For some deranged souls like me, it’s a tradition to swim, or at least dip, into the Pacific Ocean in the middle of winter. Saturday was the day. Many dippers dressed for the occasion. For instance someone dressed as a penguin. For me a swimsuit, t shirt and water shoes were enough. For the last two years the Sitka Polar Dip has been run by the Baranof Island Brewing Company. The Seattle Firefighters’ Pipe and Drum Corps fly in to turn up the heat. The pipers planned to take the plunge so instead of their normal boots they were shod appropriately for walking into the winter sea on a pebbly beach. One poor piper forgot to bring his sandals and shopping. Flip flops and sandals are not what normally come to mind when Sitka merchants order shoes in the winter (or any time really) so the piper went to the second hand shop. All he could find was a pair of women’s flip flops with pink and sparkly flowers. He took only a little of grief. By the way, we now know what pipers wear under their kilts — bathing suits.
At noon we all ran in to the ocean at back beach. Actually we went in slowly — but we came out very fast. This clamor confused the swans that had been peacefully swimming at the beach. The water was warmer than the air, which was 27 degrees Fahrenheit –minus 3 Celsius. (Will Britain have to go back to Fahrenheit after Brexit?) Suzi took pictures of us running in and out. I took pics with my waterproof camera from the water.
Fire Department rescue swimmers went in first, dressed for warmth, setting the outer limit for our excursion out to sea. Not many made it all the way out to them. I did, to try to get better pictures. It didn’t work so well. My hand was shivering too much.
It was comforting that there was an ambulance handy, although the waiver we had to sign, acknowledging the dangers inherent in winter swimming was a little off-putting. The brewery said they needed it so they could get the correct spelling on our names for the certificates of achievement (or death certificates) that we (or our survivors) could pick up at the after party in the brew pub. They promised hot toddies or ice cream floating in stout; I think firemen will drink anything. I passed up the immediate after party and headed straight home for a hot shower. I picked up my certificate later.