DEFRA rules on recreational boating

British Marine says it has been seeking clarity from the UK Government on how the new lockdown will impact the leisure marine sector. The good news is you can use your boat for recreational purposes.

But according to British Marine, DEFRA officials have stated they do not consider private individuals visiting their boats for maintenance, or winterisation purposes, as an essential activity. But, DEFRA has confirmed a member of the public can pay a business to maintain their boat on their behalf during the lockdown.

DEFRA officials told British Marine that no sector specific guidance would be produced and instead, individual businesses should interpret and comply with high level government guidance already published.

DCMS has now confirmed that recreational boating can be part of an outdoor exercise regime either alone, with 1 other person, or within your household or bubble, with guidance stating:There is no restriction on the type of activity you can do when exercising, provided that you are within the permitted gathering limits. All forms of water sports practised on open waterways, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing, paddle-boarding and the use of privately owned motorised craft (in line with the guidance issued by the relevant navigation authority) are allowed provided that the guidance on social distancing is observed.” However, British Marine advises checking with local marinas, navigation authorities and clubs beforehand.

British Marine says it will seek clear unambiguous guidance but until that is forthcoming, current interpretation of the regulations is as follows:

Private individuals can use their boats for exercise and therefore deliver their vessel to a boatyard for maintenance or winterisation.  However, current DEFRA guidance does not allow the boat owner to visit their vessel  to conduct maintenance themselves.

Areas of industry where workers cannot work from home can stay open with Covid-19 secure protocols in place. This allows boatyards to provide maintenance and winterisation services.

Chandleries and other non-essential retail need to close but can continue with click and collect and delivery services.

Passenger vessel operations (unless being used for essential transport), charters and hire boat operations need to stop operations.

Brokerage and boat showrooms need to close to the public. The regulations specifically say ‘Showrooms and other premises, including outdoor areas, used for the sale or hire of caravans, boats or any vehicle which can be propelled by mechanical means, and car washes’ should close. The restrictions do not prevent such businesses from remaining open to respond to orders or order queries either through a website or otherwise by on-line communication, by telephone or by post.

Marinas can remain open, however, no overnight stays are allowed on boats except for residential berth holders (where the boat is their primary residence) or for business purposes. Toilets and showers can remain open for site users. For the above reasons, access and access control systems may remain open however, marinas should remind their berth holders to adhere to government rules for England requiring people to stay at home, except for specific purposes.

“Whilst the current lockdown has seen many more businesses continue to stay open, there are still many who need further information over the exemptions and of course the continued financial support packages provided by government,” says Lesley Robinson, British Marine CEO. 

“We will continue to support and represent the best interests of these businesses throughout the pandemic. The British Marine coronavirus hub, which is accessible to all, will be updated with the very latest advice, together with business support tools and further guidance.”

14 responses to “DEFRA rules on recreational boating”

  1. andre Robson says:

    other than not staying overnight
    marine staff doing maintenance
    doing my own maintenance should be allowed.
    taking a vessel out could be restricted by tides and marina decisions declaring the police have told them to close the marina, debatable
    the use of recreational vessels is not clear enough.

  2. Ian Barrett says:

    I’m trying to run a boat club. We want to comply with the lockdown. There is no difference between a contractor doing the maintenance or the owner. Please can someone give clear direction. If we are told to close then we will.

  3. Jeffrey Davies says:

    While maritime law states that a vessel must be maintained by the owner so still no clear issue for us from all

  4. stuart mclellan says:

    Once again the Westminster government shows little understanding of how things really are for ordinary folk.
    Lately mental health has rightly become a central issue for the NHS and for society as a whole. Many boaters afford their hobby by doing as much of the maintenance themselves (do they realise how much a marine engineer costs)?
    For many of us going down to the boat and doing a bit of tidying/tinkering/maintenance is a huge part of our enjoyment in owning a boat. It is good for our mental health.
    I spend a few hours on my boat just “messing about”. Mostly I see no one so there is no social distancing to worry about.
    We all want to do our bit to get through the pandemic but it seems to me that messing about on your boat must be one of the safest things you can do.

  5. dawn webster says:

    how daft you can take boat to a yard for maintanace but can not do it yourself

  6. Nigel Padbury says:

    So I can spread the disease by visiting a boatyard and ask a 3rd party to get my engine serviced but I can’t do a simple filter change on my own and on my own mooring !
    It may be clear but it makes no sense.

  7. Derek Bracey says:

    A large majority of boat owners carry out their own boat maintanence and repairs which includes winterisation and sea worthiness Typical DEFRA decision what difference will it make who carries out these operations Marinas are too busy at this time of year and too costly Please have a re think
    Kind regards to all
    Derek Bracey

    al DEFRA to say they will not be able to carry out these operations

  8. John says:

    Shocking; dont see my marina monthly Bill reduced or free months back with restricting my access to my vessel & use.

  9. bill says:

    Working on your boat alone with no one in the boat except you can only be good for your mental health not every one can afford sum one to do the work.
    I am struggling to cope with this lock down doing stuff on my boat was helping me to cope

  10. Tina Stanlake says:

    Our historic wooden boat suffered during the first lockdown and we’re worried about what condition she’ll be in after more weeks without vital maintenance which we do ourselves. The idea that we can take her out for a sail but not varnish, fix caulking or replace a bilge pump ourselves (but can pay someone else to do) is ludicrous.

  11. Richard says:

    Usual total lack of appreciation of the situation by a minority leads to complete confusion for the majority. Only 3 weeks to go and the lockdown will be lifted. Keep smiling.

  12. John says:

    When asked just say your testing your eye sight. If your allowed to sail this normally takes some preparation which might involve some kind of maintenance, who will decide what is and what is not if the copper does not know anything about boats.?

  13. BRIAN Milner says:

    These rules are obviously being made by individuals who haven,t a clue about boating. I do not live near the coast, infact it is a 2/3 hr 100+mls drive each way. I have to leave very early to avoid works traffic. This time of the year has very short daylight.
    I can go for a sail and then have to drive back for a further 2/3 hrs.No overnight stay. What is an essential journey? A couple of hours sailing?
    Great , can,t service my engine but can engage 3rd parties who are visiting other vessels and obtaining parts( assume they are immune to the the virus and are not carriers and wearing face masks/gloves)
    The safety of my vessel is MY responsibility and the Marina have no duty to ensure that the moorings are adequate.Or access to the vessel.
    I present NO risk to other parties as I have zero contact.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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