Skip to content

Revisiting the Question: Should We Be Sailing?

Here’s a tough question from a reader: “Could Latitude 38 help clarify the guidelines for the stay-at-home order?” The questioner goes on to say, “The City of Alameda and their police department have no guidelines to follow. In fact, I think the city government just realized that there are thousands of boats that call Alameda home.” With the authority vested in Latitude 38 (which is none), we say “maybe.”

Another comment we’ve seen: “I have carefully read the new version of Marin County’s Shelter in Place Order dated March 31. Section 13.a.iii describes permissible outdoor recreation activity as follows: “To engage in outdoor recreation activity, including, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, bicycling, and running, in compliance with Social Distancing Requirements and with the following limitations…”

The only limitation that may apply to sailing is 13.a.iii.4: “4. Sports or activities that include the use of shared equipment may only be engaged in by members of the same household or living unit.”

Here are our thoughts: Whoever has the unfortunate job of providing these guidelines is as confused as the rest of us. Medical professionals are collecting data and updating guidance faster than any of us can type or read. With this in mind, we don’t think everyone should be thinking, “Is there a ‘loophole’ for sailing? Fishing? Kayaking?” We should all be thinking, “What’s the most important thing to do right now?” To us, that is to support our medical professionals, first responders, neighbors and nation.

We can’t imagine everyone’s unique situation with their sailboat, so we do think it’s possible you can sail or work on your boat. Think about it in the same way you might go for a bike ride, or if working on your boat is like working in your back yard. If you live on your sailboat, as many people do, you are sheltering in place whether you do it in your slip or in Clipper Cove.

Sunny San Francisco Bay sailing
Sunny San Francisco Bay sailing will be back before you know it.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

That said, we think people should be thinking about the ‘spirit’ of the guidance rather than the letter of the law. Our public servants, doctors, nurses and hospitals are straining under the looming threat. They’re asking us all to take a break for just a few weeks. It’s sunny, it’s springtime, and it’s frustrating. Yet nobody wants to put more strain on those who are charged with our care or whose care we may need. It’s interesting to note that the Craneway Pavilion, where we were all to be attending the Pacific Sail & Power Boat Show in a couple of weeks, is currently being repurposed as a medical station for COVID-19 patients.

As we reminded readers in a ‘Lectronic Latitude earlier in the week, this may just be a time where we experience what sailors in Wisconsin, New York and Maine go through every off-season. We’d rather temporarily take a break than go through what New York is going through right now. We are as anxious as anyone to resume life as normal and get out sailing. However, we’re going to leave it to sailors to make their own decisions based on the best guidance of the day, to live by the intent of the guidance, and to put nation and neighbor first.

We recently heard this under a headline about being ‘tone-deaf’, that David Geffen, who bought Larry Ellison’s megayacht, shared with his 87,000 Instagram followers his escape to the Grenadines on his $590 million yacht to avoid the coronavirus pandemic. The posts created such a backlash among his shocked followers that he has since made his account private.

We all need fresh air, sunshine and exercise to stay healthy. We may need to check on our boats. Perhaps we can go sailing alone or with members of our own households. But just be conscious of the bigger world around us. And don’t post it on Instagram.

Did we clarify anything? We offer it as our opinion and are sure there are others. Be safe and healthy and we’ll see you on the Bay soon enough.


  1. Kimberly Paternoster 4 years ago

    I called the Coast Guard last week and asked them this exact question. They told me they follow the laws of the state, and the state didn’t have a problem with us sailing. So, they didn’t think it was a problem as long as everyone on the boat was from the same household. So, we sail. Every weekend.

  2. Greg Clausen 4 years ago

    Shelter in place sailing? I think everyone should stay away from other people unless you already together like a family of husband and wife, I think that would be OK if you can do it where you are not a risk to yourself or others, Solo sailors too. I like Californias guidelines even thou I think they should be stricter.

