Staying Safe While Working the Docks During COVID-19

Post by - Published on 04/02/20 16:33 PM

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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 marinas who are still operating, and working to keep their boaters safe, there are precautionary steps to take to practice safely working on the docks during this time. 

Note: It should be very obvious that we are not doctors – do not source your health advice solely from a marina blog. Also, see your local/state marina organizations for guidance, particularly as it pertains to new Covid-19 regulations. See below for examples of Rhode Island Marine Trade Association's guidance, courtesy of RIMTA CEO Wendy Mackie. 

Take distancing, washing, and all the other advice, and apply it to working the docks. 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 or comment in our Facebook Group to share your tips/reminders.  

Social Distance

For a dock hand it's not in their nature to spend time away from guests and off the docks. But during this time when some boaters are taking to the water to distance from others, or liveaboards are trying to get back to the mainland from the Caribbean or sheltering in place on their vessels, it's imperative for the safety of yourself and for boaters, to social distance when you can.

  • Keep 6 feet away from people when possible. 

  • Radio incoming vessels and ask if they need assistance approaching the dock (as opposed to automatically jumping in to help).

  • Make use of mooring hooks when applicable instead of reaching for lines (or anything) from others.

Don't Touch Your Face 

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, even if it's not a usual move on the docks, if for no other reason than to be a reminder to keep yours hands away.

  • Bandanas should still be relatively easy to find tie one around your neck to wipe saltwater off your mug.

  • As for hair make use of hats, headbands, hairties, or shave it all off for the full post-apocalyptic Waterworld effect.

  • If needed, use the elbow of your sleeve instead of your hands, just like when you cough, if you must touch your face.

  • If available, consider wearing eye goggles from your yard or ships store, as the virus is thought to be more airborne than previously known.

Wash Your Hands

There's a reason why the CDC instructs people to wash their hands (for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap): Stop the spread of germs as fast as you can. We're talking every time you leave the dock and head back into the office, every time you grab someone's dock line to help them tie up or cast away, every time you fuel up a vessel, and so on. Just do it. Period. 

  • Place hand sanitizer on the docks, especially at the top/bottom of gangways, and in the office/clubhouse.  

Implement a New Cleaning Procedure

If you're a general manager, commodore, harbormaster, etc. it's important to keep your team protected as much as you can. Finding, let alone wearing, disposable gloves is great if you have the option, but implementing a new cleaning procedure or cleansing common areas more often, will go a long way. Get yourself some Dawn, or Simple Green (which is great for using near the water as it's biodegradable), as their known to be useful for breaking up grim and oils, or basic soap and water, and scrub those surfaces away. Richard Sachleben, an organic chemist and a member of the American Chemical Society, explained why bleach isn't necessary, and why soap and water will do the trick: 

The virus has an outside coating, and the stuff inside — DNA or RNA — is what actually causes the disease. For a virus, that coating is a protein, and the soap or detergent break up that coating, so the virus spills its guts and falls apart.

  • Post a public a cleaning schedule and checklist around common areas like bathrooms and showers. Boaters will be rest assured to know what and when things were cleaned.

  • When not in use, keep washroom doors open to increase airflow, which lowers the likelihood of germs staying stagnate.  

Set Expectations for Guests

Whether your guests are liveaboard, long-term, or transient boaters it's essential to communicate clear expectations. If certain amenities are no longer available, hours of operation changed, or you're operating with reduced staff and so on, make sure to alert boaters as soon as possible. You'll be able to manage the facility more effectively by setting expectations clearly and quickly. 

  • Take advantage of technology while people practice social distancing.

    • Email your boaters with pre-arrival information to set the expectations early on. During their stay send any updates as necessary.

    • Update your website's homepage. Position your message front and center so no one can miss it.

    • Post important information on your social media channels if you have them. We're on our phones and tablets now more than ever — take advantage of that. 

  • Post signs around the commonly used areas of the property to get the message out and about. 

In effort to support marinas in the days ahead, we've put together a collection of strategic, financial, and informative resources. We'll continue to update this page as we develop content and tools to assist/communicate marina updates restrictions due to COVID-19.

Click here to give us your update on your marina.


Example State-wide Marina Recommendations 

We're highlighting Rhode Island below as an example since this state and RIMTA have done well at providing information to assist marine businesses. 

Any person coming to Rhode Island from another state for a non-work-related purpose must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days. This quarantine restriction shall not apply to public health, public safety, or healthcare workers.

As the summer season approaches, many of you have started placing docks, providing boat service to ready vessels to be placed in the water, and installation and preparation of mooring fields. Although these are non-essential and elective, these operations are an important part of our economy and way of life. We are asking that the following measures be utilized so that this work can continue.

In response to the Coronavirus COVID-19 crisis, the State of Rhode Island urges operators of marinas and yacht clubs to adhere to the following parameters to match the health and safety guidance from the CDC:

  1. Yards at marinas and yacht clubs should remain secure so that admittance can be monitored by the owners / operators.
  2. In the event an owner or other persons wish to work on their vessel, they should be cautioned about social distancing and monitored to ensure no groups form. This is important to protect your employees as well.
  3. Any sales at your stores must be curbside pickup only.
  4. Limit use of facilities to seasonal slip holders only. Use of facilities by transients and out of state boaters should be prohibited.
  5. In the event that a vessel arrives at your facility, they must be provided with the Public Health documents being provided to all out of state travelers. They should also be directed to the RI Department of Health website site to fill out the required information. See attached link you can add to your web pages.
  6. Gloves must be worn while pumping out or fueling.
  7. Moorings may be installed and serviced per local harbor management plans.


How can boaters help you out? Email me, fill out our anonymous googleform, or comment below. 

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