NASBLA Roundtable

COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

Anonymous Member04-02-2020 10:42 AM

  • 1.  COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Reporting Project
    Posted 04-01-2020 08:54 AM
    Edited by Cody Jones 04-01-2020 09:18 AM
    With the arrival of COVID-19 and social distancing we're sure to see an impact on our waterways. We've seen reports of recent state waterway closures or restrictions to recreational boating after seeing increases in waterway use in Florida, Maryland, and Washington.

    In our latest episode of NASBLA's podcast - Between the Waves - I offers some food for thought as we enter this different world on the water and I'm hoping we can extend the conversation here.

    What's going on in your area?  Are you seeing increases in waterway use as folks no longer have to be at work and school? Have waterways been closed to boating?  Or are authorities encouraging boating but from a safe social distance?  What impacts do you see to this year's boating season? Are we going to see more people pick up a cheap kayak at a big box store and try paddling for the first time? If you're a sworn law enforcement officer, are you being assigned other duties related to COVID-19?

    NASBLA's podcast - Between the Waves - is now available on iTunes and Google Play.

    Stay safe out there.

    Cody Jones
    Boating Law Administrator
    Asst. Commander Game Warden
    Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

    Texas Game Wardens Serving Texans since 1895 - Law Enforcement off the Pavement

  • 2.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    CRBP Commissioner
    Posted 04-01-2020 03:16 PM
    We just worked our 2nd Kyak fatality yesterday on calm water. 6 1/2 ft of water and a young Male. No life jacket. No plans as of now to close parks or bodies of water. Some Sheriff's are closing county owned areas which in a way makes those wanting to go out move to bigger bodies of water. We are exploring ways for new boat operators to be on the water without a temporary boat registration while offices are on shut down or limited exposure to the public.

    Dan Hesket
    KS Dept of Wildlife & Parks

  • 3.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 09:53 AM

    Thank you for bringing these very important considerations to the forefront of maritime safety news. Sealite sends our best wishes for safety and good health to all of you dealing with the public.



    Kind regards/Cordialement,



    Kim Weeks

    Marketing Manager for the Americas


    Sealite USA, LLC

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  • 4.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 10:10 AM

    Can you report water temp? Is a more detailed account available?



  • 5.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Reporting Project
    Posted 04-01-2020 03:29 PM
    With the influx of boaters in Texas, I thought of proposing to the Governors Office that in their next Executive Order they should mandate life jacket wear to help reduce the risk and necessity that officers spend unusual amounts of time on the water and risk exposure.

    Cody Jones
    Boating Law Administrator
    Asst. Commander Game Warden
    Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.

    Texas Game Wardens Serving Texans since 1895 - Law Enforcement off the Pavement

  • 6.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 08:18 AM
    Makes perfect sense to me! The last thing we need is time consuming searches with groups of our LE and emergency services personnel looking for people on the water who weren't wearing Lifejackets or practicing safe operations. Actually this could apply to all activities- we don't need any mishaps on top of what is happening now with the availability of our EMS men and women. Special rules for many activities with people who are out and about for various reasons seem in order! Law makers should give it some thought.

    Virgil Chambers
    Boating and Water Safety Consultant

  • 7.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-03-2020 12:23 PM
    regarding mandating PFDs, that's overdue for rowers in racing shells. The fact that kids in inherently unstable boats are allowed to row without them is a dangerous loophole in federal regs. Now is as good a time as any to start closing it.

    Marc Messing

  • 8.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-03-2020 04:05 PM
    Our team is receiving much the same communication from boaters that Chris Edmonston describes. There is confusion on whether boating is permitted, and if so what the rules are. Some of the guidance from LE speaks to powerboating, but the paddlers are not sure how to interpret it: FL for example - maintaining 50' between vessels (is that for paddlecraft too?). We are seeing a fair amount of peer pressure in the dozens of boating groups we monitor on social media. In many cases, boaters are posting pictures in locations where it is still legal to boat, and they are being admonished for not considering that LE needs to allocate their assets to land based COVID-19 management, instead of monitoring or possibly rescuing a boater. With the lack of public outreach events, we are using different pipelines to reach recreational boaters with our safety messaging. Our biggest fear is an influx of first time boaters who are launching without any awareness to safety.

    Our team is very encouraged by the positive synergy in our RBS community. We are identifying similar challenges nationwide and will work together to mitigate injuries and fatalities on our waterways. Agree with Chris on his Shelter in Place solution, unfortunately we will have boaters who will ignore that even when it is a violation.

    Peg Phillips
    National Safe Boating Council

  • 9.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 07:50 AM
    Good Morning BLA friends.  I hope you are all well and sane in these trying times.  Here in south Louisiana boaters are flocking to the water as a way to get outside and get away from people.  There have been some instances of large gatherings in various areas, and that concerns me, but boating and paddling in general seem like a good way to get some activity in a responsible way.  I have been doing a bit of both myself.  From the D8 briefs, we have seen an increase in recreational boating SAR cases.  It's likely due to the seasonal increase in boating activity.

