Despite its benign, infantilizing name, Chicago’s boating funland known as the “Playpen” has suffered through a horrific August so far.
A recreational boater spotted a man’s body floating within the water early Saturday evening near the 1000 block of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, the particular Tribune reported. The 29-year-old was pronounced dead on the scene.
That discovery came hard on the heels of two other terrible incidents at Chicago’s informal floating boaters’ club, located in federal waters just far enough from the shore to enjoy exclusivity but plenty near enough for anyone driving down LSD on a summer weekend afternoon to marvel at the numerous tied-together boats, creating conga lines longer than the ones they build with beer cups in the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
As a rule at the Playpen, the particular bodies are tanned, the mood joyous, water toys are sophisticated and, should the traffic halt at the particular stoplight, the vicarious viewer is sure to see a healthy supply of hands holding plastic cups, the Wilmette equivalent of the brown paper bag.
But on Aug. 17, one person was left in critical condition after falling off a boat, the Tribune reported, and, on Thursday, the body of a man was pulled from the water. And on Aug. 14, two women were severely injured in a boating accident around the Playpen. One of the women has been floating on an inflatable raft, when a 37-foot yacht suddenly reversed, sucking her under and toward the boat’s propeller, severing her feet. She had to undergo a double leg amputation as the result.
So that appears to be three serious accidents at the particular Playpen in a handful of days.
That’s too much pain. Something has to change.
Generally speaking, the authorities have taken a hands-off attitude to the long-lived goings upon at the Playpen, not wanting to spoil people’s fun during the few hot summer weekend times Chicago is granted. Even in the face of all these incidents over the last few days, that still has been the general tone of officials, who’ve repeated truisms such as “alcohol and boating don’t mix” and emphasized “personal responsibility. ”
But anyone who believes the Playpen is not dominated by people drinking is fooling themselves. That’s the point and bacchanal has been able to slide by in this deeply regulated city because it takes place in federal waters plus there is no law against tying up your boat to another and then another and then another.
No city permit required. Actually, it’s far easier to hold a party on your boat there than setting up a bouncy castle for the kids on your own block.
But the Playpen is also fraught with clear risk. Most boating locations don’t mix huge yachts reversing rapidly with people playing in the water. It can be hard to see someone bobbing on the surface from the particular bridge, even if you are not on your fifth cocktail of the day. Plus boats have propellers that can suck folks under and sever human flesh. We appear to have seen the results of something like that in the last couple of days.
Furthermore, boats are designed primarily to move through the water, sit at anchor or occupy a slip at a dock. You can tie them to other vessels to create a kind of huge communal party area, new guests in order to meet with at every stop on the line, but that creates an inherent instability, especially in a body of water that will can change from benign to angry in short order. Anyone who has crossed from one adjoined boat to another has experienced the changing levels plus the need for care. Compound that with booze, food, water toys and huge numbers of differently sized boats and it’s tricky, to say the least.
In 2014, a long profile of the Playpen in the particular Chicago Reader described something very different from a few friends tying up their boats to those of pals and enjoying a beer as the sun goes straight down over the skyline. The Reader saw something much closer to a huge day club at the Las Vegas resort, venues that have ID requirements, capacity restrictions and strong incentives to avoid litigation by not shunning regulations. That is not exactly the scenario at the Playpen, where many partygoers are not on a boat they own, but one these people have rented for this specific occasion.
To our mind, the incidents detailed are enough for the city to figure out if it can close this party down. All it would need to do, frankly, is in order to increase patrols and impose some existing laws, especially around alcohol.
But at a minimum, the Playpen needs to regulate itself. It needs to figure out how boaters and bathers may coexist, to limit the capacities and number associated with boats and to make sure that the vessels are usually controlled by sober captains and designated drivers as a condition of entry to the party. And if its reply is that there is no leadership that could do that, then it is time to find some.
Accidents happen and this particular party is not responsible for all catastrophes in the environs. And we don’t doubt many folks who tie up their pride plus joy of an August Sunday are perfectly responsible.
But this many incidents in so few a number of days? It necessitates action.