2013-08-29 / Front Page

On your mark, paddlers, for a new record

By Amy Hubbell
of the Enterprise staff

The Suttons Bay community will take a second stab Saturday at the world record for the number of kayaks and canoes afloat at one time.

More than 1,700 persons have registered in advance for Floatilla 2, the second-of-its kind event on Suttons Bay.

“Last year, we had 1,750 canoes and kayaks together, not a record, but a great event,” said Kate Thornhill, who serves on the committee organizing the event. “We are at 1,700 already, and last year we had 433 ‘walk-ins,’ so the record is in sight.”

The current world record for the largest raft of canoes and kayaks is 1,903.

Kalamazoo-area resident Mike Nelson participated in last year’s Floatilla and will be here again, paddle in hand. He and friend, Mike Cramer, drove from New York for the inaugural float last Labor Day. Both were part of setting the standing “world record” in 2011 as entries in “One Square Mile of Hope,” on Inlet Lake in upstate New York. The event raised $67,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Last year the Floatilla event raised $40,000 for Suttons Bay Public School.

“We had so much fun, we decided we’d try to make it to as many ‘challenges’ as possible,” Nelson said. “You paddle out … the airplane flies over. But my favorite time is before and after when you mix with all different people with similar interests and a common concern for the environment.”

Cramer will be driving with his wife the 9 1/2 hours to Nelson’s home in Kalamazoo. Then the “Mikes” will head north on Friday.

It takes a lot of organization to pull off an event involving an estimated 2,000 people. In addition to Thornhill and her core group of five organizers, another 200 to 250 volunteers will give of their time before, during and after the event.

Nelson and Cramer are also volunteers.

“It’s a daunting task, but with the community stepping up to help, I’m very excited about it,” Thornhill said.

Volunteers will be working traffic control, loading and unloading boats and a specific group has designed a device to “corral” all the vessels while they are counted.

Timing and organization is crucial in pursuing a world record.

The first stop for participants on event day will be at Suttons Bay High School, where they can go inside and register, if they haven’t already. Those already registered will receive tags for their boats and wrist bands. The official count will be taken at 1 p.m. Organizers have asked that all boats be in the water by noon, and canoes and kayaks in the raft area by 12:45 p.m. Only those registered with tags, wristbands and personal flotation devices will be admitted to the raft area.

Friday between 3 and 9 p.m. participants can drop off boats at the Suttons Bay Marina where volunteers will help them unload and organize on the grassy area. A local Boy Scout troop will be spending the night at the marina to keep an eye on things. Saturday between 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. participants can unload boats at the school to have them hauled on a trailer to the main marina where they’ll be placed on the grass in alphabetical order by last name. Boats will be hauled back to the school after the event.

Free shuttle service will also be available from the school on Saturday before the event. For those who prefer to unload their own boat, there are four launch spots available with directional signs. Traffic at the main marina will be restricted to trailers bringing boats from the school.

Around 10 a.m. several power boats will begin forming a corral using floating line strung between them. The raft will form within the corral, with boats joining in the process through one entry point to be counted. Once corralled, participants cannot leave until the count is complete. At 1 p.m. — or when the aerial photographers signal — participants will raise their paddles for an official count photo.

Keep in mind some ground rules: everyone must wear a Coast Guard approved life preserver, anyone under 12 must be in a boat with a parent or guardian, and all paddlers or their parents or guardians must sign a waiver.

The Floatilla will take place rain or shine; but will be delayed or cancelled if weather conditions make it unsafe to be on the water.

The Guinness World Records organization specifies that only kayaks and canoes can participate. Also, no boats can be tied together, and prohibited are inflatable canoes and kayaks and standup paddle boards.

The raft of boats must float without touching shore or bottom for 30 seconds.

A shuttle will run boats back to the high school from 2-4 p.m. Food and music will be provided at the marina.

While online registration is closed, paper registration forms are available at www.sbfloatilla.com/registration. Entries can be turned in at the school today from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday from 3-9 p.m. and Saturday from 8-11 a.m.

Cost is $20 per single boat, $27 per two-person boat and $30 for a threeperson boat.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the school activities fund, which last year provided about $40,000 in support to the student activities fund, distributed by a committee which examines applications for assistance. Last year’s proceeds funded the 7th grade trip to Camp Leelanau, Spanish Club service trip to Nicaragua, the Robotics Club, Student Assistance Fund, Business Professionals of America regional and state competitions, a third and fourthgrade field trip to Mackinac Island, a fourth and fifth-grade field trip to Grand Rapids, a seventh and eighthgrade trip to Washington D.C., playground improvements, fifth and sixthgrade theatre, and matching funds for Spanish Club stoves.

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