Ships warned to ‘stay away’ during this Sunday’s ‘float down’

Unsanctioned event will see hundreds start from Blue Water Bridge and head down St. Clair River

Photo of the 2014 Float Down event courtesy of Grace Grogan of Marysville, Mich.
Photo of the 2014 Float Down event courtesy of Grace Grogan of Marysville, Mich.

Despite numerous attempts by authorities to discourage participants, the 39th edition of the “Port Huron Float Down” will take place Sunday, prompting authorities on both sides of the border to restrict marine traffic between noon and 8 p.m.

In the unsanctioned event, details of which can be found online, several hundred people will enter the river at Lighthouse Beach in Fort Gratiot north of the Blue Water Bridge, making their way to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.

Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Canadian Coast Guard have placed a restriction to help ensure safety.

“With thousands of people floating down the river, it’s just too risky to have power traffic in the river,” said Lt. Ben Chamberlain of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Canadians are said to have joined in the fun in recent years, doing so from their side of the river.

Mike Brown is said to be the on-site commander for the Canadian Coast Guard during the event.

He said boats from the Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Sarnia Fire Rescue will be on duty.

Concerns over safety are now unwarranted. As recently as 2014, the body of a 19-year-old Michigan man was recovered from the St. Clair River days after the event.

While authorities are definitely not in favour of the event, they do recommend taking precautions such as the use of a PFD—Personal Flotation Device—by participants.

People who take part should stay close to shore and let someone on shore know when and where they are expected to finish so someone can pick them up (and be on the look out if they don’t arrive as expected).

It is also suggested that participants write their name and contact information on the side of whatever device they are using for the float down.

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