Party Favors: Learn Your LessonsAs embedded reporter, I tagged along with friendly locals to the raft-up. Even in my fuzzy condition, I learned that the best fiesta can be improved. - Kari Snyder
Problem: Balancing a beer on a floating Boogie board is harder than it looks. Lesson Learned: The Floating Cooler ($14; www.swimways.com) keeps up to 18 cans cold and has six drinkholders. If you're not sharing, tether the Body Bar ($23; www.poolrafts.com) to your float. It has space for a small cooler or six-pack, two cupholders, and a small storage compartment. Or bring along the whole shebang. Coleman's Cooler Float ($10; www.coleman.com) holds 36-to-50-quart coolers.
Problem: Despite what you think, you can't drink just beer for six hours. Lesson Learned: Frozen cocktails, however, are another story. With a specially made blender attachment and drill bits, the Boat Blender ($29, two-pack; www.boatblender.com) gives your own portable drill the ability to mix frozen drinks in the included mugs. But leave breakable, space-consuming liquor bottles at home. Instead bring PocketShots ($2; www.shotpak.net), soft packages of vodka and rum.
Problem: Treading water while holding a beverage in one hand is exhausting. Lesson Learned: Most people at our raft-up used "noodles," long Styrofoam-like tubes, as makeshift seats. But somebody wised up and brought along the Original Noodle Chair ($11; www.pooltoy.com), a mesh seat that slips on to a noodle (not included). One-up your neighbors with Coleman's Float n Sofa ($45), a dual lounger with attached ottomans. Its snaps link with other Coleman products, such as the Cooler Float.
Problem: Packaged food can't be bartered for drinks. Lesson Learned: Sadly, chips and crackers got no love from the guys in the boat with Jell-O shots. Better to trade with meat. Attach Magma's stainless-steel Catalina or Newport grill ($240 to $340; www.magmaproducts.com) to a rail or in a rodholder. Both grills use a one-pound propane canister or your onboard LPG or CNG system. Own a compact boat? Get the HotDog To Go ($31; www.maxburton.com). It features a steamer for six wieners and a bun warmer.
Problem: In a raft-up, you're not leaving until everyone else does. Lesson Learned: Better bring something to do while waiting to get underway. Try the Kool Tray ($40; www.pooltoy.com), a floating refreshment table with a checkerboard (checkers included). After a friendly round of checkers-where, let's face it, you'll lose half the pieces in the water-turn the tray into a card table with Waterproof Playing Cards ($13; www.nu-temp.com). Deluxe Splash Volleyball ($30; www.pooltoy.com) keeps groups and kids entertained.