GLOUCESTER (CBS) – City and state officials, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, will be stepping up patrols along Gloucester’s beaches and in the water after a rise in boating accidents and reports of beachgoers who are not wearing masks or social distancing. Officials said they’ve also had reports of underage drinking and boating under the influence.

Statewide, people must now limit rafting-up or tying-up boats to a maximum of three vessels, and boaters and beach-goers must maintain a social distance of 6 feet or wear masks, or they could face a $300 fine. Boaters who violate the boat-rafting limit could be fined $500.

“We have seen an increase in boating accidents and collisions. The Gloucester Police Department has also received reports of underage drinking and suspected boating under the influence,” Chief Edward Conley said. “We will be increasing our presence along the Annisquam River focusing on safety equipment checks, underage drinking enforcement and boating under the influence detection. We’re asking everyone to please be responsible on the water.”

The U.S. Coast Guard, Massachusetts State Police and Massachusetts Environmental Police will join the Gloucester Police Harbor Patrol and Harbormaster to increase patrols beginning this weekend.

“We know this has been an issue particularly at Wingaersheek Beach and in the Annisquam River area, and it simply isn’t safe,” Harbormaster TJ Ciarametaro said. “There will be a number of agencies heavily patrolling the area this weekend and for the remainder of the summer to ensure people are socially distancing and are also being safe on the water.”

The city has issued a full set of guidelines, which include rules for boaters and beachgoers.

Guidelines for boaters include:

  • When accessing the boat landings and ramps, everyone is asked to maintain a social distance of 6 feet or wear a mask.
  • All vessels must arrive fully prepared to launch with personal items stowed in the vessel.
  • Vessels must leave the boat landings and ramp areas shortly after launching and all vehicles and trailers must be parked in the appropriate place
  • Before and after coming into contact with an item someone else may have touched, individuals are advised to disinfect their hands.

Guidelines for beachgoers include:

  • Beachgoers are asked to maintain a minimum of 12 feet of distance between toweling and blanket areas.
  • A minimum of six feet shall be maintained between lifeguards, lifeguard stands and the public unless there is an emergency.
  • Beach visitors shall follow social distancing guidelines in the restrooms.
  • Everyone, exempting those under the age of two or with an underlying medical condition, must wear a face mask if 6 feet of social distance isn’t possible.
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