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A Hummel Report Investigation

An Eye on the Water

Last summer a Bristol man had a heart attack when the wake of a passing powerboat flipped his kayak into upper Narragansett Bay. After trying unsuccessfully to follow up with the Bristol harbormaster he began to ask questions: about patrols, enforcement and what role state and local officials play on the water. The fallout has led to changes in how things will be done this season on the water in Bristol as the Town Council is poised to choose a new harbormaster.


As one of the region's largest and best -protected harbors,  Bristol harbor is a popular destination in the summertime for boaters.
But the harbor is only one of several areas that falls under the jurisdiction of the town's harbormaster. He's also responsible for the coastline south of Poppasquash Point, down to Colt State Park and the Town Beach.
And it was just south of there one August day last summer that a Bristol man and his friend launched their kayaks in the warm waters of upper Narragansett Bay. The trip came to abrupt halt just 10 minutes later when the wake of a power boat capsized them. The boat kept on going.
Marshall: ``All of a sudden I went into cardiac arrest.''
Mike Marshall said it happened while they were swimming to shore as the tide took them across the way to Barrington. Some other kayakers spotted the two and came over to help.
Marshall: ``I said I can't move my legs or my arms. The kayak brought us to the shore. My buddy had to physically pick me up out of the water and put me on the shore.''
Hummel: ``While that was going on, did you think at some point, `It's over'"?
Marshall:" ``Oh yes, I thought it was all over, nothing was moving.''
One of Barrington's harbormasters got a call and arrived within minutes - bringing Marshall to a waiting rescue. He spent eight days in intensive care. After he got out of the hospital Marshall wanted to know if they'd found the powerboat that had flipped his kayak.
His first call was to longtime Bristol Harbormaster Joe Cabral.
Marshall: ``If there've been any reports filed, if they're following through and all this type of thing. So I called the harbormaster's office on a Monday, on a Tuesday,  on a Wednesday, I kept leaving a message saying I have to speak with you, it's very very important. And I told them who I was and everything else. Joe Cabral is married to my cousin, so he knows me very well. I never  got a return phone call.''
He finally got Cabral's cell phone number from a friend.

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