Why’d you do it? After her husband swims dock to dock, islander finds out

Joe Yakin completed his second annual open water swim up Colvos Passage on July 6.

On July 6, islander Joe Yakin completed his second annual open water swim, from the south end dock to the north end dock, up Colvos Passage, in six hours and 23 minutes.

Celina Yarkin, his wife, and Madeline Yarkin, his daughter, took shifts in the support boat that accompanied him for the 15 or so miles up the west side of the island.

Celina conducted the following interview with Joe after the swim.

What did you have to consider when planning your route up Colvos Passage?

One considers leaving at the top —or just before the peak — of a high tide, and finishing before the low tide washes in on the north end. If you are late, you’re going to be stuck, and have to walk for a portion. It had to be on a day with a large high tide of 12 to 15 feet or more in the early morning. I want to leave in the early morning, for lower boat traffic, and can be done for lunch. You don’t want a strong north wind. There are probably six days in the summer when all conditions align.

So you had the tide with you?

Yes, the tide traveled as fast as one knot, to add to my two knots per hour swim speed. But there are times when [the current] starts and stops, and goes backwards. Fern Cove was like that. For some reason, in the beginning, the tide was still, or moving backward, and that was stressful. Although tides are consistent, currents are not.

Is that why there was one section of the swim where you were equidistant from both shores? You were out in the middle of the shipping lanes!

Yes, passing Cove Walk and Maple Wood, the island has a large dimple that causes large back currents. In order to avoid those, I swim out close to the middle. It is a fantastic sensation to be so far out in so much water. The water was deep and clear 40 to 50 feet, and it was fun to watch the jellyfish.

Is it dangerous?

The two major worries are jellyfish stings and motorboats. One always keeps in mind large marine mammals taking an interest, but that is very rare.

Any close calls?

Yes, I had one close call when I swam up to what looked like a small purple string, and I instinctively rolled to the left and just missed a large, upside-down Lion’s Main [jellyfish] near Cove Walk. Most of the jellyfish are down low, and very beautiful.

Why Joe, why do you do it?!

It gives me the sense of “my island.”

Did you see any seals or large mammals?

The seals kept their distance on that day. My safety boat reported I had three seals following me for a bit near Camp Sealth.

How do you go to the bathroom?

I hold it. (Laughter)

Can you talk a little bit about the safety precautions you take for a long swim like this?

It’s very reassuring to have a boat out there, and it complied with the marine open water swimming laws and gave visibility from boats. I have a large orange safety buoy [I drag behind me], and when there are boats anywhere nearby, I kick a two-beat kick that makes a big splash. My support boat also carries a divers flag, a whistle, and life jackets. We had no close calls.

How do you keep your energy up on a long swim like that?

[On] any swim more than two hours, it really helps to consume simple carbohydrates to facilitate energy metabolism. The day before, I mix two 40-ounce water bottles — one with a half cup of simple carbohydrate corn starch, sugar, and lemon, and the other, a sweetened electrolyte drink. We also pack a few strawberries and a banana. [I have] snacks every half hour to hour, and they were actually something I looked forward to.

What was your favorite part of the swim?

I think the best is coming into the shallows on the north end. Mary Robinson joined me at Fern Cove for the last four miles of the swim, and we got separated by crazy currents. Her husband Chuck was also in a safety boat, so when we got separated, it was okay. I was able to make a close cut on the north end of Vashon where the underwater scenery was magical with underwater kelp beds, schools of fish, and clam snorkels.

Are you going to do it again next year?

God willing.