May 25, 2018
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Different strokes: Belfast friends aim to swim the ‘calendar summer’

By Tom Groening, BDN Staff

BELFAST, Maine — Mainers work to make the most of the fleeting summer, and that truth inspired Dan Greeley to pledge, along with his friend Sigrid Coffin, to swim on each day of summer, beginning June 20 and wrapping up Sept. 22.

“Dan came up with the idea last summer,” said Coffin, 29. “We gave it a good go, but we weren’t religious about it,” she said of the 2011 effort. “This year, we decided to do it. Today is my 89th day.”

On Wednesday, at about 5:15 p.m., with air temperatures in the low 60s, Coffin and Greeley stripped down to their swimsuits near the city-owned Boat House and waded into Penobscot Bay. Greeley counted, “Five, four, three, two, one” and the two plunged in.

Greeley, 45, missed a handful of days, but Coffin kept the pledge, taking the plunge in 35 locations, all in Maine — saltwater, lakes and rivers.

Coffin’s rules for her self-imposed challenge were that the swim had to take place in “any natural outdoor body of water,” she said, “and I have to submerge.”

There were times when she reluctantly plodded to the water at 10:30 p.m., and other times when it was sheer joy.

“Some days, I frolicked in the water,” she said. But always, the plunge was “a day-changer. It’s a good, fun thing to do — very clarifying, clear the old cobwebs.”

Greeley adds that he and Coffin never regretted taking the plunge, even on those days when they had to force themselves to go in.

The two chuckle about one late-night plunge with a total of 17 people, none wearing bathing suits.

“That was a sight,” Greeley said.

Thirty years ago, the two Belfast natives point out, the Belfast waterfront would not have inspired swimming. “It was covered with chicken fat,” Coffin said, the byproduct of a poultry processing plant.

Greeley said in recent weeks, he’s gotten some odd looks from others on the shore.

“People are sort of giving me that look,” he said, to which he replies, “It’s still summer!”

Coffin has had similar experiences, describing an older man who scowled at her and with a heavy Maine accent said, “Geez, it’s cold!”

Greeley speculates that there is a cultural explanation. “We’re much more of a recreating society,” he said, while in past decades, the ocean was seen as a place for working.

Greeley’s late father started a tradition in Belfast in which people plunged into the harbor on New Year’s Day, Coffin said. In a city known for its quirkiness, she believes her personal feat fits in.

“We hope to see many more people out here in fine Belfast form,” she said, grinning.

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