Guidelines for Pleasure Craft during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Background

COVID-19 is a global public health challenge that has changed the daily lives of people around the world, and ensuring the safety and security of Canadians remains the Government of Canada's top priority.

The recreational boating season is set to begin for much of Canada, and increases in pleasure boat traffic may heighten the risk of COVID-19 transmission, and put additional pressure on first responders, for search and rescue operations. To reduce this risk, the Government of Canada strongly recommends that non-essential travel be avoided wherever possible, and that the following guidelines be observed when operating or travelling on pleasure craft.

Guideline measures

It is important that all pleasure craft operators check any provincial, territorial, local and regional health measures regarding social gatherings, physical distancing, or non-essential services to ensure boating is allowed locally.

Staying home saves lives; but if you are going to travel on the water, be prepared. The following measures are strongly recommended for all pleasure craft operators and everyone on board:

  • If using a pleasure craft, avoid any unnecessary contact with others during your trip and respect your local health authority's measures with respect to the size and make-up of your boating group;
  • A distance of at least 2 metres should be kept from other people and boats as much as possible; and
  • Face coverings and non-medical masks can be useful for short periods of time, when physical distancing is not possible in public settings. Have one with you and check with your local health authority for further guidance. If the face covering or non-medical mask becomes damp or wet, we encourage you to replace it with a dry one. A reusable non-medical mask that is damp or dirty can be put into a plastic bag until it can be safely laundered.

All Canadians should follow appropriate hygiene practices, including washing hands often with soap under warm running water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Proper cough and sneeze etiquette should be followed at all times.

Cross-border non-essential travel between the United States and Canada, including travel by pleasure craft, is prohibited.

As always, pleasure craft operators must observe safe speeds and practices, and refrain from operating watercraft under the influence of alcohol and/or cannabis.

Reducing pressure on emergency responders

During the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency responders are working at full capacity to ensure the safety and health of Canadians. To reduce pressure on emergency services, including search and rescue services, the following measures are strongly recommended for pleasure craft operators and everyone on board:

  • Wear a lifejacket or Personal Flotation Device (PFD):
    • Lifejackets/PFDs are required by law to be on board for each person on all types of pleasure craft.
    • Wear them at all times when on deck or in the cockpit.
    • Make sure they are of the proper size, and properly buckled up.
      • Most recreational boaters who die on the water each year in Canada are not wearing personal flotation devices, or are not wearing them properly.
  • Ensure your pleasure craft is in good working order and properly equipped before heading out on the water.
    • Verify all your safety equipment before departure.
    • Verify that your engine(s), bilge pumps and other systems are in good working order.
    • Make sure you have enough fuel for the voyage, with a safety reserve.
      • More than 50% of calls for assistance from recreational boaters are because of mechanical failure, including running out of fuel.
  • Limit the length of your trips as much as possible, departing and returning to the same location and avoiding stops along the way.
  • Keep a safe distance to shore at all times.
  • Avoid using your pleasure craft during bad weather and extreme temperatures.
  • Limit using your pleasure craft to daylight hours.

Pleasure craft operators and everyone on board are asked to avoid any unnecessary contact with others during their trip.

As always, boaters are directed to operate at safe speeds. Don't cruise while drinking alcohol or using cannabis.

Ensuring safety and health at marinas and boat launches

While preparing to depart or returning from a trip at a marina or boat launch, the following measures are strongly recommended:

  • Keep a distance of at least 2 metres as much as possible and avoid using boat ramps and docks while other people are on them.
  • Refrain from beaching your boat right next to someone else.
  • Avoid sharing your boating or fishing equipment.

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