    Boating specific social media is absolutely ​abuzz with discussion on the topic.  Folks are worried that their boating and paddling activities are going to be prohibited.  My greatest concern is congregations of boaters.  If we have the resources to prevent large gatherings, then I am in favor of keeping waterways open.

    Dan mentioned some paddler fatalities.  Just yesterday I watched two paddle boarders without PFDs struggle against very light winds on Lake Pontchartrain.  Had a southerly breeze picked up and pushed them offshore, it could have been bad.  From watching them I got the sense that they weren't very experienced.  I saw them make it back to the harbor entrance.  They alternately paddled standing, kneeling and even laid on the boards and paddled with their hands.

    I am working from home with limited access to official bandwidth.  If any of you need anything feel free to call me on my cell at 504-202-8948.

    Paul Barnard
    8th District RBS Specialist
    US Coast Guard

  • 10.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 11:57 AM
    I'd like to echo Paul's concerns - from my perspective, we definitely see a larger volume of recreational boating traffic probably due to several reasons (nice weather, affordable fuel prices, cabin fever, keeping kids/family busy, etc.).  Last week, social media blew up in reference to a cluster of vessels in several locations.  Some local authorities are threatening to close the waterways while others are in favor of boating from a safe distance.  The public has mixed emotions: some understand that the Executive Order is in the best interest of public safety, but others misinterpret it as an infringement on their rights.

    So far, the month-to-date numbers in Louisiana for boating incidents, injuries and fatalities are higher than the past couple of years.  I'm sure we all have some major concerns for the boating community's direction in 2020.  To assist in education, we published a news release encouraging boaters to take the online version.

    For the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, our Agency's assets have been stretched across the state as new duties and responsibilities present themselves.  I like Cody's Executive Order idea, I hope it's approved so lives are saved.

    Stay safe guys!​

    Clay Marques
    LA Dept of Wildlife & Fisheries

  • 11.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 08:23 AM
    Virginia just shut down all beaches except for fishing and exercise. Boating is allowed as long as there in no more than 10 people on the boat. We will end up with a fair amount of boats pulled up on sandbars as the weather warms up. Our instructions are that once the gathering exceeds 10 people we are to order them to disperse, while we maintain our distance. Paddle sports and the lack of use of PFDs continues to be an issue.

    It has been out practice to operate agency vessels with two or more officers on board. Now with Covid-19 that has been the exception.

    Henry Reichle
    Marine Police Officer
    Virginia Marine Police

  • 12.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 10:51 AM
    Here in MD the Governor shut down all recreational boating with the exception of canoe/kayek etc. that are used for exercise. Recreational fishing is allowed from a boat for sustenance. (I see a huge rise in fishing rod sales in the State.) Our officers are still performing our mandated mission however we are deeply involved with many ancillary duties related to general public safety. These duties change almost daily.

    MD Logo.png

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    Major, Charles Vernon

    State Boating Law Administrator

    Field Operations Bureau 2, Chief

    Central & Western Regions

    Natural Resources Police

    580 Taylor Avenue

    Annapolis, MD 21401

    410-260-8883 (office)

    240-682-2321 (cell)

  • 13.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-03-2020 09:19 AM
    There are A LOT of angry Marylanders who wish to go boating...So many think the rules aren't logical. I can fish from my boat, but I can't just putter around...Charter boats can take 10 people out who could be anyone from anywhere. Can't go fishing if the ramp is closed--so only 'the rich' who live on the water can go out...
    Personally I'm all for SHELTERING IN PLACE. I can skip boating if it keeps people safer. I would like to see MDNR talk more about the ancillary duties going on--people just don't understand how this is impacting LE, and why it's important to free up officer's time.

    Chris Edmonston
    BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety & Clean Water

  • 14.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    This message was posted by a user wishing to remain anonymous
    Posted 04-02-2020 10:42 AM
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  • 15.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-02-2020 10:48 AM

    Fishing, Other Outdoor Activities, Are Permitted Activities Under Governor's Executive Order in Maine

    AUGUSTA, Maine -- Engaging in outdoor exercise, such as fishing, hunting, hiking, boating, walking, running, are permitted activities under the executive order issued by Governor Mills yesterday, as long as people continue to follow social distancing guidelines.

    "Getting outside to go fishing, hiking, canoeing, scouting for a hunt, or other outdoor activities are essential to not only your physical health, but your mental health as well, particularly during these difficult times," said Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Judy Camuso. "The governor and I continue to encourage people to get outdoors, but to do as close to home as possible and in strict adherence to physical distancing requirements. While it is important for your mental health to get outside, it is also important to do so safely."

    In Governor Mills' Executive order 28 FY19/20, it specifically states that "Engaging in outdoor exercise activities, such as fishing, walking, hiking, running or biking," are permitted, "but only in compliance with the gathering restriction in Executive Order FY19/20 and all applicable social distancing guidance published by the US and Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:"

    Outdoor activities that are allowed include (but are not limited to) the following: Hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, boating, trapping, birding, canoeing, smelting, kayaking, fiddleheading, hiking, snowmobiling, and ATVing.

