Sandbar Boaters Shrug Off State’s Pandemic Guidance

Freedom—July 6, 2020—Boaters defied the state by packing the channel sandbar this holiday weekend despite an unusual public plea from the Marine Patrol “to assist them” by following social distancing recommendations and complying with rafting rules during the pandemic.

More than 70 boats congregated closely Saturday on and around the sandbar at the junction of Cassie Cove, Turtle Cove and Spindle Point, which is one of the most popular rafting venues on the lake. The number of boats was smaller on Sunday, but there continued to be little to no social distancing.

With COVID-19 spreading in the state, the Marine Patrol in May announced boating guidance that included “No Rafting—Keep Your Distance on the Water” and “No Guests on Your Boat” as key provisions.

The ‘no guests’ advisory included “family members not in your immediate household and your closest boating buddies,” according to the poster, which appeared online and in various boating locales. Social media reaction to the guidelines was largely positive.

Marine Patrol Captain Timothy Dunleavy told Ossipee Lake Alliance the guidelines were based on recommendations by the CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard, adding he hoped boaters would “encourage each other to do the right thing” by complying.

That didn’t happen this weekend, and a large increase in boats on the lake compounded the problem.

Lake Hosts in Ossipee have seen week-to-week increases in visitors at the Route 25 public boat ramp, with traffic congestion and overflow parking. On Saturday the facility was at capacity by 9:30 a.m. as boaters continued to arrive. By the middle of the day, boats and trailers lined the shoulder of the highway as far west as the hardware store.

A spike in day-tripping boaters is creating concerns about crowding on the lake.

An officer from N.H. Fish & Game, which manages the site, visited on Saturday but was not present when a boater ran his car over the Lake Host program’s boat inspection signs and took off without stopping. The host was not hurt.

A post by Lauren Lynn Christopher Ryan on the “I Boat on Ossipee Lake” Facebook page said: “I’ve been on Ossipee Lake for 30 plus years and have never seen it as crazy as Saturday was. I actually felt like our poor lake was too small for all these boats.”

Of the close to 90 comments made to the post, most expressed agreement.

Sandbar Rafting Concerns Revived
The state’s social distancing guidelines are voluntary, but compliance with state rafting regulations are not. The situation at the channel sandbar is complicated, however.

The sandbar became a state-regulated area in 2001 as a result of a petition by neighboring property owners who argued that crowds at the site had created a public nuisance and safety issues.

State Rule Saf-C 407.04 limits “rafts” to 10 boats that must stay 50 feet from the main navigation channel and be gone by sunset. But the rule is flawed. For one thing it can be interpreted as restricting the total number of boats to 10, or interpreted as permitting an unlimited number of “rafts” of boats each comprised of 10 vessels. Additionally, the rule conflicts with the stricter terms of State Law RSA 270:44, which sets limits on the size of rafts and the parameters for their separation in the water.

Boaters jammed the channel sandbar on July 4, renewing focus on a 2001 state rule meant to control rafting there.

As a result, the sandbar rule has never been enforced, and the public nuisance and safety issues the petitioners identified 20 years ago remain more or less the same, according to neighboring property owners.

“The rule is flawed because the petition was flawed,” a state official told Ossipee Lake Alliance, asking that we not use his name. “A new petition could address that,” he added.

Boaters’ defiance of the state’s request for cooperation this weekend could be a tipping point for the issue, judging from online posts.

On the Ossipee Lake Alliance website, Thom wrote: “The 50’ rule from the main navigation channel is laughable. Boats are regularly anchored within 10 ft of a channel marker. The sandbar was completely packed today, as it is every weekend day.”

Cassie Cove property owner Linda Taylor wrote: “By the middle of the day [the sandbar] is packed with people and we have to endure loud music, offensive language and many rude people.”

“We pick up beer cans, plastic cups, plastic bags of dog feces every weekend…Once the sandbar is filled way over capacity, the boaters anchor all over the cove to swim, and jet skiers race around,” she added.

In regard to the pandemic and social distancing, “Lara”: wrote: “We have been horrified at the number of people we have seen at this sandbar for the past 3 weekends when we go past. We often remark, “well, there’s the next epicenter of the virus outbreak.”


  1. Atony 4 years ago July 6, 2020

    Absolutely nothing new here. No apparent effort to police the sandbar for intoxicated boaters or to limit the number of boats. However, the marine Patrol was very dedicated to following any and all jet skiers to write no wake violations… I feel so much safer knowing that anyone traveling 2 mph faster than they should will pay a hefty fine to the state and the inebriated sand bar folks can go about their business littering the lake and doing the DUI thing without any hassle or interference from the marine patrols.

