A dozen people proved themselves certifiable at the 11th Sandy Cove Polar Bear swim.
That is, they earned a certificate from Janet McNeill,president of the Digby Neck Polar Bear Club for jumping in the bay Sunday afternoon, Jan. 1, 2012.
Close to 50 people showed up at the Fundy Bay Beach to watch, take pictures and shake their heads. They built a bonfire of old Christmas trees on the beach, hugged coffee thermoses, and held towels for their misguided loved ones.
At 3:30 p.m. McNeill counted to three and twelve dippers ran into the waves.
Kelsey Graham and Madeline Thibodeau took the plunge for the first time after watching the event for years.
“It looked real fun but it’s not so fun; it’s cold,” said Kelsey later as she and Madeline warmed up by the fireplace.
They two youngsters nonetheless say they’re thinking about doing it again.
Janet McNeill and Cindy Graham began the local madness after driving up to Zwicker Lake in Annapolis County for the Polar Bear Dip there for a few years starting in 1995.
“It was something I always wanted to do,” says McNeill. “You know, a bucket list item.”
McNeill says in Zwicker Lake they sometimes have to use a crane to lift out a block of ice and so they thought they could do it simpler here by just jumping in the ocean.
Over the years they have held it on the St. Mary’s side and the Fundy side. They make a celebration of it in Sandy Cove and gather afterwards for a potluck.
This year they also raised $160 and a recycle bin full of food stuff for the foodbank.
The water was three degrees Celsius and the air one degree with a light breeze off the water Sunday afternoon. The salt water in the ocean usually has to be at least -2 Celsius before it freezes—the Bay of Fundy rarely does because of its constant motion. In summer the Bay of Fundy rarely rises over 7 degree Celsius because of the constant influx of cold Atlantic water.
Last year was warmer in Sandy Cove and the dippers were able to stay in the water longer. This year they were all out of the water like a shot.
McNeill says this year was still mild compared to some years.
“Once I got my jacket on, I could stand around in bare legs. Other years you had to have everything laid out just so and get covered up right away.”
As to why she does it:
“It put’s you in such a good mood for the rest of the day. It’s a blast. You wash away the old year and jump into the New Year. That’s how I think of it.”