Absence no excuse for Bristol harbormaster’s inaction

Absence no excuse for Bristol harbormaster’s inaction


To the editor:

(A version of this letter was sent to the members of Bristol Town Council and the Town Administrator.)

On Friday, Aug. 10, my friend and I set out from North Farm beach in a two-man kayak. We were enjoying the calm waters when suddenly a high powered boat coming up from the south traveling towards the mouth of the Warren River, at a dangerous speed, passed within 25 feet of our kayak.

The operator of the boat intentionally came within close proximity of us with intent to cause a wake, which caused us to capsize. Once we were flipped we could see and hear both individuals in the boat laughing and mocking us as we attempted to right ourselves. During this time we found ourselves in the middle of the river, the stress of the situation and fighting to right ourselves caused me to go into cardiac arrest.

Thankfully, a young couple in another kayak towed us to the closest point ashore, a sandbar just off Rumstick Point. Without the help of the Barrington Harbor Master and his assistant Bob Hughes, Barrington and Warren rescue units, I would not have survived.

I offered a $1,000 reward which was also matched by two individuals, for the identity of the operator of the boat that caused this incident.

On Aug. 20, 21 & 22 I called the Bristol harbormaster’s office, and left voice mail messages about the incident to see if they had any info on what happened. I received no return calls. On Aug. 23 I got the cell phone number of the harbormaster. I asked for his help in locating the individuals responsible. His response was “This is the first I’m hearing about this.” I told him, he must be joking. His response was that the assistant harbormaster is responsible for the west shore line of Bristol, from Poppasquash North to the Bristol Warren town line.

I became frustrated with his lack of care or concern for what had happened to me, and let him know this. His final remark to me was “Do what you have to do!” and then he hung up on me. Initially I was only concerned about getting my justice from the people responsible for this incident.

However there is a much “bigger” issue. The first responders were the Barrington harbormaster the Warren and Barrington rescue and the Coast Guard. I have been contacted by the DEM, the Barrington harbormaster, all parties were monitoring 911 water related emergencies at the time, but because one individual was out sick, not only did Bristol not respond but no investigation had been started for a life-threatening incident that occurred in their own waters.

So this incident is not just about what happened to me, but anyone who enjoys our beautiful shoreline should know that they are safe from reckless boat use.

My questions are, “How did this happen and what is going on in the harbormaster’s office?,” “How do we correct this situation?,” and “How do I know as a Bristol resident that my life will be safe when enjoying the Bristol waters?”

No one’s life should ever be at risk because the harbormaster’s assistant is out sick.

Michael Marshall
47 Kickemuit Ave.


  1. The Warren Harbormaster is also the Bristol Asst. Harbor Master. From your description it sounds as if you were in the Palmer River which is the juristiction of Warren. When you floated over to Barrington you were in their waters. The way our peninsula is split up it makes sense to share duties between both towns on the river and the kicky! Sounds also as if you were in the channel and not in a no-wake zone.

  2. Michael Marshall stopped in the East Bay Newspapers office today to clarify what happened when his kayak capsized. He said they capsized about 100 yards off the Bristol shore, but the tide and currents pulled them closer to the Barrington shore. He wants people to know they didn’t CHOOSE to go to Barrington; the forces of nature steered them that way. I told him I’d post the clarification for him.

  3. The issue here is the lack of concern. Wether he was in the harbormasters waters or not, he called three times and was not assisted. They couldn’t even tell him who he ‘should’ speak to. There was no sense of urgency and no care for a man who almost lost his life. The rude response on the phone was completely unnecessary and disrespectful. Where is common courtesy, if nothing else? This entire situation is disgusting and it’s shameful that its been going on for so long.

  4. the town of Bristol gave Harbormaster Cabral $7500.00 for new radios, and 13 days after the incident he knew nothing about it, he probably knows nothing about one of his employees perpetrating fraud on the town of Bristol, by receiving workers compensation from Bristol and drawing a full pay from Warren. Gee does this man know anything ?
    also if you want a dock slip at church st or Rockwell dock, the waiting list is just for unknowns, all his” Coombahs ” get them first, some people have been waiting 10 years, could this be the reason he turned in his resignation ? The Town finally caught up with him !

    • I am disappointed that the announcement of the resignation of a man who held the post of Bristol Harbor Master for 40 years should be tainted by a disgruntled resident who wants “someone” to blame for his misfortune. From what I read in the Sept 4th article, this man’s life was saved when he suffered a heart attack while he was kayaking in the Warren River, after being capsized by an unknown speeding boater. How his “happy-ended” story is related to Mr. Cabral’s retirement is beyond me. I can only say that if I were Mr. Marshall, I would be the happiest person “alive” and I would be thanking whatever “power” that I believed in and also maybe making a donation to the Barrington and Warren Fire and Rescue Depts for their outstanding work. For what it’s worth…I wish Mr Cabral many happy and healthy years of a much deserved retirement.

      • Really? Fiscal responsibility is your real motive here? I am doubtful of those who spread inuendo and rumors that have nothing to do with the matter at hand.

        • Just wait one year and when the Town of Bristol suddenly receives much more money than ever before, you will see the real motive.

          • In one year, this story will be forgotten. Why should anyone believe you since your kayak incident seems to be somewhat fabricated (says DEM) for your monetary gain.

  5. Not to downplay the role of the speed boat but kyaks are prone to turn over. If my health was such that righting a kayak could cause cardiac arrest I would switch to a less stressful activity.

    If you can’t give the name on the boat to anyone even though it was in close proximity exactly what would the Harbour Master be able to do about it?

      • Blame everyone but me! The DEM made this plea unbundantly clear. They say the tale is fabricated. It is not the Harbor Master’s job to protect you from yourself. It’s like deciding to skateboard on 195 and blaming the State Police after you get crushed by a truck!

        Now it looks like you are accusing the Harbor Master of fiscal wrongdoing (read betwen the lines) and the Town’s Controls and Audit processes are and have been flawed for 40 years? Everyone must read the DEM’s report and findings and make their own decision on the complaintant’s credibility.

        I wish Joe relaxation in retirement and thank the members of the Harbor Patrol and Fire Rescue for their service to the town!

  6. The Bristol harbormaster has actually been retired for the last 20 years,maybe LASTONELEFT should ask to see receipts for monies collected since he has been harbormaster ?

  7. Are we talking about the DEM that investigated 79 boating accidents last year and had 0, yes ZERO convictions. If my remarks are slander than you have legal recourse, stop hiding behind LASTONELEFT, stand up and be counted.

    • Are you really going “there”? You are now saying DEM’s investigation of your accident is flawed because they have no convictions? Do you want to explain how one equals the other? DEM investigated and found there wasn’t any truth to your story….Plain and simple. Who were they supposed to “convict”? What is it that the Harbormaster should have done about finding a fictitious boat that your very own friend in the very same kayak as you didn’t see. I don’t understand a man who should be so thankful to just be alive, who decides instead to point fingers and disparage an honest, hard-working man’s career in public and in newsprint over a lie that was nothing more than an inexperienced kayaker’s ordeal that fortunately still had a happy ending due to other hard-working strangers who came to your aid. My advice is to look at the glass as half full and say Thank You!

  8. I think it is terrible what happened to this man. However, this attack is very misdirected and appears to be an attack of a personal nature. The people who work in the harbor masters office are all very professional. I have had a few situations where I needed them and their response and help was greatly appreciated and in a timely manner. @Mike47 the ethnic slur you made coombah is not even close and shows how stupid you are.