Last summer, just before many of us Maine Maritime Academy cadets left on our annual training cruise, I decided to take a dip in the harbor after a hard run. The water was so cold that my muscles seized up as I slept that night, and I could barely stand up straight for a day. When I asked the engine room what the seawater temperature was, they reported it at 48 degrees.
That was May 8.
A great Maine tradition in many towns is the polar bear dip in which people throw themselves into the freezing March (or January) waters and run back out again. The Maine Maritime Academy dip was postponed and then cancelled, and many were robbed of the opportunity for masochism. A new trend has sprung up in its absence: the Polar Bear Challenge.
Conducted through Facebook, the challenge began as an independent dip that was shot on video and then posted on the widely used social network. The participants then extended the challenge to their friends: find a body of water (and not your bathtub) and throw yourself into it in the next 24 hours, or suffer the label of “chicken.”
Among the participants so far have been midshipmen James McCarthy, Kevin Pepin, and Taylor O’Malley. The challenge has been extended to many, including Eliza Pingree, Nick Nevers, Mike Riley and Olivia Osborne.
In other news, Kurt Borkman, the new regimental morale officer, has come up with many exciting and hilarious morale events to incite the spirit of fun and competition between the four regimental companies. On Wednesday, April 9 at morning formations, two midshipmen from each company competed in a Gumby suit relay race. A “Gumby suit,” for those who do not know, is the nickname given to the clumsy red and orange survival suits used by mariners of all kinds, from lobstermen to salty sea captains. Fitting into one of these things is an awkward task at best, and the relay race itself turned into something worthy of Monty Python.
At the command to start, the four participants at one end struggled to climb into their Gumby suits to the cheering and jeering of their fellow midshipmen. Then they ran pell-mell like drunken turkeys to the far end of the gymnasium in which we hold formations every morning and got themselves disentangled from the bulky outfits. Then their partners raced to get into the suits and back to the other end of the gym. The victor was Delta Company, with Clayton Forrest finishing just ahead of Nick Nevers from Alpha Company. Charlie and Bravo brought up the rear, with Wyatt LaPage halfway in his suit leaping across the gym pogo-stick-style.
Coming soon is Mr. Borkman’s Academy Boxing Match on April 15. Everyone who can should go, for this will certainly be a highlight of the year’s antics. Aaron Haley of Charlie Company is president of the Mixed Martial Arts club (MMA at MMA!), and will be hosting the event with Mr. Borkman. May the best company win!
Benjamin Stevens of Islesford is a sophomore at Maine Maritime Academy.