On Sunday, Canadian authorities were in for a big surprise when 1.500 Americans washed up on their shore. They had been participating in annual Michigan event, known as the Port Huron Float Down.
The exact date of when this tradition started is unclear. The first official Float Down took place in 1977, but it was probably not the first one.
The Float Down event has had a pretty rocky history. It used to take place every year, in the first Saturday of August. In 1986, a violent storm prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to forbid the festivities. Though Float Downs were still taking place, it took a few years until an official event by that name was organized.
The first official Float Down since 1987 took place in 2008, on the third Sunday of August, establishing the current tradition. Over 3000 people in improvised watercrafts showed up on the St. Clair River, in the state of Michigan.
The U.S. Coast Guards cancelled the event again in 2010, deeming it unsafe. By that point, however, it was already so popular that various unofficial floats continued to take place. In 2011, Erik and Melissa Kimbell, who had been the safety organizers of the 2009 Float Down, were charged with illegally sponsoring and organizing the Unofficial 2010 Float Down. The Kimbells faced fines of up to $8000, but the authorities dropped the charges against them in 2011.
After this year, the event no longer had any official organizers. But that did not stop enthusiastic floaters from gathering every year on St. Clair River.
Last Sunday, floaters discovered an unexpectedly windy atmosphere. The participants had no means of controlling their crafts. Most were using inflatable dinghies, rafts and inner tubes. Upon impact, the floating devices deflated, and the participants floated beyond the Canadian border. The local authorities were surprised to see such a huge number of Americans wash up on their shores.
None of the floaters contracted injuries during the event. The Facebook Group dedicated to this event posted a heartwarming thank-you for the Canadian authorities, stating that, “You’ve shown us true kindness and what it means to be amazing neighbors!”
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However, the Canadian authorities expressed their discontent over the outcome of the Float. Carol Launderville, spokesperson for the Canadian Coast Guard on the Great Lakes stated, “The Port Huron Float Down event has no official organizer and poses significant and unusual hazards given the fast-moving current, large number of participants, lack of life jackets, and as was the case this year, very challenging weather conditions”.
Though the unfortunate incident did not have casualties, there are plenty of reports indicating that these sort of occurrences are not new. There is a website that provides floaters with advice on how to manage this experience, but there are still some things which are hard to account for.
Authorities haven’t mentioned whether there will be any serious repercussions for the participants, other than a hurt ego. It’s unclear what steps US authorities are going to implement to prevent seeing Americans wash up again, or whether or not they are going to be more strict about enforcing the ban on organizing Float Downs in the future.
Image Source: DVIDS.