As I look out my window on a snowy, frigid Wednesday in Michigan, I fondly recalled a warmer day from this summer. My favorite Canadian and former co-worker Jess, invited us again this summer to the Port Huron Floatdown. An annual “unofficial” event spanning 30 years, we’d missed it in 2013 due to our vacation but this year I was in. Bucket list – right?
It was a hot, sunny day. This was good as dependent on currents, it takes hours to complete. A tube was graciously provided for me complete with drink holders and head rest. There was a flurry of activity to load up the tubes, kayaks, coolers, ginormous floats and rafts. We were told it’s “a bit crazy” to get to the launch site. Reality check: your designated driver gets as close as possible, stops in the middle of the street and you unload your stuff post-haste and hoof it to the beach then shoreline beyond. I don’t recall how many were in our group – 30 or so? So we’d all arrive, then tie up and off we’d go. Right?
It was a bit more involved. Traffic and multiple arteries to get to the beach. Bedlam. Chaos. A veritable parade of colorful floating vessels, life vests, coolers transported by thousands of swimsuited minions, teeming and careening through the shifting, soft sand towards the shoreline. I hung out with Bams, Jess’s grandma (one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met, love her). We found a spot by a fence and offered to “watch the stuff ” (I’m good at that type of task) while the rest of our team ran back to work as spotters for the remainder of our flotilla, who arrived over the next 20-30 minutes blending into the throngs of floaters. Once reunited, we quickly tied our stuff together. In tandem, we pushed off the beach and into the water, leapt into our vessels (maybe gilding the lily about leaping – in my case flopping) launching at the same time as every other group who was ready to float. And then we were off, starting our float just south of the magnificent Blue Water Bridge, which spans from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario in Canada.
Shipping lanes were closed so the typical freighter traffic was not an issue. Suddenly we realized we were missing some of our gang. Leaving no man behind, Jess and her mom turned their kayaks around. No mean feat with our flotilla in tow, paddling against the current, passing other floaters shouting “hey you’re going the wrong way“. Undeterred, we spotted our lost friends and in short order, attached them and now floated en masse towards St Clair.
We snacked, drank cold beverages, had our share of a variety of delicious jello and pudding shots. And floated along this spectacular waterway, a bunch of friends having fun.
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. With one modification, sunscreen on my thighs (which have rarely been exposed to that much sun in recent years).
You might be asking yourself, “where was Spence?” Age 70 at the time of the float, Spence is a Viet Nam veteran with shrapnel and war injuries that have left him in constant pain. I wanted the decision to be his. Ultimately, he decided that floating in the cold water for hours wasn’t going to make sense for him. Always game for a day by the water and hanging out with these friends, he enjoyed the sun while relaxing on the deck with his cooler of beer at our finish line.
Good times for sure. Adventures in retirement continue. And on this cold day, it’s fun to flashback to that balmy summer day.