School employee aims to be first woman to swim around BI nonstop

Folks tend to say the third time’s the charm. For Rijl Barber, “This time it’s personal.”

Barber, a speech pathologist in the Bremerton School District, is looking to become the first woman, and second in history, to swim around Bainbridge Island nonstop. Barber will attempt to start around 6 a.m. Aug. 9 at Skiff Point Pier on BI’s east coast.

She will be pacing for 12 hours around the southern tip of BI, through Rich Passage, through the channel between BI and the Kitsap Peninsula, underneath Agate Pass bridge and finish back at Skiff Point.

“After twelve hours, bad things can start to happen,” Barber said. “The water in Puget Sound warms up to 53 degrees in August. The Northwest Open Water Swimming Association rules say you have to wear a regular swimsuit.”

Barber’s first two attempts were unsuccessful. The tides and rough seas stopped her short on her first swim. Last August, Barber was on track before her rescue boat broke down, forcing her to stop for safety concerns.

She competed in her first open water ultra marathon in 2017 at the Portland Bridge Swim, a 12-mile journey. Afterward, she was hooked on the challenge. She then did the 13-mile Mercer Island Marathon Swim in the summer of 2018 and the “Swim the Suck” in Chattanooga, TN that fall. Her most recent completion was the SCAR Arizona Swim Challenge in April. It consisted of four tracks around four lakes on four-consecutive days.