Fort Worden, Port Townsend, WA
DATE OF SWIM: 1/16/21
A spontaneous trip to Port Townsend - my boyfriend and I swam 1000 yards at Fort Worden beach. We swam through bull kelp, tons of debris and logs. Afterwards, we explored picturesque, maritime Port Townsend by foot. We plan to go back ASAP!
Port Townsend: My Dream Town
For whatever reason, I was convinced that through all of my many outdoor adventures and travels all throughout the state of Washington for now almost five years, I had been to coastal Port Townsend already. I was so mistaken!
Port Townsend is a perfect little coastal village with Victorian houses and a brick downtown. Immediately upon arriving it felt like home - it reminded me of Newport, RI or Portland, ME. Except, Port Townsend (PT for short) has views of the majestic Olympic Mountains on one side and the Cascades on the other. The town also has a network of undeveloped trails that weave through neighborhoods so pedestrians can thrive, wooden boat building is still a thriving part of the culture and industry, and there is a different festival every month (ukulele, writer conventions, sailing, steampunk, you name it). Port Townsend is a charming, picturesque town that is also full of eclectic, artistic, liberal, educated individuals, but like every city or town that is desirable, it's also changing. One thing that has recently changed (very positively!) is the now booming open water swim community. The group has grown significantly since COVID-19 and many people now swim regularly at the beaches in town. This type of open water swimming boom has happened everywhere recently, Seattle included.
Our Swim at Fort Worden
Before arriving in Port Townsend, I chatted with a swim friend who had been there before and swam at both Fort Worden and North Beach (around the corner from the lighthouse on the other side of Fort Worden). I also talked a few months prior to the Port Townsend open water swim group leader who suggested swimming at Fort Worden. I also talked briefly with the Whidbey Island swimmers (I'm part of their GroupMe text chain), who told me the water would be about 46 degrees F. Whidbey is across from Port Townsend, so this made me confident that the water temp in Port Townsend would be similar. When my boyfriend and I spontaneously decided to make a trip, all signs pointed to Fort Worden.
Fort Worden is a 432-acre historic park with tons of hiking trails and 2 miles of public shoreline to explore. The fort dates back to 1898 and looks out clear to the expansive Strait of Juan de Fuca. It's now home to multiple festivals throughout the year - such as Centrum's Voice Works, The Olympic Music Festival and the the Port Townsend Ukulele Festival.
The trip from Seattle took about 2 hours. We ended up parking at the Fort Worden lot close to the Marine Science Center, which requires a Discover Pass. I apprehensively decided to wear the (sleeveless) wetsuit even though I hadn't worn it in three months, this swim was officially the only time since October 15. I knew the water was colder at Fort Worden than in most of Alki Beach, where I normally swim. The wetsuit felt like an extra layer of safety, this feels especially important when I'm exploring new swim spots alone or semi-alone with my boyfriend without a local to help guide us. I normally feel able to handle 1 major discomfort when swimming skins, the wetsuit allows me to handle more than 1 (example: chop + cold + new spot = too much to handle when swimming skins but better with a wetsuit). It felt right to wear the suit, at least until I got into the water. Unfortunately, as soon as I was wearing it and swimming, I wanted to take it off. The inability to feel the water through the wetsuit was uncomfortable, and I craved the cold in a way that I could not feel it with the suit on.
We swam for 25 minutes, keeping the swim short. Our route started at the science center, we swam towards the stairs leading to the Commanding Officer's Quarters Museum. During the swim, we played with bull kelp and tried to use the GoPro mostly unsuccessfully with frozen hands. After we swam for a while together, I jumped in again without the wetsuit and stayed in for another 5 minutes or so. The water felt piercingly cold but it was that cold burst that I needed.
It was yet another adventure to keep us satisfied.
I plan to come back soon and swim with the local group, as I've now connected with their leader on the phone! I'd love to swim Point Wilson lighthouse (right by the marine science center) and also Marrowstone Island (maybe in time for their annual Strawberry Festival!). Apparently the currents are strong by the lighthouse, so I'll need to swim with someone who knows the terrain better than me.