"Sure. What boat?"
Three sporting goods stores later, I was $27 lighter and the proud owner of an inflatable raft rated to carry approximately 50 lbs less than the combined weight of myself and Matt Ritter, my co-captain in this adventure. Wrapping food in garbage bags, Chandra, Molly, and I drove to the Beef & Beer house in Somerville and chilled on the porch as more Oliners started showing with boats... and then more, and more. The lady in the house next door thought it was an auto accident because there were so many people clustered by the curb, talking.
We packed everyone into as few cars as possible, drove to the Charles, and dashed! furiously! across fences and Storrow Drive, where we inflated and launched, somewhat precariously, from the BU dock. Matt and I found that our boat was low enough in the water that we couldn't row because the oar-paths intersected with our scrunched-up knees. We proceeded to use them as paddles, sitting cross-legged across from each other, scuttling backwards because Matt didn't have his glasses and I was navigating.
A string of twenty-something tiny plastic rafts (and one canoe) scooted the mile down the Charles, their forty-odd occupants singing merrily and bashing into each other. Chris Dellin wins for Most Ghetto Paddle: tennis racket wrapped in a garbage bag and duct-taped to a pole. Did I mention it was raining? We can only imagine what it looked like to the passing helicopters.
We lashed our boats together under the Mass Ave bridge and began to eat the strawberries, bread, sausage, and cheese we'd brought. (Hypothetically we had soda, but the ginger soda Matt had was spicy and went straight up your nose, so nobody drank it.) The current driiiiiiifted us out from under the bridge and we started to get soaked. We cut loose from the flotilla, paddled back under, and began to eat again. The current driiiiiifted us out... people on the bridge started staring down at us and pointing.
After a few rounds of this, the Coast Guard came and chased us back to shore for not wearing life jackets. We hauled the raft ashore and went running back and forth along both riverbanks with Duc and Chris to see if we could find Matt's friends from Pika, who supposedly had life jackets. Four soaked, muddy college students peering from group to group, asking for directions to the sailing pavilion. I ended up watching the fireworks with Matt on the MIT side of the river, dripping river and rain onto Heather's flip-flops, which were much too large for me and cut into my feet enough that I ran barefoot as much as I could.
The fireworks were beautiful.
Later we found out that Kelcy and DJ had ripped a hole in their now-useless raft, that David (from IMSA) had capsized into the river, that some members of the scattered group had managed to stay on the Charles, that others climbed to the bridge, and that everyone had, by and large, had a grand ol' time (if not the time we'd expected). A hot shower never felt so wonderful afterwards.