PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (AP) — Boaters in Rhode Island may be thrilled, but state and local officials say they’re not celebrating the return of a popular boating event.
Known as Aquapalooza, the informal, privately organized event held each year on the last Saturday of July brings hundreds of boaters to Potters Cove in the town of Portsmouth.
While the pandemic limited attendance in 2020, the crowds are expected to return this year. Officials say that means speeding boats and jet skis and the potential for alcohol-fueled mishaps.
“We dread it because there’s so many people, there’s a lot of drinking and there are injuries every year,” Mike Healey, a spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Management, told WPRI-TV. “We’ve had people jumping from one big boat to the other, missing the boat they’re trying to jump to and falling down and breaking ribs. We’ve had a woman seriously injure her neck.”
A boat sank during the event two years ago, Healey said. This year the spread of the delta coronavirus variant poses another challenge.
Portsmouth Harbor Master Bruce Celico described the event as “a headache” and said the number of jet skis in attendance can be a problem.
“With them zipping in between the boats, you’ll have people that will be in the water, and jet skis are not like cars and they don’t turn like boats,” Celico said.