What started out as a fluvial revelry that was part of a yearly celebration ended up turning into a minor embarrassing incident between the US and Canada, as over a thousand American merrymakers on the St. Clair River between found themselves blown by vigorous winds onto Canadian territory, where they were rescued and promptly deported by the Coast Guard.
NBC reports that the event happened during the Annual Port Huron “Float Down the River” festivities. The main part of the celebration was at the city of Port Huron’s river waterfront on the St. Clair, which flows from Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair and separates Michigan State from Ontario Province.
Partygoers, many of whom were in swimwear, were enjoying the get-together on board dinghies, rubber rafts and inner tubes, thinking of nothing but a good time on the water.
And then the wind started picking up all of a sudden, causing a gathering of little pleasure craft to drift away from Port Huron. Out in the middle of the St. Clair the revelers were hit by a sudden deluge of rain even as they were carried further away by gusts going up to 35 miles per hour, according to Environment Canada. Before they knew it, 1,500 of the celebrators had arrived in Sarnia, Ontario. And they had no papers on them.
Sarnia Police Const. John Sottosanti said of the Americans’ “illegal” border crossing: “They were pushed over pretty quickly, and because they had no control over these dinghies and the wind was basically directing them and the current, they ended up over here.”
As soon as it became clear what was happening, a joint effort by the Sarnia Police, the Canadian Coast Guard on the Great Lakes and the Canadian Red Cross swept into action. Rescue boats began picking up the revelers as their rafts and inner tubes began running out of air. But they were not all too pleased about it, as the Port Huron Float is an illegal and unauthorized celebration that has gone on every year for three decades. The Coast Guard even declared waters on the Canadian side to be closed to any “floaters” during the course of the event.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokeswoman Carol Launderville remarked, “The Canadian Coast Guard and all partners worked very hard to ensure public safety and to assist those in immediate danger throughout this unsanctioned event." Canadian Coast Guard Search & Rescue Superintendent Peter Garapick added, “There were people in places you'd never think something would float, but there were Americans everywhere.”
He even noted that some of the Americans upon realizing that they have entered Canada illegally, made the foolish decision to swim back across the river, and had to be dissuaded by the rescuers. Once plucked out of the water, the illegals were packed into buses for the trip back to the US, with a police escort.
Despite the bad press, the Port Huron Float Down organizers expressed their gratitude to the Canadian authorities for their good turn on the event’s Facebook page, calling them “amazing neighbors.”
Photo Credit to www.freep.com