We're all navigating uncharted waters during the Covid-19 outbreak – ideally from ashore, as we shelter in place to help stop its spread. For those boaters who simply don't have the option of staying where they are, there are precautionary steps we can take to practice safe boating during this time.
Note: It should be very obvious that we are not doctors. Do not source your health advice solely from a boating blog.
Take distancing, washing, and all the other advice, and apply it to boating. What habits do you need to change? Which habits do you need to instill in yourself? Read on for some of ours, and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment in our Facebook Group to share your tips/reminders. We'll also be posting more content regarding snowbird travels through Florida and more.
As mentioned in the intro, currently if your state has issued a shelter-in-place order, well, those are your orders and are put in place so that the idiots who went to bars for St. Patrick's Day have less of an impact on the rest of us. For cruisers, this puts a damper on a few early season excursions. For liveaboards or those trying to get back to the mainland from The Bahamas or the Caribbean, the following tips will be more applicable, even if your home on the water never leaves the dock.
This point's likely been hammered into our brains by now, but what does social distancing mean in practice when boating? When are you most likely to exchange airborne coronavirus germs or surface coronavirus germs on the docks or on board?
Tossing a line to a dockhand from on board, how far away are you? Once you're tied up and discussing your stay or tipping your dockhand, make sure to maintain that 6' distance. Don't worry about being rude – people will understand.
When buying provisions, don't wait until you see a sign to give your fellow shoppers a wide berth. If the ship's store is small and already has a crowd, take a walk and enjoy the scenery to let it clear out. Don't become critically ill over a pack of gum.
Boats obviously have an advantage in the airborne category of germ exchange in that they tend to be more open and airy than most offices, homes, or stores. Throw your hatches open when you're not underway, or when traveling slowly.
Giving your boat a post-voyage spray down is good practice, especially for saltwater boaters, and the pressure and water alone could help deter any germs on your deck. Lifelines, stantions, hatch latches, door handles, and all surfaces you touch often, you should use disinfectant if you have it to give those a wipe-down. A lot of the materials we've read say "often" just as they say with regard to hand-washing, so to clarify: anytime someone has come onto your boat and left, wipe it down. Anytime you leave the boat, sanitize your hands before coming aboard, or get on without touching anything and wash them immediately. And still wipe down the brightwork.
Annoying? Yes. Is dying more annoying? Also yes. But I digress: If you pick up provisions, wipe the packaging down before getting on board, or leave them on the stern for 3 hours for the germs to die. Go ahead and get really "Monk" about your boat.
Or, more specifically, don't touch your face even if it's doused with saltwater or the wind is blowing your hair all over it. Pick up a pair of sailing gloves if you're not a usual wearer, if for no other reason than to be a reminder to keep yours hands away. I expect bandanas should still be relatively easy to find – tie one around your neck to wipe saltwater off your mug. As for hair, hats, headbands, hairties, shave it all off for the full post-apocalyptic Waterworld effect, and use the elbow of your sleeve instead of your hands just like when you cough.
People have react differently in the face of a crisis, and some sailors saw the writing on the wall and still hopped flights and hit up regatta/tournament parties. In the past you've likely quizzed someone to get a sense of his/her boating experience, now you'll just need to ask some additional questions: have they traveled recently? Been to any large gatherings? Needed to quarantine? Do they live with someone who has a confirmed case of coronavirus? Don't worry about being intrusive – your health is more important than your new crew's experience or paycheck.
If you log engine hours, distance traveled, and other watch notes in a logbook, it's time to add a new line item: Temperature. Not of your engine – of yourself. Taking your temperature often can help you to spot a fever with enough time to address it means taking regular temperature checks. Having a line item in your logbook not only reminds you to do so, it's a handy tracker to see if you're a person who simply runs cold or hot.
This goes without saying at all times, but with potentially fewer staff at each marina and fewer coasties and good samaritans available to assist if you run into trouble out on the water alone, it's even more crucial that you stay out of trouble. Avoid singlehanding, inclement weather, and don't go out if your spidey sense are tingling that something's at all amiss with the boat. Bring a buddy, stay on the dock, do an extra systems check. Play it safe so you keep yourself and the people rescuing you out of harms way.
With Covid-19 putting us in lockdowns and quarantines and, in reality, taking some members of our community from us, you can expect that some marinas' resources and responsiveness will shift somewhat. Build out proper floatplans, have your final destination and interim course points plotted, check which marinas and fuel docks in your path are open for tying up, fueling up, and provisioning, and contact them in advance to inquire or book a reservation.
When you reserve in advance, make note of any closure or reduced staffing updates, which will likely include reference to precautions the marina has put in place to keep its employees and boater guests safe from the spread of the virus. Alternatively, as you're approaching the dock, you may radio ahead to let them know of your arrival and in the same exchange inquire as to any procedures you need to adhere to with regard to Covid-19 safety – if the marina has precautions (gloves, masks, hand sanitizer) in place for their dock hands and office stay on the front lines, they can provide that assurance at that point.
Planning ahead also means staying up to date with closures and general news about your intended destination port, town, state, and region. What are the current restrictions? Are medical facilities at capacity? We're working on incorporating closure or reduced staff updates into our app and into Marinas.com – stay tuned.
What would you add to this list? How are you feeling about boating or working at a marina during the Coronavirus spread? Let us know in the form below or email email@example.com.
Stay safe out there.