By John Montone, 1010 WINS

What kind of fool am I? The kind of fool who steps out onto a frozen bay to snap a few pictures.

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I’m thawed out now. And alive. Which is more than I can say for my Nikon camera and my i-Phone.
I’ll tell the story in detail, but know this…I’m not a crazy risk taker. Sure I got swept off my feet by a big wave in Ocean City, Maryland while covering a hurricane. Yes, we were warned to stay off the beach, but I wanted to tape the sound of the wind and crashing surf. And I was ordered back from a railing along the Hudson in Hoboken during Sandy by the local police who heard one of my reports and were afraid I’d end up in the drink. Oh, yeah, and during the crack wars of the early 90’s, I did venture alone into some pretty dark buildings. I was much younger then.

Oh, right. I drowned the company car during a flash flood in Jersey City while looking for a woman who was reportedly stranded in her car with a child. Get that story come hell or high water. Actually, sewage up over the dashboard of the 1010 WINS Mobile Unit and police warning me I could get sucked down a manhole as I walked toward dry land. News anchor Lee Harris reminds our audience of that adventure on the air every time we get more than an inch of rain.

So it was that late Sunday afternoon as the sun began to set over a mostly frozen Barnegat Bay, I grabbed my Nikon and my i-Phone and headed to my friend’s dock on 18th Street in Ship Bottom. I envisioned a rare opportunity to photograph the falling fireball as it turned the ice red. And the dock was almost the best place from which to shoot. Almost.

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Click. Click. Click. I tried but I just wasn’t getting the money shot. And that’s when my friend’s son joined me on the dock, then climbed down the ladder onto the frozen surface. It looked solid as a rock. So I carefully climbed down the dock ladder to join him and as I did his dog leaped off the dock and landed on the ice. Ah! This was the angle I wanted. Right past a marker for the intracostal waterway the bottom edge of the sun was kissing the ice. And in that split second I did not once think of the powerful currents running under me. The same currents which in the summer often make it so tough to tie up my boat to this very dock.

I felt the surface crack first. Then I saw it. And then I felt the freeze. Chest deep and treading in icy water. Too far from the dock to grab the ladder. More ice cracking. Before I could panic I got a welcome shove from my buddy’s son, Kyle, who is about half my age and a fish in the water. Kyle had remained afloat and pushed me toward the dock. I grabbed the ladder. He held onto me and pulled in his dog. I quickly walked off the dock to my house, four doors away. I was colder than I’ve ever been in my life. My Nikon and my i-Phone had died salt watery deaths. But two guys and a mutt named Addie survived.

So what kind of fool was I? A wet, freezing fool. But I just had to try to catch the setting sun as it hit the ice because who knows if the opportunity will ever arise again.

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P.S. The Coney Island Polar Bears have invited me to take a dip with them. I’ll have to think about that.