Surrounded by five 20-something females, James Smyth didn't have to be coaxed to sit himself down into their four-person inflatable boat for Saturday's Nechako River Float.
The things a guy's gotta do.
"I'm a lucky man," Smyth said. "I'm a trained lifeguard as well, so I think they just brought me along for the safety aspect. I know CPR and I've watched many episodes of Baywatch. I just want to enjoy this day and have fun."
Stephanie Kao and all her shipmates work at The Keg restaurant and they decided the fourth annual event would be a fun way to spend a Saturday. They weren't disappointed, being among the first of about 100 floaters who took the plunge on a cloudy but warm afternoon that got brighter as the day wore on.
RCMP were out in full force warning boaters they risked being ticketed if they decided to partake in liquor consumption and were at the entrance to Wilkins Park checking arriving participants for open containers. Kao admitted they might have something other than soft drinks in their cooler but nobody planned to overstep their boundaries.
"A couple of us work tonight so we're not going over and above," Kao said. "We're just going to have a good time."
High river levels, bridge pillars and a host of snagged tree hazards kept everyone on the lookout during a river journey that took about three hours, a trip that started west of the city at Wilkins Park in Miworth and ended at the Cottonwood Island boat launch.
Sheldon Lodjn had some sage advice for everyone before he and his two fellow floaters hoisted their rubber raft into the chilly water Saturday -- wear your lifejackets and leave the beer cooler at home. Life jackets are not mandatory on inflatable water craft, but Lodjn, 18, wasn't taking any chances and neither were his friends Jordan Nadeau and Hannah Dunaway, both 18. A few drops of rain were falling before they left the shore but Lodjn wasn't complaining.
"No sun burns today," he said. "This is something different, you don't just get up and do something like this every day. The river is high but the Nechako isn't too bad, it's when the two rivers merge that it gets a little more dangerous."
Courtney Hughes was among a group of 10 aboard three rafts joined together and she wasn't worried about falling in to the river.
"My dad taught me how to swim by throwing me overboard into the ocean," laughed Hughes, 18.
"It's hard to get everyone to want do this on one day and when there's an event, everyone comes. I just wish it was sunny."
RCMP announced a zero-tolerance stance on alcohol and set up check stops at several points along the road to Miworth. Participants were warned before they started floating they would be ticketed for public consumption if caught drinking alcohol on the river.
"Soon as you start drinking alcohol your reaction time and things like common sense go out the window," said RCMP community safety officer Fred Greene. "On a day like today, you have to have your wits with you. things can go bad really quick."
RCMP Sgt. Al Steinhauser said police laid one impaired driving charge on a driver who had floated down the river and was attempting to drive other floaters back to their drop-off vehicle parked upstream.
For Amanda Miller, whose five-person flotilla became a crew of six when Warren Alexander dropped in on them from the Foothills Boulevard bridge, the trip was not difficult and relatively uneventful. Miller was relieved to see search and rescue swift water technicians standing in the strong current near the boat launch at the end of the route, which for many floaters would have been a difficult operation on their own. While Miller carried paddles on her inflatable craft, many of the floating teams had no way to steer, other than their flailing arms.
"As long as you follow the current you'll be safe but if you don't know what you're doing you'll get thrown into the edges," said Miller. "If you don't get drunk and you're smart about it and have paddles you'll be fine.
"Two years ago, we saw the cops once during the day and a lot of people got hurt getting [out of the river]. It was good they had a safety person out there at the end to help people get off the river and the police going up and down the river was a good thing. The precautions they're taking now are a good thing."