  3. Ed Hughes 4 years ago

    I’m for staying home, in the essence of solidarity for first responders and the great healthcare community who are are army in this situation.

  4. Linda Newland 4 years ago

    Same situation up here in WA. If you ask about sailing or boating the official reply is Stay at Home. Gov has suspended all but commercial fishing licenses and have told people the govt does not want us on the water to pose a health hazard to potential rescuers if we have an emergency or to burden the already overworked health care system should we get injured. Still some are going boating. We are staying home and looking forward to summer cruising once our mandatory restrictions are lifted. Renewal of Stay at Home takes us up to May 4 then reconsidered.

  5. Bob Walden 4 years ago

    I checked with some of the county health departments and they were uniformly I impressed with the idea of sailing for exercise or the need to check on boats. They said: “read it again, stay at home, if you don’t understand, consult an attorney.” Yes, they said attorney.

    My only other input here is that while I believe solo or family sailing is fine, we need to make sure we stay safe and don’t rely on vessel assist , USCG or other first responders. They’re busy. And if someone winds up needing a rescue which requires assets be pulled away from something critical, then yes they will lock up the marinas.

  6. John Arndt 4 years ago

    San Diego has just closed San Diego Bay as of noon today:

  7. Dale Land 4 years ago

    I believe if you follow the direction of this directive, 13.a.iii.4: “4. Sports or activities that include the use of shared equipment may only be engaged in by members of the same household or living unit.”, and/or Section 13.a.iii which describes permissible outdoor recreation activity as follows: “To engage in an outdoor recreation activity, including, by way of example and without limitation, walking, hiking, bicycling, and running, (add “sailing” here) IN COMPLIANCE WITH SOCIAL DISTANCING REQUIREMENTS AND WITH THE FOLLOWING LIMITATIONS…”…………If I get in my car at home (& in the garage?), drive to the marina, (which is closed to normal activity in adjacent office buildings, etc.) get out of my car and walk to my boat, shove off and enjoy a day of “social distance sailing” in a safe and mindful manner we are not only safe we are engaged in smart and beneficial mental health practices. Once you return to the marina and are ready to leave, or if after working on your boat, follow the same procedure in reverse, go home and do not stop or pass go!

  8. Steve Hajnal 4 years ago

    The notice of closure says *recreational boating is prohibited. My boating is always for mental wellness purposes so… ?
    Not sure if I’d need to carry a note from my doctor onboard.

  9. isargin 4 years ago

    San Mateo County Harbor posted this message on facebook, and closed the parking in the Pillar Point harbor/ marina, as fas as I know:
    “If you’re getting in your car to go to the beach, you are not following the Shelter in Place Order”
    They allow cycling/walking etc as long as it’s within 5 miles of your residence, so even if I tried to bicycle from Redwood City to my boat in Berkeley, I’d be in breach of San Mateos rules.

  10. Mike Maynard 4 years ago

    San Diego Harbor Police is enforcing the “shelter in place” notice to restricting boating access to the ocean. The “shelter in place” order, allows for individuals to be outside (recreational purposes, use of personal transportation) provided you are with immediate family members or maintaining social distancing. There is no legal basis for restricting access to the channel/ ocean, but they don’t seem to care.

Leave a Comment

Latitude in New Zealand
Despite the slow, grinding boredom, fear and uncertainty, the world is still beautiful. We offer you some eye candy for your day.
A Quiet Time on the Coast
Harbor's quiet, crabbers are pulling and storing pots. Most are pulled. Everyone is safe distancing. The main bathrooms are closed.
Schedule Updates
The latest cancellation to drop into our inbox is the Master Mariners Regatta. "With so many competitive boats in the fleet, it is with heavy hearts the Board has decided to cancel the Regatta."
Adapting Race Prep
The last hundred days leading up to the Pacific Cup are usually a hive of activity as competitors are busy preparing their boats, getting inspected, and training.