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Sailing in the time of Coronavirus

Phil Herring

Dethroned Admin
Mar 25, 1997
Hunter 450 Bainbridge Island
Its been the elephant in the room on SBO, so let's push it out of here: will the virus affect your sailing or commissioning plans for 2020, and if so, how?

Will you keep the boat on the trailer or at the dock, or do you think that sailing is its own form of social distancing? Will it change your itinerary, leading to more anchoring and less docking? Or is it simply not a worry for you?

So wash your hands then share your thoughts on how this massive societal change will affect your passion.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Our no-politics rule is still in force here. If you find yourself about to type the name of a politician, pundit, elected leader, or political party... don't. This is an important thread and we don't want to shut it down due to partisan divides. Thank you!

May 1, 2011
Pearson 37 Lusby MD
Boat splashed on 19 Mar. I spent the afternoon of 20 Mar bending on sails and canvas. Still have a few more things to do before the first sail. Since I sail solo most of the time, sailing is its own form of social distancing. The yard where she was kept for the winter is still open, practicing social distancing. With so many dock queens on my dock, I don't think I'll have any problem staying away from people.:beer:
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Jan 5, 2017
Beneteau First 38 Lyall Harbour Saturna Island
If things stay as they are or restrictions get tighter it will certainly affect the 2020 Circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. I can see that being canceled unless someone discovers a vaccine in the near future. If that happens I think we will spend the summer taking short cruises based on our home port here in the Gulf Islands. Not to sure small communities will want strangers possibly bring germs into their towns. We will just have to wait and see. Still a couple of months to go before we decide.


Jul 24, 2005
Beneteau 323 Manistee, MI
I am really up in the air about launch scheduling this season. Murphy has made himself very apparent...
Purchased a house and closed on it in January. It needs some major renovation. and contractors are hesitant to even work on it right now due to social distancing. Existing house went on the market two weeks before the market hit the skids, probably it will be awhile before it sells.
Now I am slightly concerned about a possible interstate travel restriction which will prevent me from going back to Michigan. Other than that, no problem. What else could possibly go wrong?

So far as I know, the boatyard is still accessible! However, its cold up north yet. I got the letter from the yard last week wanting me to schedule a launch date. My reply is likely to be possibly by July 4, provided the water levels don’t increase too much. I still need to bottom paint, wax the topsides, change the radar mount, and the cutlass bearing.before the boat hits the water.


Feb 14, 2017
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
Sailed this weekend, boat is always ready to go so no need to do anything. I had planned to haul out this summer for new bottom paint but might skip it to keep cash on hand.

Our marina is open and this weekend had 5 to 6 sailboats out which was a lot for the colder temps. We sailed just our family of 4, would have liked guests but my wife is in medical field and is still required to work. My kids did the bulk of sail handling including furling out and in the jib, my son helped prep the main and did the dropping and securing it at the mast with quick sail ties. Kids both took care of trimming duties during tacks and jibs, Autopilot kept us on course most of the time and everyone got some exposure to sailing in gusting conditions up to 18knts. My wife took naps and enjoyed her queen birth and a warmer cabin.

We would love to be more social but not worth the risk right now. Gave out waves to the other boats, including the speeding bass boats.
Sep 22, 2018
Hunter 216 Kingston
Well decisions to ignore “social distancing” which I’ve started to call “physical distancing” have consequences that affect all boaters.

UPDATE: After this story published Saturday night, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez announced the closure of all marinas and boat ramps countywide. He added that the Miami-Dade Police Department would be “ramping up enforcement” of his no-rafting order to “keep large group parties from taking place.”

Full article attached below

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Jun 4, 2009
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
Personally, I think it is totally irresponsible for folks to go sailing with friends or family they are not in close contact with every day. Most on here probably do not have boat upon which social distancing can be practiced and certainly it can't be on a race boat.
The whole world is recommending isolation and social distancing and it would be hard to practice either when one leaves their home for a day on the water.
Jan 24, 2017
Hunter 34 Red Bank NJ
launched last week, just a few commissioning things left to do before I'm ready to go sailing. Beer is packed in the cooler,car is packed, key in ignition.
Paid all of my dock extortion fees in January for the season. Now I just hope they don't lock the gates.


Feb 14, 2017
Catalina 310 211 Lake Guntersville, AL
I agree with @capta we have limited ourselves to just our family of four that share a roof together. Unfortunately we saw a boat significantly smaller then us with twice as many people who were all hugging after the day and left in separate cars! My wife and I currently have jobs that are defined as critical, she in medical and I in defense. I can work some at home but a lot I have to go to an office for several reasons.
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
  • Will you keep the boat on the trailer or at the dock,
    • Boat is at the dock year round. It has been about 2 weeks since I got to visit her. She was dry and surviving. A little sad still buttoned up. A bit of a shame having new sails for the old girls and not being able to play dress up.
  • Do you think that sailing is its own form of social distancing?
    • There is an essence of this in solo sailing. Yet the social gathering of fellow sailors around a cabin table, in the cockpit, or on the dock with sundown beverages is hardly that consistent with distancing... Maybe more limiting worldly contact to individuals of like minded recreational relaxation.
  • Will it change your itinerary,
    • Unfortunately the events have changed my plans for this year. Canceled visits to France and England, our rendezvous plans for May in the San Juan Islands have been dashed. Hoping the curve flattens and the travel restrictions ease so we can join friends on our 2020 Sailing adventure around Vancouver Island. If not this year then perhaps 2021. Probably not a good idea to just go for it in the winter time :yikes: ;). May have to put up with sailing south of the 49th parallel this year. There is still a whole lot of exciting water to explore.
  • leading to more anchoring and less docking?
    • Definetly more anchoring expected this year. Not driven by virus concerns.
  • Or is it simply not a worry for you?
    • Such events are a concern and require considerations not normally of high priority. But do I stay up nights worrying about what may happen. No. I have no control over most of what is transpiring. I can only control what I have influence about. The rest I have to deal with or adapt to. I pray that as we go through this time we maintain a sense of perspective. That we do not let the events define us. Nor the limitations being considered become the accepted norm.
Nov 13, 2013
Catalina 34 Tacoma
If your in a high risk group, by all means, keep youself protected by social distancing. I will become very angry if someone tries to tell me I can't use my boat unless they are willing to compensate me for my slip fees and $100/hr for rent until crisis over. FU to big brother.
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Nov 18, 2010
Catalina 310 Hingham, MA
Oh yeah has this messed with our plans. :facepalm:

