Boating Etiquette During COVID-19: Marinas, Fueling & Dockside Dining

boating etiquette during coronavirus at marinas

No matter where or how you enjoy your time aboard a boat, the fact of the matter is that boating during COVID-19 has changed how boaters are expected to behave. The good news is that aside from avoiding raft-ups and crowded beaches, once you cast off the lines and head for open water, you can forget all about masks, disinfectants, and the six-foot rule—seeing as boating is a safe, outdoor recreational activity that naturally lends itself to social distancing.

boating in marinas and during coronavirus

But, before you can enjoy that carefree cruise, you’ll likely be on the docks, at the fuel pump, or maybe at a waterfront restaurant at one time or another. And in each of those places, different circumstances call for different actions.

Boating During COVID-19: Tips for Safe Social Distancing


What to Expect at Marinas and on Dock

“Marinas and other boating businesses are taking COVID-19 seriously, understanding that they are essential to making boating a safe activity for families this summer,” says Eric Kretsch, legislative and outreach coordinator for the Association of Marina Industries.

And what Eric says is echoed throughout the industry: we know that boating is a great way to have endless fun while staying a million miles away from COVID concerns, and everyone wants to keep it that way.

In fact, the Association of Marina Industries has developed an entire COVID-19 Resources Guide, which includes information for marinas on important practices like:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing bathrooms, work surfaces, and “high touch” areas;
  • Sanitizing pumpout facilities;
  • Limiting equipment operators to a single designated person;
  • Limiting boat rentals to one party per day;
  • Encouraging electronic tipping.

What Can You Do to Stay Safe in Public Boating Areas?

No matter how conscientious a marina operator and staff may be, it’s still incumbent upon all of us to use some simple, new etiquette when we enter that marina, pull up to that fuel dock, or go to that dockside restaurant.

Naturally, maintaining the recommended social distancing six-foot distance and adhering to local face covering rules applies no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Beyond that let’s consider what boaters should think about in each type of area, one by one.


  • If you need to enter a marina office, stop at the door and look for signs posting the latest regulations. Depending what area you’re in and how marina management is handling things, there may be restrictions on how many people are allowed into the office at the same time, face covering requirements, or even the need to make an appointment.
  • Some marinas may request that you wear face coverings while on marina property, right up until you cast off the lines. In any case be sure to keep a face covering on hand, so you have it if and when it’s needed.
  • Be courteous when on the docks. This may mean waiting to step onto the dock until someone headed in the other direction has stepped off, or in some cases you may want to divert course onto a finger pier for a moment or two, to allow others to pass.
  • When pulling into a marina by water, be sure to have your VHF radio turned on to allow communications from a distance (most marinas monitor channel 9 and will direct you to a “working” channel, for further communications).
  • If you’re helping someone with lines or getting help with your own, either toss the lines or use a boat hook to hand them off, rather than leaning up close.

Fuel Docks

boating safety while fueling
  • Wear gloves when handling the pump and lines, and for additional protection, disinfect with hand sanitizer immediately after fueling.
  • Stay on your boat and wait for the attendant to ring you up and run your card, rather than stepping onto the dock.
  • In some cases the marina may have shifted to taking credit card payments by phone. This works well, but if you’re communicating with the marina attendants via VHF, you certainly shouldn’t give your credit card number over the radio—everyone else can hear it, too.
  • Tip the dock attendant electronically (many of the young dock attendants hired as summer help have Venmo).

Dockside Restaurants

It’s difficult to generalize about etiquette at dockside restaurants, because if they’re open then your area probably has guidelines specifically established for the locality. Making yourself aware of what these guidelines are and adhering to them is the best practice.

  • When you return to your boat, disinfect with hand sanitizer.
  • When possible, avoid using the public restrooms and instead use the boat’s facilities, if your boat has a head.
  • Look for signs posted on the pilings of restaurant slips and at the entrances that advise you of the local rules or requests specific to the establishment, and respect them.
  • Consider getting carry out instead of dining in. Who wouldn’t love having a picnic aboard the boat, anyway?
  • If your area restaurants are closed or operating with reduced hours, check out 5 Tips For Cooking on a Boat and prepare your own awesome meal aboard.

Always Remember to #RecreateResponsibly

If you’re not a big fan of following rules like these, that’s okay. Nobody really “likes” the inconveniences caused by coronavirus; but we do need to remember that for a short period of time, boating was shut down in many states and localities, and many marinas were temporarily closed. We certainly don’t want to see that happen again.

One goal we all share is getting out on the water and having fun, and if following this new boating etiquette means that the marinas, fuel docks, and dockside restaurants can all stay open, it’s a small price to pay.

Read Next: Boat Rentals & Boat Clubs: What To Know During COVID-19

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