Of course, we — Fish and Wildlife officer Selverio Pacled, photographer Grafton Marshall Smith and myself — are in one of those boats causing the problem. Under Pacled’s careful guidance, we’ve been the restless concertgoer, up and down row after row, looking for stories and photo ops.
Some, like the Redneck Yacht Club, are obvious. A grungy, dockbuilding barge outfitted with grills, a bar, raised patio deck and the requisite Texas flags, it stands in stark contrast to the gleaming express cruisers of the front row. “You won’t see any other setup like this on the lake,” boasts charter member Jay Delacruz. “We’ve been planning it for eight months.”
Others, like the tiny dinghies of Tug’s Barbecue, require a little more investigative work. After spotting a red flag bobbing along adjacent rows, we finally track it down to a rather attractive, bikini-clad delivery crew selling hot, Texas-style brisket. They hope to sell 1,000 pounds of it by Saturday night. If anything, the quota seems too low.
Distractions are many. Yet, as the warmth of an early Saturday afternoon segues into a blazing hot midday, problems are surprisingly few. In fact, by day’s end there would be no serious accidents or injuries. Despite the ridiculously close proximity, despite the seemingly overwhelming numbers, boats and swimmers have somehow managed to establish a degree of mutual respect. The boats keep speeds somewhere between idle and neutral; those in the water, while not actually getting out of the way, at least seem to respect the props.
“We plan for the worst,” admits Roger Wade, public information officer for the Travis county Sheriff’s Office, “and hope for the best.”
Fortunately for Austin — and AquaPalooza — the best is just what they got. As to my question of how: It helps to have a lot of smart boaters in the mix, spreading good sense around the coolest show ever.