Guidance states that boating is permissible as daily exercise and that owners can pay for work to be done on their boats

Boat owners will not be allowed to visit their yachts for maintenance or winterisation purposes during England’s second COVID-19 lockdown, according to Government officials. However British Marine, the trade body representing leisure marine businesses, ‘supports’ Harbour Authorities permitting the visiting and use of recreational craft ‘until clear government guidance says otherwise’.

British Marine representatives met with staff from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on 2 November.

The trade body was told that ‘no sector specific guidance would be produced and instead, individual businesses should interpret and comply with high level government guidance published on the website.’

‘Where British Marine has been able to gather some specific clarity from Government, DEFRA officials have stated they do not consider private individuals visiting their boats for maintenance or winterisation purposes as an essential activity for leaving their primary place of residence,’ said British Marine.

‘DEFRA has confirmed that under part 4 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020, a member of the public can pay a business to maintain their boat on their behalf during the lockdown.

‘DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) has now confirmed that recreational boating can be part of an outdoor exercise regime either alone, with 1 other person, or within your household or bubble. Guidance states:There is no restriction on the type of activity you can do when exercising, provided that you are within the permitted gathering limits.”

Furthermore, it confirms: “All forms of water sports practised on open waterways, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing, paddle-boarding and the use of privately owned motorised craft (in line with the guidance issued by the relevant navigation authority) are allowed provided that the guidance on social distancing is observed”.

However, British Marine would advise to check with local marinas, navigation authorities and clubs beforehand.

In its website, Sport England has confirmed that sailors in England can continue to exercise on the waterways during the current COVID-19  lockdown, as long as people were sailing solo, with members of their household or support bubble, or with one person from another household.

British Marine said it would continue to press the UK Government further for ‘clear unambiguous guidance’, specific to the marine sector.

It added that the current interpretation of the guidance was as follows:

  • Areas of industry where workers cannot work from home can stay open with COVID-19 secure protocols in place. This would allow boatyards to provide maintenance and winterisation services.
  • Chandleries and other non-essential retail will need to close for the 4 week period but can continue with click and collect and delivery services.
  • Passenger vessel operations (unless being used for essential transport), charters and hire boat operations will need to stop operations for the 4-week period.
  • Brokerage and boat showrooms will need to close to the public for the 4 weeks. The regulations specifically say “Showrooms and other premises, including outdoor areas, used for the sale or hire of caravans, boats or any vehicle which can be propelled by mechanical means, and car washes.”… should close. The restrictions do not prevent such businesses from remaining open to respond to orders or order queries either through a website or otherwise by online communication, by telephone or by post. British Marine and Yacht Brokers Designers and Surveyors Association’s joint statement for yacht brokers can be read here.
  • Marinas can remain open, however, no overnight stays are allowed on boats except for residential berth holders (where the boat is their Primary Residence) or for business purposes. Toilets and showers can remain open for site users. For the above reasons, access and access control systems may remain open however, marinas should remind their berth holders to adhere to Government rules for England requiring people to stay at home, except for specific purposes. A full TYHA statement can be read here.