    Let me know if you need me to define "fiddleheading"........:)

    John Fetterman
    Deputy Executive Director

  • 16.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-03-2020 09:43 AM
    The phones at BoatU.S. are ringing off the hook with people complaining about boating restrictions. I personally don't get why people can't just sit their butts at home for a few weeks, but they are calling. Looking at Facebook and boating websites there is a HUGE amount of frustration from people trying to figure out what's going on, and why there are restrictions. And there's plenty of people (perhaps a vocal minority) that are pledging civil disobedience and outright defiance of the emergency regulations.
    some problems I see...
    • There is a wide array of rules and regs across the states, and even within states--with certain municipalities emplacing their own restrictions.
    • The rules and regs are VERY fluid and change often.
    • There are boaters attempting to move their boat from A to B or transit up the Atlantic ICW in particular, that are essentially stranded because of marina closures or waterway restrictions. 
    • Some states list marine-related businesses as essential, others do not. 
    • Access to ramps is all over the place.
    • some particular regulations are hard to explain. (In MD, one can take a boat out and go fishing, but can't do other boating activities.) 
    • Some see this as favoring the rich waterfront owners who don't need a marina or ramp to get on the water. 

    As states get deeper into shelter-in-place restrictions, people are going to become more stir-crazy and those with access to water will want to go out, and if they cannot I think we'll see many people simply break the law and go anyway. Things that aren't being explained well...
    • Municipalities don't want to put staff at risk by servicing marinas/ramps or rescuing boaters. 
    • Marine patrol officers are doing other things to address the COVID pandemic.
    • As most people have a trailerable boat, seeing people pull their boats down the road sends a bad message to the general population, especially where there are shelter-in-place rules.
    • obviously raft-ups, as seen recently in Florida, give boating a bad image.

    Things that would help...
    • Rules affecting recreational boating should mirror other forms of recreation--if I can walk around my local park with my family, I should be able to go on the water--and not just on a paddlecraft. 
    • Municipalities be a little more proactive in explaining what their officers are doing differently because of the pandemic, and why reducing boating helps them. 
    • I'd avoid additional restrictions such as mandatory life jacket wear. 
    • Hard to do--but it would be great if there were uniform guidelines from municipality to municipality/state to state.

    When asked, we are encouraging people to be patient and stay at home, and to always comply with regulations--that's the quickest way to get things back to normal...

    Chris Edmonston

    Chris Edmonston
    BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety & Clean Water

  • 17.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-03-2020 06:37 PM
    Thank you all for the interesting insights in this thread. I'm sure many of you have seen this recent incident in Malibu.

    To be sure, there is a standing order to not be out on the beach in CA.. We get it. However, we consider the response to be excessive.  How many LE's were potentially put at risk over one guy on a paddleboard?  All of them, in our opinion.

    The American Watercraft Association's position is: If you take the prescribed precautions, handle the launch at the ramp quickly if applicable, and operate away from other watercraft, there are few better places to practice social distancing than by boating with your immediate household.

    Personal watercraft owners are already required to wear a life jacket at all times, though I understand the valid concerns with other boaters not being required to. There is no reason why folks, with common sense, should be banned from operating their boats in a safe and prudent manner, following all protocols.

    We recognize there are the 5 percent of boaters, who should never have a boating card to begin with. That's who LEs deal with almost exclusively.  It's not unprecedented in any respect to advise citizens that in some circumstances there will be no service.

    The impacts of complete bans on boating are incalculable.  Our membership ranges from the wealthy with waterfront homes, to the techs twisting wrenches at the local small business dealer. Perhaps the wealthy can live without boating, but for those working folks in the industry, this is a disaster scarcely imaginable.

    The people can not be kept inside or off the water for long. That's a quick road to mass noncompliance. No one has to explain to any LE where that leads.  

    As such, AWA will encourage our members in the near future to get on the water as a healthy endeavor, just as Mr. Barnard suggests. Plenty of air, sunlight, and exercise away from others. As long as they take precautions, it's social distancing at its best.  

    We cannot crash the economy in general, and our boating economy in particular.  We're all smart and reasonable people. Certainly, there is a balance to be achieved.  Here in Virginia, as Officer Reichle explained, we're still boating as long as we follow the protocols. That's reasonable.

    We have dealers still selling watercraft. We cannot destroy any boating activity, without some forethought.  All of us depend on boat registrations.  I welcome any thoughts on striking a balance, or otherwise.


    Chris Manthos


    American Watercraft Association           


    Chris Manthos
    Executive Director
    American Watercraft Association

  • 18.  RE: COVID-19, Social Distancing & Boating

    Posted 04-04-2020 10:21 AM
    All state-owned boat ramps will remain open unless they reach capacity. Some privately-owned ramps may be closed.  Cannot have more than 10 in your group, wherever you are, and you must stay six feet from others.  Any gatherings exceeding 10 people, we are to order them to disperse, while we maintain a safe distance.  Chairs, tents and umbrellas are currently prohibited on all beaches along the coast and state parks.

    Wanda Roberts
    GA Dept of Natural Resources