Boats Banned From Anchoring Near Bassetts Island On BassAckwads Race Day
By: Michael J. Rausch
Hoping to stop some race-related headaches before they happen, the town is banning boats from anchoring in the waters surrounding Bassetts Island during the BassAckwards boat race, scheduled for Saturday, July 27.
In years past, the big boat race has spawned big parties on the water. Some of these parties have gotten out of hand. One of the most popular spots for these parties has been around Bassetts Island.
This week, Bourne’s Director of Natural Resources Timothy Mullen announced that boaters will be banned from dropping anchor near the island.
He said his department has “limited assets on the water and a staff that lacks the training, equipment, and support required to control a mob scene on the water the likes of what we saw last year. The strategy is to prevent the party from taking place rather than try to control it.”
“The Red Brook Harbor area as well as the west side [seaward side] of Bassetts Island will be closed to the anchoring of all vessels,” he said. “This will include both local and transient vessels. The closure will be in effect from 6 AM until 11 PM on Saturday. Basically the closure will encompass the waters surrounding the island.”
To enforce the restriction, town natural resource officers will be on hand as well as Bourne and Wareham police, and possibly US Coast Guard, state police, and Massachusetts Environmental Police.
Mr. Mullen noted that the annual BassAckwards race has spawned floating parties that have “taken on a life of its own,” with no participants from the race.
Last year, there were 800 boats and 3,000 people on the water and the island, he estimated.
He said that most of the people who show up are from outside of Bourne, and the average age has dropped from middle age to 18 to 30.
“The parties surrounding the race have become nothing more than an excuse for this younger aged crowd to drink and fight,” Mr. Mullen said.
He mentioned that there were fistfights out on Bassetts Island beach, as well as on the boats, along with boats ramming each other and bottles being thrown from boat to boat. Boats were damaged, a number of people were hurt during the fighting, and some wound up with lung irritations from pepper spray that was used in the altercation.
“There were three arrests, but there should’ve been 30,” he said.
The BassAckwards Race is in its 16th year, and has been organized each year by the Kingman Yacht Club in Cataumet.
Scott C. Zeien, who owns and manages the club, said that the race has grown to become “the largest on-water event on the Upper Cape.”
He said that he expects somewhere between 60 and 100 boats to take part in the race out to Cleveland Ledge Light and back. Mr. Zeien also pointed out that the event is a fundraiser for the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Last year, the race raised $3,000.
Mr. Zeien said that for the first 13 years, all race activities were held out on Bassetts Island, including an awards ceremony featuring a live musical act. He said that the yacht club arranged with a variety of agencies and authorities, including environmental police, coast guard auxiliary, the coast guard, state police, and the Bourne Fire Department, to provide security for both the race and the activities on the island.
“We policed the island before and after, making sure that everything was in better condition than when we started,” Mr. Zeien said.
Over the years, as the race grew and more and more people became involved, Mr. Zeien approached the town about taking over the event. He said that he was told the town had no interest in taking over responsibility for the annual happening.
At that point, the decision was made to move all race activities to the yacht club, Mr. Zeien said. However, that has not prevented a large number of boaters from gathering around Bassetts Island.
“Even though there were no activities out there, it became known that there was a party out there,” Mr. Zeien said, confirming that last year there was a lot of rowdy behavior along with some arrests. He insisted, however, that all the boaters who circled Bassetts Island and caused the trouble were in no way associated with the race or the yacht club.
“Crowds that have gathered on the island have had nothing to do with the race,” he said.
As for the ban the town plans to impose on race day, Mr. Zeien said that he understands the motivation behind it.
“I think it’s a reasonable way to stop a free-for-all on Bassetts Island,” he said.
Mr. Mullen said that he is hopeful there will not be any trouble that arises from the ban. He said that he anticipates there will be a lot of disappointed local people who will suffer the consequences, but the only way the ban is effective is if it applies to everyone.
“We’re not equipped with staff or vessels to control a crowd like that. The only thing we can do is prevent the crowd from being there,” he said.
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