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.