  2. Lot hatch 4 years ago July 6, 2020

    Enforce the rules Lake Patrol. Don’t just wave.

  3. Sally Johnston 4 years ago July 6, 2020

    Totally agree, I have a lake front property stayed away from all people, I went for quick ride on the waverunner. I received a ticket for coming to close to another boat. (Not in my opinion) The whole time i was thinking your pulling me over for a few feet while the sandbar has tons of intoxicated boaters or the fact of the non rafting ! the marine Patrol has an issue with jet skiers ! They need to stop, It’s ridiculous!!! Very prejudice!! It is so obvious that they hate them ! No apparent effort to police the sandbar for intoxicated boaters or to limit the number of boats. However, the marine Patrol was very dedicated to following any and all jet skiers to write no wake or 150 feet tickets ! Marine patrol if you are reading this, stop focusing on the jet ski and take a peak at the drunk people !

    • Hypocrisy 4 years ago July 7, 2020

      I agree as a home owner on the lake with both a boat and jetski, the prejudice is REAL!
      You can drive by a jetski within 150’ on a boat while sucking down a mixed drink and MP won’t look twice…… god forbid you overtake a boat on a jetski! Doesn’t matter if you’re more than 150’ you can pretty much guarantee you’re a ticket!

  4. Linda Taylor 4 years ago July 6, 2020

    I do not understand WHY there is no limit on boats allowed through the ramps on rte 25 or along the lake. The number of boats this weekend was obscene.

    The parties at the sandbar all weekend were totally out of control. Grills set up in the shallow water, jello shots, beer and liquor flowing. Dogs racing all over and while there was some Marine Patrol presence, they seemed to totally ignore the mass of boats and people crammed into the sandbar (there must have been 75 plus boats there plus boats anchored in the cove) to target speeding jet skiers.

    Without police enforcement, this trend will continue.

    We pay very high property taxes and work very hard to keep our property and beach clean and safe. It is upsetting to feel like a prisoner on our property over the weekend

  5. Allison 4 years ago July 7, 2020

    I did not get to see nor did I join the festivities this weekend at the sandbar. I also am lucky that our bay only has a few “jerks” from time to time. You know the old adage “give an inch, take a mile”. My suggestion, “passes” that are limited in number per bay for either a time period or the season and it is held in a lottery format. Like hunting licenses for Moose in Maine. A sticker that is color coded and displayed where Marine Patrol can see. Helps them police the area and keep people safe.
    It’s an option where all I see is complaining. I feel for those who live there and wonder how many of the people out there are even licensed. . . . . .

    • Boater 4 years ago July 8, 2020

      I agree so even people who own on the lake would be required to get a pass right because they own property on the lake but they don’t own the actual lake.

  6. Anonymous 4 years ago July 7, 2020

    I think your right since the State of NH owns the Lake we should only allow NH residents to go on it. That would limit the number of boats for sure.

    • Hannah 4 years ago July 7, 2020

      What about all the people who have summer homes there? That’s not a great solution as they make up a majority of the property owners on the lake.

    • Confused 4 years ago July 7, 2020

      I’m a mass resident, but I own a house on the lake…… does this mean I’m not allowed???

  7. C 4 years ago July 7, 2020

    I hope it rains this weekend.

    • Theresa 4 years ago July 7, 2020


  8. Bob 4 years ago July 7, 2020

    Cassie Cove , Turtle Cove , Spindle Point otherwise known as Lavatory Junction . Great place to jump in and refresh on a hot day while a turd slowly floats by followed by the diaper it has just left behind and the water temp is a few degrees warmer from all the beer and Jello shots released from the systems of the fun loving boating families enjoying the sun and water sports. Anyone ever calculate how long it takes to clean out after a hot summer weekend or how long it takes that little turd to reach the dam ?

    • Spindle Point property owner 4 years ago August 26, 2020

      So true.. my family owns property on Spindle Point & people totally ignore the private property signs, pull up to our property after boozing all day on the Sandbar the. Let their children/dogs take a dump on our property… while we are still there sitting on our boat… then the locals come down & party on our boat at night after we have left for the day. We need not only marine patrol but Freedom police to be more present

  9. Spindle point 4 years ago July 7, 2020

    The sand bar is a total shit show. I own property on the spindle. Actually a few. We have been there for 30 plus year and I must admit I did spend time there in the 80’s but the most we would ever see is about 10-12 boats. This weekend there was at least 70 boats on Saturday little less Sunday. I have twin 6 year olds and if you add the my brothers we have a total 10 kids under the age of 12. The language and overall respect for the lake was appalling and needs to managed better. We are friends with the wardens and it’s impossible for them to manage that and keep an eye on the rest of lake. Please give them some help. I’d be more than happy to drive law enforcement over in my boat.

