BY LORAINE ANDERSON
---- — SUTTONS BAY — A raft of 2,099 kayaks and canoes floating together offshore in Suttons Bay on Saturday appears to have set a new Guinness World Record.
The Suttons Bay Floatilla2 aimed to break a world record set in Inlet, N.Y., two years ago, and officials believe they floated 197 boats more than that effort.
But the official result could remain uncertain for months because Guinness cannot confirm and certify the results until it determines whether the raft was a free-standing, contiguous mass, as rules specify.
“We may not know till January,” said Michael Murray, Suttons Bay school superintendent Sunday morning.
Concerns arose during Saturday’s massive event when wind pushed the floatilla “corral” close to an unattended power boat anchored in the bay. The wind also made it more difficult for kayakers and canoeists to connect to the long raft of boats forming inside the corral. It also hampered sound system communications in the corral, Murray said.
Guinness now has to resolve some questions before it can confirm and certify the Suttons Bay record. The most important of which is whether floatilla boats connected to the raft touch the power boat. If so, does that disqualify the entire Floatilla2 or just kayaks or canoes that touched the boat?
"We think we weren’t connected to that boat,” Murray said, noting that a Kalamazoo kayaking club members floating in that area tried to keep the floatilla away from the moored power boat. “If some kayaks and canoes are disqualified, I think the 197-boat margin in our 2,099 count gives us plenty of cushion to still beat Inlet’s reco."
Floatilla officials didn’t have all aerial photos in hand yet Sunday, but plan to review them and send them on to Guinness along with other count and verification information to be gathered during the next two weeks. Guinness rules also specify that all boats touch each other and be held together only by hands.
Registered kayaks and canoes began entering the one entry to the cordoned-off floatilla “corral” at 11 a.m. All boats had to be in the corral by 12:45 p.m. A bottleneck began occur there as the morning wore on, Murray said.
Flotilla officials urged boaters several times over loud speakers to hold onto each other’s kayaks and canoes to form a tight raft inside the corral.
“Go make friends and grab onto the raft,” the loud speaker said. Rafted boaters issued their own invitations to the steady incoming river of paddlers to fill and tighten the raft before the 1 p.m. the aerial count photographs were taken.
"You gotta touch the group to be counted,” some called out. “People, get linked up.”
Boat horn blasts at 1 p.m. signaled boaters to raise their paddles straight up for the aerial photograph.
Paddlers cheered, laughed and drummed on their hard plastic boats as an airplane circled overhead. They then yelled “See you next year,” and paddled toward shore.
Proceeds from boat registrations and T-shirt and aerial photograph sales go into to the Suttons Bay School Students Activities Fund. Last year’s effort netted $45,000 for several student enrichment programs lost in recent budget cuts. By Sunday organizers hadn't yet tallied proceeds from registrations. Those numbers will be collected next week and likely won't be final until the end of the year when picture and shirt sales wane.
Many people purchase the photographs as gifts, Murray said.