By Mike McCombs
For the past four years during Water Festival, dozens of boats and hundreds of revelers have crowded around a barge at the sandbar in the middle of the Beaufort River for a concert.
This year, however, musician Pat Cooper canceled the July 18 concert, which is not affiliated with the Beaufort Water Festival, because of the COVID-19 surge in South Carolina.
But on Saturday, boaters took things into their own hands, flocking to the Beaufort Sandbar for an improvised concert event of their own.
“Our officers did report that a number of boats at the Beaufort Sandbar did have people aboard playing music – either live or through sound systems,” S.C. Department of Natural Resources spokesperson David Lucas said, “and the result was that throughout the afternoon on Saturday, there were multiple sort of impromptu mini-concerts going on at any given time that were spread out around the vicinity of the Sandbar, with smaller numbers of boats or people watching at each, rather than one large organized stage and crowd as in years past.”
According to Lucas, DNR had additional boats scheduled to patrol in Beaufort in anticipation of the Water Festival and the Sandbar concert. When both were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, DNR kept the patrols on the schedule anyway.
“Our reasoning being that many people had already made travel plans, reservations, etc., and that as a result, boating traffic would still be somewhat heavier than normal this weekend despite the cancellations,” Lucas said.
Lucas said that assumption “proved to be correct,” as the boating traffic was high, though not as high as “during a typical Festival/Concert weekend in years past.”
Though he couldn’t say how many, Lucas said DNR “did issue a larger number of citations – both warning tickets and summonses – than (it) would on a typical weekend for a wide range of boating safety issues, including two BUI arrests.”
“Thankfully, there were no fatalities or serious boating accidents to report,” Lucas said.
As for the concert, Lucas said none of the tickets written had anything to do with the gathering at the sandbar. All Executive Orders previously issued by Gov. Henry McMaster related to the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted some time ago.
“Boating activity is essentially back to where it was before the pandemic, as far as regulations go,” Lucas said.