If you own a boat (or have access long-term boat rentals), consider planning a mini-vacation on-demand or an extended weekend aboard, which can include the best of safe social distancing. It may be slightly different and it may take a bit more planning, but a boating break may be just what you need right now. Review the following, make a plan and then have a great weekend getaway on the water.
1. Rally Your Crew
During these times of COVID-19 and social distancing, it’s important that you go boating only with those people who live with you. Since so many kids have returned from college and some grandparents are sheltering with their extended families, this may include a number of individuals—just remember not to exceed the weight/capacity limits of your boat.
For the best experience, take only the number of people you have sleeping accommodations for when overnighting. You can even buddy boat with another family—just stay on your own vessel.
2. Choose Your Destination
Heading to your favorite island or seaside town may not be possible right now as local populations with limited medical facilities aren’t allowing visitors. No worry though, you can always anchor nearby and enjoy the water without going ashore. It may also be time to explore new coves and anchorages you’ve had on your list or visit an isolated beach by dinghy and go hiking if permitted.
Discover Boating’s Public Water Access Map can help you find locations to go boating in your local community, or check the US Fish & Wildlife Service: State By State Closures.
3. Decide When to Go
There’s not time like the present when your kids are home and your work time is more flexible. If you can work from home, take a laptop and work in the morning and swim in the afternoon and you won’t miss much on the work front. Some towns may have WiFi that will reach out to the anchorage or you can use a hotspot.
4. Plan Your Activities
Point-to-point cruising may be impossible right now, so sailing to a town or island to go to dinner isn’t the point. Instead, focus on teaching your family or yourself new skills such as standup paddle boarding or creative cooking aboard.
Coves make great classrooms (find out 5 Ways to Bring Learning Onboard for the Kids this Summer), so cruise near shore on your dinghy to identify fish and other sea life or checkout underwater plants by snorkeling.
This is a great time to learn better sail trim and smoother anchoring techniques when cruising as a couple so practice new skills or fine-tune existing ones. And if all that seems like a lot of work, just bring that novel you’ve been meaning to crack and relax in solitude (start with these: 10 Best Sailing & Boating Books for Your Reading List).
5. Plan Your Menu
Provisioning is somewhat of an art any time, but it’s particularly important now. The idea is to pack enough for the duration but come back with as little as possible so cleanup after the cruise is easier.
- Make a menu for each day you’ll be out—breakfast, lunch, dinner and happy hour.
- Tuck in some unexpected treats for a pleasant surprise for the crew each day.
- If your boat galley is limited, precook some of the more complex meals to heat and serve later.
- You can also pick up meals to go but beware of the amount of trash that will generate, and think about where you’ll store it and how you’ll dispose of it.
6. Always Remember Safety First
All the usual safety rules apply when you go boating during this time, but here's a few additional factors you'll want to keep in mind:
- On-the-water assistance firms like TowBoatUS and SeaTow are still operating. Bring masks with you in case you need to interact with anyone from a towing responder to a food pick-up provider.
- When overnighting with small children, be sure they can’t get on deck in the dark and unattended and if boating with family members who don’t usually participate, bring along seasickness medicine, just in case.
- You can even visit with other boating friends in the same anchorage. Just stay in your dinghy and keep a safe distance between your crowd and theirs.
- If your boat requires launching via a boat ramp, check that it’s open and what restrictions/procedures may be in place at this time.
- The same applies when fueling before or after your trip. Cruising sailboats don’t consume much fuel so if you can leave refueling for another time, do so.
7. Don't Forget About Clean Up
Rinsing the decks after an outing, especially when in saltwater, is important so hose down and clean the boat a usual. If you share the boat with friends or want to loan it to extended family, take care to wipe down all surfaces inside and out (on a shared boat, you may want to do that before departure as well).
Use a proper disinfectant, but beware that some boat surfaces cannot tolerate harsh cleaners. For example, don’t use bleach on your canvas covers, vinyl cushions or dodger. Leaving a clean boat empty for a few days before someone else uses it should ensure all surfaces are safe.
Learn more by reading How to Clean a Boat.
8. Enjoy Your Vacation On-Demand
There are a lot of unknowns during this time, but if you’re in the enviable position of being able to go out sailing, have at it. At some point you’ll be back at work, your kids will be at school, and your responsibilities will be dialed up to their usual levels—so why not use this time to bond and relax on the water?
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