PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) — Hundreds of boaters are expected to dock in Potter’s Cove Saturday for a summer tradition.
Aquapalooza, which is always held on the last day of July, is an annual celebration that boaters look forward to and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) dreads.
“The way we feel about it is … it’s a gigantic frat party,” DEM spokesperson Mike Healey said. “It’s a keg party in the middle of Narragansett Bay on the busiest weekend of the summer.”
The combination of boats and booze is a recipe for disaster, according to Healey.
“There have been boats that have sunk out there, there have been collisions,” he said. “There are people jumping from one boat to another.”
Healey said several law enforcement agencies will be patrolling the waters to make sure everything runs smoothly. He estimates that the response will cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.
“There’s this massive flotilla of law enforcement, all for a party that you know is a free party for the people who organize it, but it costs all of us a lot of money,” Healey said.
Healey said word spreads among boat enthusiasts through social media, which is why law enforcement agencies never know what to expect.
“We just hope that people won’t be knuckleheads,” Healey said.
Portsmouth Harbormaster Bruce Celico describes Aquapalooza as “their Super Bowl.”
“Sometimes it’s a headache, sometimes it goes off without a hitch,” Celico said. “It’s the biggest unknown we have, but it’s definitely the most concerning.”
Celico said they’re not trying to be the “fun police,” but they just want everyone to celebrate responsibly.
“We just try to to stress every year that everyone needs to behave and make sure there’s a sober operator,” he said. “It’s the same thing on water as it is on land.”