GROTON -- "Happy Fifth!" shouted a group of residents as they waved from shore.
Elsewhere, the greeting was repeated as waterfront homeowners stood on empty docks or balconies that overhung the water or simply sat in lounge chairs sipping drinks and soaking up sunshine.
The greetings drifted across the choppy water of Lost Lake on the afternoon of July 5 as a long trail of gaily decorated boats churned frothy wakes in a loose promenade beneath a cloudless blue sky.
The occasion was the revival of the Fourth of July Lost Lake Flotilla, which had once been a tradition on the lakes but for reasons forgotten had fallen by the wayside.
When asked why it was decided to revive the tradition, which lapsed in 2009 after many years, Art Prest, president of the Groton Lakes Association, said they had no choice following some difficult months for lake residents.
"We'd been working too hard and we needed to have some fun," explained Prest.
And fun was the name of the game as speedboats, pontoon boats, runabouts and even a kayak and canoe or two steamed and paddled toward the rendezvous point off Sargisson Beach in Knops Pond.
With their boats decorated in red, white and blue bunting as well as flags big and small, participants saluted each other with voices that echoed across the water and a loose formation was somehow organized.
As if acting the part of a starting gun, a speedboat blasted by, crossing the flotilla's T, pulling behind it a pair of water skiers each holding American flags that snapped in the breeze.
From a pontoon boat filled with children, the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" blared from a CD player.
Then engines were revved up, a loose column was formed and the flotilla moved out, led by a boat with Captain America at the wheel! Standing as erect as the Statue of Liberty, the star-spangled Avenger snapped a salute and proceeded to preside over the Independence Day event.
It was true that the flotilla took place a day late, but it did not lack enthusiasm for all that.
Originally scheduled for July 4, the event had to be postponed due to Hurricane Arthur that threatened the east coast of the U.S. and managed to soak New England that afternoon.
But everyone who took part in the flotilla agreed that the postponement was the right move as by noon the weather was perfect.
And so, for over an hour, the line of boats cruised along the shores of Lost Lake and Knops Pond while acknowledging the shouts of greeting from bystanders.
Ashore, a newly groomed Sargisson Beach had no visitors until the flotilla broke up about 1 p.m. Admittedly, it was a cool day at times due to winds left over from Hurricane Arthur, but by later in the afternoon, the open expanse of blue water began to draw out sun worshippers.
The waters of the lake were more alluring than they have been for many a summer due to the success of a weed-clearing operation. Where only a year before boats had to travel from local docks along channels cleared through the choking weeds, now nearly the entire surface of Lost Lake and Knops Pond was clear, open and blue, with boaters unafraid of getting propellers tangled in the long, stringy weeds.
Moreover, according to Prest, the state keeps the lakes stocked with fish and their reputation as outstanding areas for trout and bass fishing has been spreading rapidly.
"The fishing is phenomenal," said Prest from behind the wheel of his own runabout.
But all good things must end and so, at last, the flotilla broke up with residents no doubt scattering to barbecues and cookouts waiting back home.
"I thought it was a big success," summed up Prest, who played a key role in organizing the flotilla.
"Next year, we'll make it even better!"