With lockdown likely to continue and the Easter weather ever improving the question on many of our minds is whether or not we are allowed to get out on the water or in fact visit our boats during lockdown.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA), the National Body for dinghy, yacht and motor cruising has issued some guidance for recreational boating within the UK and in order to follow the clear message published by the Government, STAY HOME – PROTECT THE NHS – SAVE LIVES, advises strongly against undertaking any form of recreational water based activity during this time. In order to follow this guidance themselves and send a clear message to their affiliated clubs and schools they have also taken the difficult to decision to suspend all its directly organised events and training until at least the 31st May 2020.
During normal life many of us regularly undertake activities such as yacht or dinghy sailing, motor cruising, kayaking or Watersports as our form of exercise, however during these unprecedented times these activities are best avoided. The Government is still allowing the population to leave the house for regular exercise, however has advised this should be undertaken local to home and within the rules of Social Distancing, something that is very difficult to achieve on most watercraft.
Many Harbour Authorities have issued their own guidance and additional regulations with regard to recreational boating also. The Queens Harbour Master, Portsmouth has issued a Local Notice to Mariners stating they are continuing to maintain an open port in order to protect defence output and commercial activity, whilst fully supporting the guidance from the RYA with regard to recreational boating. Many leisure facilities within Portsmouth Harbour are now closed. You can find out what your local harbour guidance is by visiting their website.
Can I go down to my boat during Lockdown to check on it?
The Government has advised Marinas to close as far as possible in line with caravan parks and campsites, however due to the nature of marina operations are not specifically required to under the regulations. This being said most marinas have now closed to berth holders and visitors. Marinas continue to open running on often a skeleton staff in order to keep a check on berth holders vessels and offer a service to commercial vessels and the emergency services. Many marinas are offering to undertake additional checks on your vessels for you including lines, fenders, checking bilges. An email or phone call to your marina will be able to confirm what they are able to offer you during these times.
What would happen if I went out and needed to be rescued?
Whatever you’re chosen water based activity normally is, there is now additional concern for what would happen should something go wrong. We all know things don’t always go to plan on the water and there is always a chance we will need the assistance of other boat users, commercial shipping or the emergency services themselves. The Emergency Services are under unseen immense pressure during these times and we all have a responsibility to help reduce the pressure on them. Whilst lifeboats are still on-call they again still have to adhere to the Social Distancing rules as far as practical, which is no easy feat whilst undertaking a rescue. Some lifeboats are taking on additional responsibilities using their volunteers and assets to support their local communities. The Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (GAFIRS) based at Stokes Bay, Gosport has been manning its Rescue Land Rover with a volunteer crew each day collecting and delivering emergency medications to the community, whilst still maintaining 24/7 on-call service to HM Coastguard.
Whilst the frustration ever grows, especially during this period of perfect weather for many water based activities, the message remains clear, STAY HOME – PROTECT THE NHS – SAVE LIVES.