Some harbors, marinas, and states have instituted restrictions for boaters. Here's what to look out for if you're sick, and how to comply with temporary local restrictions.
Note: This post has been edited since its original posting date of 4/23/20 to clarify that states, harbors, and marinas are setting restrictions. The point of this post is to help you abide by them. We've also added a survey in an effort to share boater feedback with local and state leaders.
It goes without saying that the first priority of every boat owner is safety – yours, your crew's, and the safety of everyone on the water/docks around you. Unfortunately with things being as they are, some states and harbors have put restrictions in place for boaters, so as you cruise remember to do your due diligence: research your destination's temporary COVID-19 rules before you set your course and as you're about to head in.
Many states are starting to lift restrictions on recreational boating, which means getting out on the water is coming back in season!
Since one of the attributes of COVID-19 is that it is so strikingly asymptomatic, the first indication that you may have it is if you've come into contact with other humans' air space within the last 5-14 days, which is the length of the disease' incubation period. Upwards of 25% of confirmed cases – those are just the cases we know about – do not show any symptoms. So try to keep your distance. Specifically to boating, this means if you've provisioned, taken on new crew, had someone doing work on the boat, etc. within the last two weeks, keep an extra eye on symptoms aboard.
The official COVID-19 symptoms you've likely had beaten into your brain by now; the most common/prominent being fever, fatigue, and a persistent dry cough. Those infected may also experience aches and pains, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and diarrhea. If you or your crew experience any of these, your top priority should be to isolate to keep safe everyone aboard your boat and the boats around you.
As mentioned above, even if a harbor has not instituted a quarantine order for visiting boats, it falls upon the captain to asses their situation and, if potentially infected and contagious, institute a quarantine order for the vessel themselves.
Research what quarantine orders are in effect for the harbor and state you're passing through.
Here's an example, courtesy of our hometown of Newport, Rhode Island:
Out-of-state residents may not come into a Rhode Island yard to work on their boat unless they are prepared to quarantine aboard the vessel for 14 days.
An out-of-state boater may come into Rhode Island to take their boat out of state.
A boater may come in from out of state to pick up a vessel he/she has purchased.
If under quarantine on a vessel, the boat must wave quarantine flag, and must contact Rhode Island Department of Health, 401-222-8022, help.ri.gov.
All public boat ramps are open, excluding ramps located at state parks.
Out-of-state fishing charter boats may not enter or do business in Rhode Island.
A hauler from out-of-state may come into a yard to launch a boat. Commercial haulers are permitted to operate.
Marinas may provide support to vessels under quarantine: fuel, pump out, provisioning.
All vessels, regardless of apparent symptoms, that travel to those harbors are legally required to quarantine or face penalties.
We'll be compiling state, harbor, and marina information via the Marinas.com COVID-19 Status Alert.
As you approach, radio the marina or harbor to:
Inquire as to or confirm harbor/marina regulations
Make your vessel's COVID-19 status clear so the harbor/marina can be ready to assist should you or your crew develop symptoms, or if symptoms worsen
State your crew's intentions re: length of stay
Stay on board your vessel
If you suspect any crew aboard are sick, further isolate within cabins
Wear masks/face coverings when using the head or galley to decrease spread amongst crew
Some coronavirus patients have reported not just fatigue, but extreme fatigue – as in, unable to get out of bed. Prep your space so that the things you may need are within an arms reach.
Stay hydrated: Make a gallon of gatorade if you have it – if not, water – and keep it by your bunk.
See above: self-isolate if you have symptoms or suspect you were exposed
Avoid use of marina showers, laundry facilities, or cooking facilities – shower, laundry, and cook aboard
Avoid/limit provisioning trips – research on your own or contact the marina staff re: local provision delivery recommendations
If you must come off your boat, wear a mask/face covering
A lot of us are a little on edge lately, so it's an understandable survival instinct of neighbors to want to make sure everyone is towing the line. We've had marinas as well as boaters – particularly boaters who work in hospitals and have seen the effects of COVID-19 first-hand, ask how they can ask visiting vessels to quarantine, isolate, or social distance.
For transient boaters: While it may cramp your style, keep in mind that this is not forever, and in the meantime you'll put everyone's mind at ease by respecting the temporary limits put in place by local/marina authorities. This will also help you avoid steep fines, relocation, and a potential public shaming via the local "coconut telegraph."
For resident boaters: If you witness a boater or a vessel's crew at your marina/harbor that has defied a government mandated quarantine order, you have the option to raise the issue as you feel comfortable doing so, with your marina manager or harbormaster.
Thoughts? Feelings? Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.