Great job California! While we’re far from clear sailing, the efforts made by California citizens are allowing county health departments to adjust shelter-in-place restrictions. As a result, more outdoor work and recreation activities can resume. That includes boating. You are now allowed to go sailing with people you sleep with, i.e. members of your own household, and in compliance with all the other pandemic guidelines of social distance, wearing of masks in public, park closures, etc.
The most challenging aspect of trying to determine what’s legal is sorting out what is right for your county. In San Diego Bay, it was actually illegal to go boating over the last few weeks, and fines were being issued. CBS San Diego reports boating for members of single households is now allowed, but groups on party boats remain illegal.
The City of Berkeley has opened things up, saying it is OK to engage in outdoor recreational 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,” and goes with much more detailed requirements. It does not mention boating or sailing, but it also says ‘shared equipment’, which we think would include a crew on a sailboat, should only be used by members of the same household.
The 29 page Berkeley directive starts with this warning, “Please read this Order carefully. Violation of or failure to comply with this Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. (California Health and Safety Code § 120295 et seq.)” There are ways to get in trouble!
The city of San Francisco addresses watersports more directly, saying you can engage in “swimming, surfing, or paddling in the ocean or lakes; Boating, kayaking, and sculling (but only in craft used solely individuals or if by more than one individual, only by members of one household); Paddleboarding, kitesurfing, and windsurfing (with the individual’s own equipment).”
It does not specifically mention sailing but surely it is included. You can read the full 34-page document here.
We reached out to the Marin County health department COVID-19 response team on Thursday. They were meeting, and got back to us Friday evening with this response, “Outdoor recreation such as swimming, sailing or kayaking in the bay is not prohibited by the Order. Individuals may access the Bay for such outdoor activities but only if they comply with any restrictions on access and use that are established by the Health Officer, another government agency, or other entity that manages such area to reduce crowding and risk of transmission of COVID-19. If you can access the Bay in compliance with the Health Officer Order Directing All Parks to Close to Motorized Access, you can utilize the Bay as you would a park or trail for recreational activities.
“Stay safe and please practice social distancing.”
Other good news is the ability of outdoor contractors to get back to work. If you’ve been wanting to get a rigger or other tradesperson on your boat for repairs it would be fine as long as everyone continues to meet all other aspects of health safety protocols. This is good news for many businesses that have been on hold while sheltering from this storm. Circumstances could vary widely so calling in advance would be wise.
Additionally, public launch ramps are opening back up in the Delta. Check the Delta Chambers website, which also advises calling first. Again rules varied by county as the public launch ramp in Sausalito has been closed but the ramps in Alameda were always open.
Trends are improving but national, state, and county health officials remind us all we should not be complacent. There is an ongoing threat and trends can reverse. We chafe at the restrictions on our life but also are very appreciative that we’re not in the role of drafting or enforcing the legislation needed to overcome this threat. You can expect things to remain fluid and hard to navigate, so it will be necessary to be attentive as regulations and circumstances are subject to change.
We also remind ourselves that the rules are being created in the midst of great uncertainty for our very first pandemic are put in place not to punish us but to keep us all healthy and avoid a major catastrophe. We are excited both to be able to go sailing and to expand our outdoor activities. However, we remain committed to our mutual goal of restoring some semblance of normal life, restoring the economy while avoiding putting first responders and our friends and family in the line of fire of COVID-19.
We look forward to being able to invite our friends and crews back out sailing soon again too.
This article was updated on Saturday morning to add the information from Marin County: “We reached out to the Marin County health department COVID-19 response team on Thursday. They were meeting that evening and got back to us Friday evening with this response, “Outdoor recreation such as swimming, sailing or kayaking in the bay is not prohibited by the Order. Individuals may access the bay for such outdoor activities but only if they comply with any restrictions on access and use that are established by the Health Officer, another government agency, or other entity that manages such area to reduce crowding and risk of transmission of COVID-19. If you can access the bay in compliance with the Health Officer Order Directing All Parks to Close to Motorized Access, you can utilize the bay as you would a park or trail for recreational activities.
“Stay safe and please practice social distancing.”