  10. Gail Lamothe 4 years ago July 7, 2020

    We enjoy taking our young grand children to swim at the sandbar, but took one look this week and turned around. I have been stopped by patrol to do a safety check in that area, and wondered why I was a priority when there were so many rules being broken by anchored boats at the sandbar. Please step it up and clean it up. Especially now

  11. Bonny randall 4 years ago July 8, 2020

    the human pooty pool these people stay here all day drinking eating and peeing all day long in that water dogs and all poop in the woods there ,there is no spots to go n sit on freedom beach as well signs every where ,residents only,no dogs but yet you try and go there plates from every state going as fas as texas dogs and drinking upthe yung yang and no place for the residents

  12. Atony 4 years ago July 8, 2020

    “I think your right since the State of NH owns the Lake we should only allow NH residents to go on it. That would limit the number of boats for sure.”

    Be careful what you wish for as those non NH residents are paying the lions share of property taxes on the lakes to run the lake towns all around the state. You know, things like police, fire and schools…do you really think the locals would have the same quality of services without the out of state revenue that the non-residents bring? From what I’ve seen the locals don’t seem very keen on unfair property assessments that result in higher tax rates. Something the lake front property owners have been dealing with, and locals have been benefiting from, for decades.

  13. SLT 4 years ago July 12, 2020

    It’s a shame that the original petition was written in such a way that it is unenforceable. The petition which was a very nice balance of respect for the lake as well as allowing people to enjoy themselves at the Sandbar, is not enforced.

    Over the past 60 years, we grew up spending summers on Ossipee Lake, raised our family in the same tradition and now own a home in Turtle Cove. It is very sad to see how the Sand Bar section of the lake has deteriorated over the past 60 years. The crowds, drinking, rude behavior, pollution, and the playing of music at unreasonable decibel levels are extremely harmful to the lake and devalue its beauty and balance.

    We would very much like to see a change to the laws which regulate the number of boats allowed Channel Ossipee Sandbar.

  14. Atony 4 years ago July 13, 2020

    SLT….I remember the days when there would just be a few kids swimming or playing catch on the sandbar….no music, no alcohol and no trash/litter. I don’t know how things got so out of hand. At some point a decision has to be made on how to best take care of the lake. What’s happening now is not a good solution for safety and water quality.

  15. SLT 4 years ago July 19, 2020

    We were involved in the original petition, gathering signatures, speaking out at the hearing and helping out the person from Cassie Cove who did all the leg work. We have been approached by the marine patrol and it was suggested that it may be a good time to resubmit a petition so the original regulation can be made enforceable. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything short of making the sandbar a non-motorized destination (no rafting allowed) with hefty fines is going to change the dynamic. We would be more than happy to have a discussion group around actions that will improve the situation at the sandbar. There are several owners in our cove who have similar thoughts.

  16. Leavitt Lover 4 years ago July 27, 2020

    As Leavitt Bay land owners we are not directly exposed to the sand bar shenanigans. We stay away on weekends, but the overcrowding is spreading to other places in the lake as well.
    I am bewildered that the surrounding towns put no limits on the number or boats allowed on the lake. The worst part of it is that the towns get no revenue for it! Why not charge $20/day or $100/week for all launches? As it is now, this recreation is subsidized by all the taxpayers in Ossipee, Effingham, and Freedom.
    Boaters can afford it and the money can be used to help with the mill foil, with some left over for other town needs.

  17. Gail Baade 4 years ago August 2, 2020

    We too have issues at the sandbar on Lake Sunapee, and can not seem to get anybody to do anything about it. There were 94 boats there yesterday, the noise was defining, people were trespassing on our property. Covid-19 is not stopping any of the partiers singing, screaming, chanting, yelling while being shoulder to shoulder in bathing suits.

  18. Tom 3 years ago February 4, 2021

    Land owners on Lake Ossipee have to follow rules. For example, you are limited to how many moorings you can have depending on how much waterfront you own. There are other restrictions- you can’t dig within 250 feet of the waterfront without proper permitting. There are all sorts of restrictions you need to follow. If land owners are the tax payers why are they the only ones accountable to follow the rules?? If boaters are on the lake they need to follow the rules. The rules today state that only 10 boats can be on the sandbar at one time. If, for whatever reason, the rules can’t be enforced then the rules need to be changed and NO one will be allowed to park on the sandbar. The rules are the rules. I have to follow the rules so the sandbar partiers need to follow the rules, simple as that.


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