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Guinness on Raft

The Cleveland Metroparks needs 650 record collectors -- and their boats.

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To earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, one used to have to be obscenely fat or really tall or grow unnaturally long nails. But as the book moved away from the freak-show element, more innocuous records crept in, like that of the World's Largest Free-Floating Raft of Canoes and Kayaks. And Bob Hinkle of the Cleveland Metroparks would like to see Cleveland back in the Guinness Book for that feat.

"The original record was set in Singapore," Hinkle says. "I have no idea what prompted it, but since it was on the records, and we're a recreational, kayak kind of place, we thought we'd try it here."

In 1995, the old record of 200-some boats -- all kayaks or canoes, joined together only by hands -- was shattered when the Metroparks' Hinckley Lake attracted 582 boaters. The next year, the United States Canoe Association in Illinois fired back with a record of 649. Now Hinkle, who blames himself for originally bringing the idea to Cleveland after he witnessed a failed attempt in Maine in 1993, wants the record back.

"There are more important issues in the world," he admits. "But this is probably the only Guinness record a person can get into by only showing up. In that aspect, it's pretty unique."

The attempt -- at 11 a.m. this Saturday at Hinckley Lake -- doubles as the kickoff for this year's Outdoor Rec Expo, which shows off the latest innovations in outdoor recreation. Anyone with a canoe or kayak -- no inflatables or rowboats -- is welcome to join. The Ohio Division of Watercraft has even waived boat licenses for the day, so expired tags won't matter.

"You get a pretty good diversity of everything that's out there -- we see some beautiful handcrafted wooden canoes," Hinkle says, noting that the attempt is also a chance to hot rod for those who like to show off their vessels. "It looks pretty impressive with all those boats."

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