Updated*** Getting on a boat by yourself or with your immediate family sounds like a pleasant escape from self-isolation and COVID-19. But emergency measures and physical distancing regulations by governments — of all levels — makes this urge to go boating a challenge. Even accessing your stored boat is almost impossible, as most marinas have closed temporarily.
Depending on where you live, use of boat ramps and access to waterways could now be restricted. Meanwhile, some areas have not addressed the problem other than recommending social distancing by 6 feet or 2 metres.
Most boat launches are closed in Nova Scotia, but a Halifax councillor is asking the municipality to reconsider, by reopening some of the ramps for people to get to cottages only accessible by water. Shortly after, Councillor David Hendsbee withdrew his request after it became clear the proposal would not have support from most council colleagues.
In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford issued a Provincial Order to close all outdoor recreational amenities. That meant closing public boat ramps. Launching a boat would have to be on a private ramp and even then, questionable. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters has put some helpful information together about Ontario boat launches — keep in mind this information is subject to change.
The province of Ontario has also requested that people stay at their primary residence, and not go to their cottages or summer homes. This rule is in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to rural areas where medical services and capacities are limited.
On the other end of the range is Michigan. Boaters could go boating with members of their household, then this rule changed on April 10, 2020 prohibiting use of motorboats. Now boating in Michigan is back on.
Data shows that most Michiganders are doing their part by staying home and staying safe. That’s good, but we must keep it up. Social distancing is our best weapon to defeat this enemy. With new COVID-19 cases levelling off, however, we are lifting some of the restrictions put in place in the previous order.Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer
On April 27, 2020, Governor Whitmer removed some restrictions on outdoor activities including use of motorized boats, in the extension of the “Stay home, stay safe” executive order, in effect until May 15. Lobbying by the Michigan Boating Industries Association (MBIA) was likely a factor in the regulation changes.
In her first EO, the Governor recognized boating as a great opportunity for families to safely enjoy the outdoors. To ban motor boating entirely due to a few reports of overcrowding is an over-reaction. Alternatively, those specific boat launches could have been closed and the individuals violating social distancing ticketed.Nicki Polan, MBIA Executive Director
The only constant with social distancing rules is change. The Michigan DNR recently closed the very popular Tippy Dam Recreation area due to social distancing violations by anglers. In parts of Florida and other states, recreational boating was banned due to non-compliance to social distancing orders. On the West coast, recreational fishing has been banned in Washington State.
We recommend that before you plan to get on your boat, be sure to check with local and state governing bodies to ensure you are complying with the rules. That way, you reduce your chance of being fined for non-compliance and you can be part of minimizing the spread of COVID-19 — and help get us all get back on the water.
Stay home and stay safe.