I smell fine.

Yesterday, I jumped into Baltimore’s harbor. Today I am alive and thriving.

The water was the perfect temperature. Cool enough to refresh me on a hot day. Warm enough so that I couldn’t tell whether the guy next to me was peeing.

Yes, some of the water got in my mouth. It wasn’t that bad. A little briny. I feel invigorated — and I’m not alone.

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I joined more than 150 people Sunday as part of the inaugural Harbor Splash organized by the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore. There was a DJ and lots of speeches. It felt like an awful lot of pomp and circumstance to a newcomer like me.

Personally, I enjoy swimming in the buff, but I feared that would be too European for the good Protestants of Baltimore.

As a Michigander who grew up swimming in lakes, rivers and ponds, I have an innate desire to jump into every open body of water I see. I experience a deep, childlike wonder when swimming outdoors. Buoyed by a spirit of adventurousness, I feel my world-weariness floating away. My zest for life is renewed as I float on my back and bask in the sunlight.

Since moving to Baltimore three years ago, I have watched cormorants dive into the water of the Inner Harbor and wondered: When is it my turn?

I get it.

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For native Baltimoreans or even transplants, it’s reasonable to question whether it’s ever safe to swim in the Inner Harbor.

It was an industrial dumping ground for centuries. People dumped sewage, fertilizer, slag and, now, electronic scooters. Who cares if the bacteria tests come back safe? Why risk it? Didn’t mankind invent pools for a reason?

I don’t disagree. But I am too excited. When I heard the harbor was swimmable, I felt like a golden retriever who found an open jar of peanut butter.

Harbor jumpers leap into the waters of Fells Point during the Harbor Splash 2024 event on June 23, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Eric Thompson/for The Baltimore Banner)

A swimmable harbor is an incredible public asset, and I want to emphasize the “public” part. If Baltimore continues to clean up its harbor, future generations will spend their summers swimming, floating and playing right here in the Patapsco River — at little to no cost.

Once the harbor is fully clean, we can work on dismantling the Jones Falls Expressway and daylighting the river. Not only would this allow me to kayak to work, it would also be really cool.

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Sunday’s jump was a gimmick, but it was a liminal moment for Baltimore. As we broke through the surface of the water into the Inner Harbor, our city broke through a plane of consciousness into a new understanding of our relationship with the water — and I felt a deeper appreciation for the rich history of Baltimore.

I also peed a little.