Jun 09, 2023
How to watch the Newport Folk Festival from the water in boats
NEWPORT – Jim Doyle put down his ice water, leaned back in his chair outside the Tavern on Broadway, and started counting on his fingers. He asked himself, “Have I really been going to Float Fest for
NEWPORT – Jim Doyle put down his ice water, leaned back in his chair outside the Tavern on Broadway, and started counting on his fingers. He asked himself, “Have I really been going to Float Fest for eight years already?”
Float Fest, for those not in the loop, is an informally organized aquatic alternative to Newport Folk Fest for people who could not get tickets, did not want to shell out hundreds of dollars to bake in the sun at Fort Adams, or who simply love being out on the water just as much as they love listening to folk music.
While people do make their way out to the waters off the shore of Fort Adams State Park in all manner of craft ranging from single-person paddleboards to fairly large yachts at anchorage on all three festival days, Doyle said Float Fest is a bona fide local event is traditionally held on the Saturday of Folk Festival weekend. It will be on Saturday, July 29 this year, and the Daily News will be represented by a reporter in a green kayak wearing a conspicuously floppy hat.
The Newport Daily News consulted with Float Fest veterans Doyle and Victoria Caruso – Doyle's girlfriend and fellow Float Fest attendee – and then separately with the Newport Harbor Master’s new paddle safety patrol officer Mark Marosits to compile a how-to guide and some safety tips for those interested in paddling out to join them this year.
Newport just launched its paddle safety program this May, partially in response to the amount of paddling traffic the harbor sees every year and partially in response to new state laws, including one which makes it mandatory for paddlers to wear lifejackets at all times.
Marosits, who will be out in a kayak on all three festival days, said while fines or directives to paddle back to shore are possible, his focus this year is really on educating paddlers about relevant safety and regulatory information. He said he has only sent two paddlers back to shore so far this summer – a couple that had young children without any lifejackets in each of their kayaks.
The city has also compiled a very useful 11-page paddle safety guide which divides Newport Harbor into eight geographical zones and offers safety and navigation advice for each zone. In an interview with The Daily News, Marosits highlighted a few key tips:
Caruso led off with what seems like an obvious but nonetheless important tip: don’t drink too much!
After all, no matter how much fun everybody is having swimming, relaxing and enjoying a beautiful day on the water, anybody who brings a kayak or a paddleboard out in the morning still has to paddle it back in safely when the fun winds down and it starts to get dark.
Doyle has been attending since 2015, launching his 20-foot center console powerboat no later than nine in the morning and finding a good anchorage so all of his paddling friends have an island to raft up around by the time they start hitting the water around noon. Caruso has not been attending quite as long, but generally makes her way out on a stand-up paddleboard and then ties it off to Doyle’s boat for the day.
Based on years past when they ended up having to paddle in and pull boats out of the water in semi-darkness, Doyle and Caruso advised paddlers to start heading back into port about halfway through the last set of the night – usually between 4 and 5 p.m.
Caruso also advised paddlers on boards and in kayaks to bring a few key items if they intend to raft up with others:
Doyle generally launches his larger craft directly from Fort Adams.
Both Caruso and Marosits said the public launch at King Park on Wellington Avenue is the best place for paddlers wishing to access the coastline of Fort Adams. There is limited but free public parking on the north side of Wellington Avenue along the park.
Newport Folk Festival 2023 guide:What you need to know from parking to what allowed in
There are also public ramps on Washington Street and Elm Street in downtown Newport, but it is a much farther paddle from there to Fort Adams, and finding parking is at times akin to hitting the lottery.
The Daily News called around, and there are two strong options to rent kayaks and launch directly into Newport Harbor. Both cautioned that it is unlikely kayaks or paddleboard will be available on the day of such a large event like the Folk Festival, and recommended reserving one to two weeks in advance:Safety advice from Newport Harbor Master’s new paddle safety officerWhat to bring with you for a day on Newport Harbor: advice from Float Fest regularsWhere to launch a kayak or paddleboard in NewportNewport Folk Festival 2023 guide:Where to rent a kayak or paddleboard in Newport