South Whidbey High School grad swims from Hat Island to Whidbey

Mary F. Bakeman completed the swim in one hour and four minutes.

There are many ways to pass the time during the pandemic — watching TV, baking bread, balancing working from home and engaging in distance learning come to mind.

One woman, however, decided to tackle a 2.5-mile swim from Hat Island to Whidbey Island.

“Especially during the pandemic, I wanted something to do,” said Mary F. Bakeman. “I’ve been staring at it my entire life.”

Bakeman grew up with a view of Hat Island from her parents’ home in Freeland.

The South Whidbey High School graduate said she started swimming this year. She ran track and cross country in high school and college and was having some issues with running recently, so she turned to swimming to get some exercise.

Plus, she said, the island was calling.

“I’ve always known that it was achievable because my dad did it, and our beach place stares out at Hat Island. I’ve been looking at it for 32 years,” she said.

It wasn’t easy, of course, and she started training for the swim in March.

Her freestyle swimming form wasn’t great at the beginning and she had trouble controlling her breathing.

“This wasn’t in my wheelhouse at all,” she said.

She turned to YouTube videos to fix her form, bought a trisuit (a piece of clothing popular with triathletes) and practiced in Meydenbauer Bay near her Bellevue home during the week.

On the weekends, she would come to Whidbey and swim in Puget Sound.

Bakeman’s father and her husband dropped her off at Hat Island early on a Saturday morning and the water was “a little choppy,” Bakeman said.

She just kept swimming.

It felt like forever, she admitted.

At the finish line, she was “shocked” when her husband showed her the clock — she had completed the journey in one hour and four minutes. It took her father an hour and 15 minutes three decades ago.

“She killed my time,” said her father, Jeff Bakeman.

When she completed her swim at Brighton Beach, Mary Bakeman arrived to cheers from her neighbors.

It was their own live sporting event, albeit on a smaller scale.

As if swimming in frigid 55-degree water wasn’t challenging enough, Bakeman was also stung on the neck by a jellyfish toward the end.

“A little token for my accomplishment I guess,” she said.

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South Whidbey High School graduate Mary F. Bakeman swam from Hat Island to Whidbey Island on Aug. 29 as a way to stay busy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo provided.
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