By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The 19th annual polar bear plunge from the dock across from the Nordland General Store at noon was finished in less than 10 minutes, but it made a big impression on those who took the leap.
“Like sliding through an avalanche” was how Fanny Sarrell of Port Townsend described hitting the frigid water.
“This is a good way to wash away all of the impurities of the past year and start anew,” said Josh Herrington, who said he grew up on Marrowstone Island but now lives in Singapore, where he works in the oil and gas industry.
For the second consecutive year, Herrington timed his vacation to coincide with the plunge, and jumped into the water with his daughter Sara.
Tom Rose, Nordland General Store owner who started the annual tradition, said this year had a higher turnout than most other years, although it was nowhere near the record of 2000, when 189 people participated.
Rose also takes the dip every year. “It's a good way to ring in the new year,” he said, “although I can't begin to tell you how it feels.”
Rose had directed that no wet suits would be allowed during the plunge.
Rose said he thought that 72-year-old Chip Howes was the oldest jumper this year, although there was really no way to be sure since no one checked the identities of the jumpers.
Those taking the plunge were required to sign in for safety purposes but some of the names, such as “Mickey Mouse,” weren't verifiable.
Paul Richmond, a new resident of Marrowstone Island, took his first plunge this year with the encouragement of his partner, Meridith Watterson, who did not jump.
After Richmond got into the the water, Watterson noticed that he didn't get his hair wet and asked him to jump in again.
To her surprise, he complied.
Aside from the jumpers, about 250 people milled around the dock, with cars parked a along the road a quarter mile each way from the store.
Rose said that in the first years of the plunge, everyone stood on the dock and jumped in at once, but that, with increased interest, staggering people on the dock became necessary.
The cannon sounded at noon and the bulk of the jumpers were finished by 12:10 p.m., although some stragglers and repeat jumpers kept it going another few minutes.
One year ago after the crowd had made the plunge, three young women jumped in stark naked.
There was no repeat of that this year.
Rescue boats from East Jefferson Fire Rescue, the Coast Guard and Vessel Assist were on hand to assist if needed.
That was an increase in rescue personnel from last year, Rose said.
“I think we had more rescue volunteers because they wanted to get a look at the girls if they came back,” Rose said.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.