U.S., Canadian coast guards issue safety reminders, tips ahead of Port Huron Float Down

Raft race turns into international incident
Posted at 8:30 AM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 08:30:04-04

The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards are sending out safety reminders ahead of the Port Huron Float Down this weekend in the St. Clair River.

The unsanctioned event, which takes place on Sunday, Aug. 21, brings thousands of people floating down the St. Clair River for about 7.5 miles.

"The fast moving current, large number of participants, lack of lifejackets, alcohol consumption, potentially challenging weather conditions, water temperature, and limited rescue resources can create difficult emergency response scenarios that can result in serious injuries or fatalities," the coast guards said in a statement.

In 2016, high winds and heavy rain led to about 1,500 people landing on the Canadian shoreline without identification, money, or a means of communication. The coast guards said some were injured and suffering from hypothermia.

The coast guards are asking people to take several precautions, which are listed below.

  • Regardless of age or ability to swim, all participants are encouraged to wear an appropriately sized,  U.S. Coast Guard / Canadian approved personal flotation device or life jacket at all times;
  • Bring waterproof bags for your personal items and identification;
  • File a “Float Plan” with someone not participating who can report your intentions to the Coast Guard in the event you do not check-in at the scheduled time;
  • Never go alone. Use the buddy system, keep an eye on each other, and immediately report incidents of distress to the nearest first response agency representative;
  • Refrain from consuming alcohol; 
  • Dress appropriately for the weather and cold water.  Use a raft that limits your immersion in the water and can be controlled with oars or paddles; and
  • Stay near shore and remain out of the navigation channel.
  • Mark your float with your name and contact information cell phone number in waterproof ink.

According to the coast guards, water temperatures during recent float downs averaged in the high 60s, and immersion in water below 70 degrees can lead to hypothermia.