Thousands of people will be hitting the water today near Pottahawk Point for the annual Pottahawk boat party.
About 2,000 boats and 10,000 people are expected to attend the event, dubbed Canada’s largest boat party, which occurs every year on the second Sunday of July.
As a result, provincial police and other law enforcement agencies will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings.
“We really want people to make sure that they have a plan in place,” said Norfolk OPP Cst. Ed Sanchuk. “If they’re going out on the water, they are going to be stopped by marine units, by the RCMP, by the OPP, by the Coast Guard, and they need to make sure they have a sober operator on that boat with their operator’s card, make sure they know where all their safety equipment is, and we’re suggesting to everybody to make sure they’re wearing their life jackets at all times, because once you end up in the water, it’s too late to put it on.
Sanchuk says police are also advising that everyone attending Pottahawk make sure they have a ride back to shore.
“Usually we have people who get a ride out to Pottahawk Point, and they don’t have a ride back, and then what they do is they get intoxicated throughout the day and they attempt to swim back, which is a 15 minute boat ride to Turkey Point,” Sanchuk said. “We want them to make sure they act in a mature, responsible fashion, but more importantly, if they are consuming alcohol, to do so in a mature way.”
Last year, police issued around 83 charges and suspensions at the event. A majority of the infractions were alcohol-related. Police also issued around 128 charges and suspensions, mostly for driving-related offences, back on land.
In a release issued the Monday after last year’s Pottahawk party, police said that although no serious incidents were reported, officers were kept busy “dealing with individuals that chose to drink excessively resulting in people needing assistance for hypothermia as a result of the cold water.”
“Generally, people are well behaved, but you still have those issues with other people that can’t control the way that they drink alcohol, and it’s a concern for the police because they’re putting their safety at risk,” Sanchuk said.
Police, he says, will be out on the water checking for emergency equipment and operator cards, and RIDE checks will be stationed throughout Norfolk County to make sure people are driving sober.
Environment Canada is calling for mainly sunny skies and a high of 27 degrees, feeling more like 32, in nearby Simcoe.