Whether this is your first or fifth year of boating, we all have one thing in common: a love for the water. This summer so far has seen a veritable boom of activity from local lakes to bays and the ocean. That’s why it’s all the more important that we recreate responsibly—because fun boating and safe boating go hand-in-hand.
Get outside and enjoy the restorative benefits of being on the water, but follow these guidelines to keep the water open and safe not just now, but for generations to come.
1. Know Before You Go
With local and state COVID-19 guidance continuing to change, some places on your must-visit list could see changes in access and travel restrictions. Check the status before you leave.
Similarly, if an anchorage or destination is crowded when you arrive, have a Plan B. Regardless, pack essentials like hand sanitizers and face coverings.
Basic Boating Etiquette During COVID-19
2. Keep Your Distance
Social distancing on the water means boating solely with household members or those in your quarantine circle, and staying six feet apart at the fuel dock or launch ramp. Additionally, some marina offices, dockside eateries or shops may limit the number of people allowed inside at one time, so read postings before entering.
For more information, read our complete safety guide on Boating During COVID-19: Tips for Safe Social Distancing.
3. No Rafting Up
Speaking of keeping your distance, tying boats together during the pandemic is just too risky. As an alternative to rafting up or beaching up together, consider cruising with one or two other boats, with everyone staying on their own craft. It’s the waterborne version of setting up lawn chairs six feet apart.
4. Be Considerate to Others—Cover Up
Since marinas, restaurants, and shops may request or require face coverings, keep some handy onboard. Even bandanas will work in a pinch.
5. Don't Forget Your Life Jacket
Regulations vary by state, but children under 16 and all watersports riders should wear a life jacket on the water. Fit and assign a life jacket to everyone on board.
Life Jackets, Vests & PFDs: How to Find the Right Fit
6. Ride Dry, Drive Dry—Boat Sober
Operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal. Boats don't have brakes—and you may encounter hidden obstacles. Be smart, and always assign a Sober Skipper.
7. Get Familiar with Boating Basics
Before you head out on the water, consider taking a boating education course. New boaters and experienced experts alike need to be familiar with the boating rules of the road. Boating safety courses are offered locally, inexpensive, and can often be done in a day, in-person, or online.
Visit our Boating Courses, Education and Training page to learn more and find local courses near you.
8. Practice Clean Boating—Leave No Trace
Respect the water, and take your garbage back to the marina or your home, disposing of it properly. Also make sure face coverings don’t fly overboard and into the water.
Clean and Green, Eco-Friendly Boating Tips
9. Swim Only in Designated Areas
Areas are marked accordingly for a host of reasons, including sanitation and water quality, rip currents, dangerous surf, and submerged objects.
10. Keep an Eye on the Weather
Monitor marine weather channels, since thunderstorms or strong winds can materialize suddenly. Head to the nearest safe shore if you see bad weather approaching.
Learn more in Weather Safety for Boaters.
Read Next: The Ultimate Boating Safety Guide
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