) for Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers. After much research (look up 67 FR 66318 and 19 CFR 4.7 (b)(3)(i) if you want extra credit), I finally understood the ICB was a major reason I was having difficulty finding a cheap boat option. The ICB is a $50,000 bond to be used in the event any you get any fines from the CBP, which by this stage I was certain we inadvertently would.

    Obtaining the bond was priced by one captain as about $1,000, and that was if I went through the commercial launch previously described (total now at $5,000 for that boat), and it was way, way over budget to ask a one man show, such as Captain Charles, to get. I reached out to the swimming community for help on this issue and got nothing. I even called the Port of Miami (the port that covers where those Cuba swimmers would land) to see what they were requiring, and got nothing. At a dead end, I talked some more with Port Director Dan and he agreed to use his power to waive the requirement just this once. I suspect hed waive it again though, if you ask nicely. And if I dont mess things up for you.

    To wrap things up, Dan told me that while technically I was supposed to call into the Port before setting foot on land, hed send someone out to the beach to meet me. I offered at first to drive over to the Port to check in, but seeing as I could easily do my secret dealings between the beach and Port (theyre called Budgie Smugglers for a reason), he insisted to meet me at the beach. Which is AMAZING! Goal Number One: start the swim. Goal Number Two: picture of me handing my passport to a CBP agent on the beach. Cant wait!

    But we havent even gotten o the start of the swim yet. Getting into Canada is easier, luckily. First, the US and Canada have a pretty decent relationship citation needed. Second, Canada has actually managed to use technology to simplify the border clearance prOcess rather than using technology to make a simple thing cumbersome and convoluted. A while back, Canada started a pre-clearance program, CANPASS, which eventually would merge with NEXUS (the joint Canada/US program). Most travelers use the NEXUS program, but some, especially private boat and aircraft passengers, can still use CANPASS, which only involves the Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA). With CANPASS, you call ahead en route to check in and the CBSA can decide to meet you for inspection at the port of entry or not, and youre set to go. Real simple.

    Again, Im looking to avoid calling into Victoria. Thats an exercise that would add about 3 hours to an already very early morning. Luck would have it, a friendly CANPASS agent told me on the phone it should be fine to just head straight to the beach as long as we all had CANPASS since no one would really be touching shore (except me, for all of 8 seconds). So I got my crew all signed up and were ready to go.

    (Quick shout out to Donna at the CANPASS application office in Surrey, BC. Donna actually called me several times to make sure I was sending in some paperwork I forgot, and to personally give me status updates on the applications. Customer service from a government agency? Only in Canada.)

    This was not what I expected to be doing when I envisioned this swim. I was thinking tides, currents, and boat traffic. Not reading the CFR. It appears far less complicated now, sitting here in mid-July, than it appeared in April. I admit I made it harder than it had to be since Ive been striving for transparency and legality, but I really dont want to spoil it for everyone else.

    If youre serious about making a trip across, let me know and Ill get you to the right people. Names and phone numbers and everything.