Kachemak Crossing: Open Water Swimming in Alaska


Last month, two friends and I had the opportunity to swim across Kachemak Bay for the second time. Having smoothed out a lot of the kinks out during our first trip across, this swim felt relaxed and oh-so peaceful. We met at the end of the Spit at 6:00 on a high tide slack.

Jan and Wil getting ready to dive in.

We had alerted the Harbor Master in advance and our friend, who escorted us in his Hewescraft, also made an announcement to the fleet that were in the water. Each of us swimmers had a kayaker friend to keep us on route and also pack hot tea, Gateraid, etc.

Boats, whales, and water.

Ted, our escort across and our ride back!

Taking off from the Spit. Thanks for the photos, Bonnie Dupree!

Whales off of Land's End.

We train mostly in shallow water, swimming up and down the Spit in areas where we could easily get out if necessary. I remembered a couple years ago being slightly panicked the first time I couldn't see the rocky bottom beneath me, but on this swim, I didn't feel the same anxiety.

A rainbow arched over us as we pushed off from Land's End on the high tide slack. The water felt warmer than usual and we couldn't have asked for a calmer, more peaceful day.

Rainbows!!

Calm as glass! Thanks to my mom, Judy Little, for all these great shots!

About two miles into the swim, the silty glacier water mixed with the salty sea water, and the temperatures dropped about 10 degrees. A thick fog engulfed us and we could no longer see very far ahead of us, but the seas stayed like glass and there wasn't even a whisper of wind.

Tim, Jan's husband and kayak escort. And in the background, Jon, Wil's brother and kayak escort.

I snuggled right in next to Emilie, my kayak buddy, and picked up the pace a little bit, mostly to maintain my body heat.

Emilie, my awesome kayak buddy. She makes everything look easy!

As my exposed face started to get a little chilled, and I began to wonder how much further we had to go. At some point, Emilie shouted, "Half a mile!", and then after what seemed like forever, "Only 800 yards!" ;)

Soon after, though, we reached the shoreline of Haystack Beach in about 1:40 minutes, which was about 10 minutes faster than the previous swim. The fog began to lift as the sun came up, matching the glow on our faces after having been given such an amazing opportunity.

The other side!!

If you've been thinking about ocean swimming, all you need is a little gear and an appetite for adventure! I tend to run warm, and the temperatures of the ocean have gone up a bit in the last few years, so I swim in a 3/4 O'Neil wetsuit with a NeoSport 7/5mm queen's hood, NeoSport 5mm water socks, O'Neil 3mm Psycho gloves, and clear Speedo Vanquishers. Over the years, I have tried quite a variety of gear, and this is what I've settled on as my favorite. Always bring a friend along, plan to swim with the tide, and try to get out there by 6-7 am, as swimming becomes less enjoyable once the daybreeze picks up. I hope to see you all out in the Bay! XOXO

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