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How to Maintain Your Boat During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Many of us are missing our beloved time out on the water. Sailing with our friends and family has been replaced with isolation restrictions, lockdown measures and/or social distancing requirements.

Are you in COVID-19 lockdown?

In countries like the UK where full lockdown is in place, seasonal maintenance will sadly need to be put on hold. As the British government website states, “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives.”

If you have any serious concerns about your boat we suggest you stay home but give your marina manager a call. In addition the RYA is currently, “making the case that there are many people who could visit their boat while adhering strictly to Government guidelines on hygiene and social distancing. For many, the opportunity to spend time on their boat and possibly do some simple maintenance or cleaning would greatly enhance their well-being and provide peace of mind in respect of the issues of concern.” We suggest you keep an eye on the RYA website here for the latest updates.

Social distancing and boat maintenance

If you’re not in lockdown but still need to respect social distancing measures, you might be wondering how to go about it? Below are our top tips for following the rules and taking care of your beloved boat!

Note: we are not doctors or scientists, these are just suggestions and you should always double check the latest rules within your local area before leaving home.

Marina regulations

Marina’s are hot spots for congestion with lots of people gathering around supply stores, fuel pumps, toilet blocks and along pontoons. This is why some countries, such as the UK, have ordered that marinas and caravan parks be closed.

If your marina is open and you’re planning to visit your boat to carry out some much needed maintenance it’s a good idea to call your marina manager in advance, double check they’re open, ask what times they are quietest (so you can avoid peak hours). Always ensure you ask whether they have new regulations you need to adhere to on arrival, remember these might be changing daily so make sure you call before any visit.

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Wash your hands

When at the marina ensure you apply social distancing measures at all times, take antiviral gel with you and ensure you wash your hands right away if you touch something that other members of the public may have come into contact with. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others, here are the NHS guidelines on doing it right.

Don’t touch your face

It sounds silly we know but according to the BBC’s “Future” article, “Mary-Louse McLaws, an infection control expert at the University of North South Wales, Sydney, and her colleagues found that the (medical) students touched their faces an average of 23 times an hour. Given that medical students should be more aware of the risks than others, this is quite a lot of touching.”

As sailors we have a lot of triggers. The wind  blows hair in our eyes, sunscreen needs applying to our face and sunglasses almost constantly make us touch our face and eyes. So how can we avoid these triggers?

Try applying your sunscreen before leaving the house, wear a hat to keep your hair off your face and protect you from the sun so you don’t need glasses. You might even consider wearing disposable gloves which will make you more conscious of your hands and less likely to touch your face.

Don’t invite guests

I know it sounds boring but it’s the best way to ensure you keep to the social distancing protocols. If you’re already isolating with your partner or kids within the same household then you might consider having them come along to help out. Friends, family, colleagues and other visitors from outside your household should not be invited to come along and groups should be avoided altogether.

Buying boat supplies

Before lockdown happened many of us may have taken for granted that we can simply go to a chandlery and pick up the supplies we need to do maintenance on our boat. If you’re allowed to go to shops, and your chandlery is open, it’s worth calling ahead, paying over the phone and asking them to drop the supplies at the front door on your arrival. This way you can get the items you need and keep a safe distance from others.

If your chandlery is shut then you might need to get more organised with it! They are likely still taking online orders so have your items delivered to your house and take them in with you.

How to disinfect your boat during the COVID-19 crisis

People may contract coronavirus through the air or by touching infected surfaces. This means it is possible for your boat surfaces to host the virus. The good news is that if you are the only one that goes onto the boat then, if you don’t have it, it’s not likely your boat will! If you want to be super safe and disinfect your boat anyway then there’s no harm in that either.

Use an antiviral disinfectant

Normal disinfectants won’t do the trick, you need antiviral. When looking at cleaning your boat remember that antiviral chemicals may not be good for some surface and materials such as bimini’s and seat covers. If you decide to disinfect these areas we advise you research whether they’re compatible with the product you’re using and always thoroughly wash all surfaces with water afterwards to avoid any remaining acidic residue.

Avoid shared facilities

Avoid using marina toilets, visiting the harbour masters office or using shared pontoon trolleys, buckets and hoses. Anything that can be used by someone else, it’s best to avoid all together. Take any cleaning materials you need with you from home and use the toilet on your boat or at your house. Essentially pretend you’re at sea, pack everything you need for a day of boat maintenance as though the dock doesn’t exist!

Can I go sailing during the COVID-19 crisis?

This depends what country you live in and what the restrictions are. Bear in mind some regulations are changing day to day and so you need to check them all the time. In countries such as the UK the government outline at the time this article was written stated that, “Regulations permit people to leave home ‘to take exercise either alone or with members of their household’. The Government has made it clear that such exercise should be taken locally to home and within the guidelines for social distancing.” In essence, recreational sailing doesn’t seem possible.

If you’re in a country where the restrictions are not quite so tight it may be possible to go out on the water. The bigger concern is that if you get into difficulty and need rescuing, you are potentially putting others at risk. If the laws allow you to go out, ensure you have everything you need for a day on the water, that all your safety measures are in place and that you’ve done everything you can to ensure you won’t need assistance. Avoid parking up alongside other vessels, or entering any other crowded marinas, anchorages or bays.

You should also check the usual things like the sailing weather, your marine maps and sailing navigation tools. You can also use our sailing navigation app savvy navvy to plot some courses in advance and check things like tides, routing options and marina recommendations.

In summary

We love being on the water, as sailors it’s what we live for! In some areas we are still allowed to go sailing, what’s important is that we follow the rules, respect social distancing and ensure we’re more prepared than ever for a great day out on the water.

Check the regulations before going out to ensure you’re following guidelines, set sail and enjoy some much needed freedom!

Stay safe sailing friends, we’ll be back on the water again soon :)

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