Members of the five-boat heritage flotilla launched in Kingston Saturday are aiming to be in Ottawa in nine days for the first annual Rideau Canal Festival.

The launch was a wet affair, and a lightning storm delayed the event, but participants are undeterred. Many of the participants are from families who were among the early settlers in Canada.

"It's spiritual. We get a lot of gratification knowing what our ancestors would have went through just a little bit. Certainly, we don't recreate all the hardships that they would have had to endure," said participant David Smith.

The flotilla is made up of boats representing the groups who helped build the Rideau Canal including the French, British, Scottish, Irish and aboriginals.

"The Rideau Canal system is a singular example of this region's ability to sustain our heritage roots while combining them with initiatives that benefit our citizens and visitors," said Mayor of Kingston, Harvey Rosen.

Greg Sarazin will be travelling in a birch-bark canoe to represent his ancestors.

"We want to make sure that it's recognized that the aboriginal people were here before the early settlers came to this area and that we played an significant role into the development of Canada as we know it today," said Sarazin.

The 202-kilometre journey stops in Westport, Smiths Falls and Merrickville before arriving in the Capital on August 3.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins