It’s been over a week since the ease of lockdown in England meant boat owners could visit their vessels berthed at marinas and spend time on the water. But while the majority of people are taking care and employing sensible social distancing, some are completely oblivious when moving around marina sites, says Jonathan White, general manager of The Yacht Harbour Association (TYHA).
White says the Sunday announcement was ‘quite a surprise’ but he applauds the hard work put in by marinas so far. Now the challenge is to reiterate the Government guidelines which say boat owners are not allowed to stay on their boats overnight – however far they’ve travelled.
“People are asking why they can’t stay on their boat as a household as they’re effectively isolating, so how could that do any harm?” White says. “But, if the government authorised overnight stays on boats, they’d have to open up second homes and caravans. That’s not going to happen with the continued lockdown in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”
As well as many marinas reporting people trying to stay overnight, there are reports of some marinas experiencing boat-owners ‘gatherings’.
“It’s not for us to police at our marinas,” says Kerry Marriott, MDL’s Head of Operations (Central and Chichester), “but owners who invite other owners and their families onboard are breaking government guidelines. If we see this happening, our teams have been instructed to gently remind people that it’s not allowed.”
“The South Coast is definitely busier and people are actually using their boats – less so when you go east and further north,” says White. “Maybe it’s because of the distance that it takes to drive there. Generally, customers are being sensible and value the opportunity to prepare their boat or use it.”
MDL is managing social distancing in various ways, including only offering bookable slots for fuel so that social distancing is easier. Payment is by card only. But while all marinas are putting protocols in place, it’s up to the boat owners to follow direction.
“We’re very happy to see people and welcome them on site,” says Marriott. “But sometimes their excitement and exuberance lead to people forgetting the basic principles of social distancing – staying 2m apart.
“We will put our staff’s health and safety above everything else so please remember that if you get into any trouble, it’s our staff and the emergency services that could be put at risk. So, we’re asking people to think of visiting our sites as a much prettier way of visiting the supermarket for shopping, where everyone is very careful. Walk slowly, stay distanced and be kind.”
It’s a message with TYHA is proselytising via its members.
“All marinas are communicating with their customers, trying to instil the culture of everyone taking responsibility for doing the right things,” says White. “Our population is used to being looked after by others, so we don’t have a risk-assessing mentality. We’re saying that people need to take precautions themselves, and don’t expect someone has been through and cleaned every surface before you touch it.”
Both Premier Marinas and Boatfolk were asked to comment for this article, but have not responded.</p>
The situation is different across Europe, for example in Turkey where, according to Camper and Nicholson Marinas (CNM), boat owners can only visit if they’re local.
“Rules and regulations around health and safety at Cesme Marina are closely monitored, so we consolidated government advice and implemented further disinfection, cleaning, fire measurement, social distancing, and PPE requirements swiftly,” says Can Akaltan CNM, Marina Manager at Cesme Marina, Turkey.
“The mood is currently cautious considering the prohibitions; however, the demand will increase when the quarantine ban is lifted.
“The sea provides a perfect environment for staying isolated. The negative impact of the pandemic on maintaining social distance will continue for a while in the marine community.”