>Valdez Polar Bear Plunge with a Splash of Orange

> Typical polar bear plunge – people in crazy costumes jumping in the water, right? On standby you have the firefighters, EMS, and the Coast Guard in case something goes wrong. People jump in, costumes are judged, money is counted, a feast is had and that’s that.
This year, February 28, at the Valdez polar bear plunge there was a group of eight individuals, sporting orange from head to toe, smiles on their faces, shouting, “Hoo ah!” What was their costume supposed to be? Cingular logo men? Nickelodeon lovers? Orange Fanta Fanatics? Oh no, they were the United States Coast Guard!
Station Valdez’s MK3 Matthew Johnson, BM2 Athena McCully, MK2 Chris Tossey, BM3 Luke Berghuis, SN Cooper Kline, BM3 Nick Shepardson, ET2 Ross McDermott, and SNGM Jarrod Dukowitz divided into two teams and battled it out in a relay and a friendly canoe tug of war. Of course, being “Semper Paratus” (always ready) there was an additional Coast Guard crew standing by in the 25-foot small boat just in case.
The relay consisted of each individual jumping into the water and swimming out and around a floating buoy. Once the individual reached the buoy their teammate on the pier would throw a heaving line to pull that individual back to the pier. Once every team member had made it around the buoy, the entire team jumped into their canoes and competed to be the first ones to paddle around the buoy and back to the pier. After the relay the teams in their canoes, were connected to each other by a line off of the canoe bows. The canoe tug of war only lasted about ten seconds before the winning team pulled the other team to their side!
When asked about most memorable moments or lessons learned from the event, the team members had a few things to say. Cooper Kline, a seaman, got a taste of fame that day: “Someone was cheering and shouting my name, which shocked me because I don’t know anyone here!” Nick Shepardson, a boatswain’s mate, poked a little fun at Ross McDermott, who is an electronics technician: “Never let an ET throw a heaving line!” Athena McCully, a boatswain’s mate who was on the winning team, remembers: “The other team’s boat kept tipping over!”
Not only did these Coasties have a good time, but they also were able to put their faces into the community and shine a positive light on the service. “It was nice just getting out into the water!” said MK2 Tossey. The coastie families and Valdez locals who attended the event had some laughs and the relay participants were exposed to swimming in their drysuits.
Next year Station Valdez is hoping to compete against the local fisherman, to give them practice using their “gumby” immersion suits. Talk about a good way to promote safety amongst local commercial fisherman! The team was successful in helping volunteers raise over $9,000 from the event.