COVID-19 Boating Guide. Photo by Rosado Aguilar/Pond5
It’s hard to imagine a better social distancing activity than getting out on the water to escape the stresses of the world with those closest to you. As we head into the summer, the urge to leave land is growing. Fortunately, for many boat owners and enthusiasts, boating is considered a safe outdoor activity in many areas under current local and federal guidelines. That said, responsible boaters know that safety should always be the first priority. Here we’ve compiled a helpful resource for boating during the COVID-19 pandemic to help you, your family and friends stay safe during this year’s boating season.
Stay Up-To-Date On Current Guidelines
Regularly check your current state and local guidelines for recreational boating. These guidelines vary and in some cases they are changing daily, so be sure to keep monitoring them throughout the entire boating season. It is our responsibility as good boaters to always know the current regulations and conditions.
Limit Your Passengers And Crew
Be prudent and cautious when inviting guests aboard your vessel, or planning a trip with those outside your immediate household. The CDC currently recommends cancelling any large gatherings and keeping groups below 10 people. For smaller vessels this number may be much lower. Naturally, limiting your boating activity to include only those who live together in the same household is the best choice here.
At Boat Ramps, Docks And Marinas
Public boat ramps, docks and marinas are communal spaces, where large amounts of people may gather on a daily basis. For this reason it is vitally important to follow strict safety, distancing and sanitizing protocols in these areas. If you need to coordinate your plans with harbormasters or marina staff, connect via phone, text or email. Stay attentive and be cautious at the dock and on the boat ramp to protect yourself and those around you.
At The Fuel Pumps – When fueling up it is recommended to wear face masks and gloves, sanitize your hands and avoid touching fomites. One great idea is to bring along some bobby pins or pens to touch buttons and then sanitize them after each use. Boating can provide much-needed distraction from the stresses we all face, so it is a healthy activity.
Keep Launch Areas Clear – Be prepared to depart quickly from the ramp, dock or marina as soon as your boat is put into the water. If you are not actively launching your boat, you should clear the launch area to prevent congestion and allow others to keep a safe distance. At the boat ramp, maintain a 6-10 foot distance from other boats and boaters at all times.
COVID-19 Pre-Launch Checklist
In addition to your regular boating pre-launch checklist, we’ve compiled this additional COVID-19 pre-launch checklist.
Check Your Temperature – In order to prevent the spread of the virus, it’s important not to go out on your boat if you’re feeling sick. If you’re experiencing a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms, you may be carrying the virus and should not be in close proximity with others until you have fully recovered.
Stock Up Ahead Of Time – To lower the risk of spreading the virus, it’s best to pack your gear and stock up on sanitized provisions and supplies well before your boat trip. Although it may be a familiar habit, it is best to avoid going to the grocery store or a gas station immediately prior to meeting others and getting onboard.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – Make sure you have the right kind of face coverings/masks, gloves and other PPE as recommended by the CDC before you head to a marina, harbor or boat ramp.
Personal Essentials Bag – Before boarding, make sure everyone has their own individual tote bag for personal items such as hand sanitizer, extra (clean) masks, sunscreen lotion, can/drink cooler (Koozie), towels, sunglasses, snacks and more. By bringing their own, your passengers won’t have to share these items thus reducing the risk of spreading the virus
Sanitize The Boat – Prior to launching (and again upon returning to land) make sure your boat has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized using the recommended disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Generally, 60–90% solutions of alcohol are considered effective.
Sanitize Life Jackets – According to the CDC, “If you think your life jacket has been exposed to a virus, clean as recommended by the manufacturer and then let dry in warm, low humidity environment for at least 72 hours before reuse” Some buoyant, personal-flotation-devices (PFDs) can be damaged by specific disinfectants that are detrimental to fabric, and may harm marine wildlife. As always, make sure you have one life jacket for every passenger and do not share them (or any other garments, towels or PPE).
Basket For Shoes/Fomites – Before you and your passengers board the vessel, make sure everyone removes their shoes (and other outerwear prone to carrying germs), sanitizes them and places them in a basket. Shoes can track germs from the land onboard your boat and increase the risk of spreading the virus.
On The Water
The beauty of being out on the water is you are in a large, open-air, natural space, which inherently offers a certain level of social distancing. But remember – if you see your friends out on the water, it’s best to greet them with a wave and a smile from a distance. As always, maintain a safe distance from other vessels. During COVID-19 it’s wise to give fellow boaters a little extra room out there.
Avoid “Raft-ups” – Meeting up with other boaters on the water is obviously one of the great pleasures in boating. However, during this pandemic, tying up or “rafting up” to other boats is not recommended since it would require you to be in close proximity to others and may increase the spread of the virus.
Returning To Land
When your day on the water is over and your group is back at the marina or boat tramp, practice the same precautions as when you launched when disembarking, unloading the boat and loading your trailer. Wait for others to clear launch areas and immediate waterways around the dock or ramp before pulling in.
For further reading check out the following materials:
Fishing And Boating Access Interactive Map
To help you plan your upcoming fishing or boating trips TakeMeFishing.org has created a virtual 50-state map of the U.S. showing an interactive state-by-state breakdown of fishing and boating access including state agency COVID-19 responses and updates.
Visit TakeMeFishing.org to view the map.
More Social Distancing Boating Tips And Ideas
5 Boating Tips for Social Distancing article. YachtWorld also has some creative ideas for social distancing on the water. As always we recommend checking with the CDC for best practices and guidelines. Also the National Safe Boating Council has a Safe Boating Campaign that has some great recommendations during COVID-19 as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Boat Launches Open In My Area?
Current boating access, closures and restrictions vary significantly from state to state and from city to city. As noted above a great resource for checking the current status of boat ramps and water access in your area is the interactive boating access map from TakeMeFishing.org.
Is Boating Allowed During COVID-19
In most locations boating has been deemed a safe outdoor activity during COVID-19. However, specific rules in effect for public and private boat launches, marinas and harbors vary by location. Check with your state and local agencies for the latest updates as they may have changed recently.