Currently in Antiqua. Our plan was to watch Classics here (was supposed to start April 1st but cancelled). Then my Bride was flying home for a wedding at the end of April. A buddy was flying in and we were going around Antiqua and Barbuda. After that, hoping down the island chain to Carnival in Bequia at the end of June. A long overdue haul out in July in Carriacou. Followed by Carnival in Grenada. After that staying around the Grenadines until after hurricane season. Open book after that but probably some work as funds would be getting low.

Two weeks ago we were in Jolly Harbor. Just a routine provisioning trip. No COVID-19 concerns in the islands but it was starting to be a concern in the US. We worked out way over to Green Island and waited out some weird northwest to west swell.

While at Green the islands starting getting a case here and a scare there. Grenada immediately started to take an agressive posture. Closed the University and sent all students but the more advanced medical students home. Then they limited check in ports to two.

Seeing how Grenada was acting I suspected they would close all entries. Everyone thought I was crazy. I told anyone I knew that didn't have alternative hurricane season plans to get out of French islands (they were not limiting or screening any travelers coming from Europe) and make plans to get to Grenada very soon. Most laughed it off or told me they would never deny Americans or Canadians.

We sailed up to Barbuda. Absolutely beautiful spot if you haven't been, probably our favorite in the Caribbean. We had slow data but were able to monitor the developments. More cases in the islands and more travel restrictions. Some of the big French grocery stores started to get empty. We normally have about 4 months of food on Smitty. But we had been spending a lot of time in more remote locations and had eaten into that stockpile. So we made the decision to sail back to Jolly Harbor before another northern front came in and reprovision. We got in, rented a car and did our reprovisioning.

While doing this we didn't really know what our plan was going to be. Our visas are valid until April 23rd. We had thought that we would at least stay in Antiqua, going to the more remote anchorages without bars and restaurants practicing social distancing, until our visas were up. Then we could either apply for extensions (a process that requires a doctor's visit, lots of paperwork and showing we sufficient money to support ourselves) or things would have gotten better and we could continue as planned to head south just probably without the carnivals. This was Friday we did the reprovisioning.

Today, Monday, all ports except Antigua, the USVI and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are closed. We have been looking at a good weather window to hop somewhere. Grenada has gone from allowing entry at two ports with health screenings during entry. Then to entry at two ports with 14 day quarantine and refusing any boats who have been to the French islands in the last 14 days. Then some cruisers went ashore in Carriacou that were supposed to be quarantined so that port was shut and all cruisers, regardless of how long you had been there, were quarantined and couldn't leave your boats for any reason. Today Grenada closed completely. So far they are letting people stay that are there but that could change if cruisers continue to break quarantine.

This morning we made the plan to sail back to the USVI. We have our own legally registered mooring and we are USVI residents, so we don't think we will be denied entry even if they change things. We have a network of friends that will be doing the same thing. And we have survived several hurricane season there including 2017.

But this choice is not without risk. The islands only survive based on supplies from the mainland. So far no one is panic buying and the stores are fine. There are a lot of boats currently stuck there that had planned to be in Grenada for hurricane season. They don't know the local traditions or customs about hurricane holes. Many have never prepped a boat to survive a hurricane in mangroves and probably don't have the right supplies (we carry 4 anchors, rode for all, an additional 30 feet of chain for going around piles or docks, tons of shackles and thimbles, 40 feet of fire hose for chafe guards and 600 feet of line for tie to mangroves).

So I would say our sailing plans have changed quite a bit thanks to COVID-19.

Tom J

Sep 30, 2008
Catalina 310 Quincy, MA
A little scary living on an island right now. We are happy to see the barges still transiting off shore between Maui and The Big Island. But if the ships stop coming, and the barges stop?


Jan 22, 2008
Tartan 37 Pensacola Shipyard, FL
We are staying home at this time. The boat is 700 miles away across three states. What restrictions do those states have? Can we get through to the boat? After visiting the local grocery stores here, we are worried about restocking the boat if we go to it. The marina is on lockdown. Extra security to make sure that everyone in the marina is supposed to be there and not just looking around. IIRC, the gates to the docks are now locked 24/7 so you have to know the code to get to your boat.

So it just seems to be less trouble to stay home. Although I am going to miss the beautiful water of Pensacola Bay.
Oct 29, 2018
Hunter MH37 Mississauga
Here's an excellent article on Sailing Magazine ("How Risky is the ICW with Covid-19?", by TOM HALE, MAR 20, 2020, How Risky is the ICW with Covid-19?), that I think should put the cruising plans for most into perspective. As cruisers we will need to be thinking about ourselves as potential vectors of transmission. So unless our plans are to stay off-grid anchored, our plans should be curtailed until the situation dictates otherwise. Evidence around the world has shown that treating this lightly is having devastating effects.

For myself, I'm hoping I'll be able to launch without significant disruption and enjoy the boat in day-sails from my slip, isolating myself in my cockpit when at the dock at my home port. Since I sail and rarely use more than a 1/2 tank in a season (Lake Ontario sailing) I don't expect to need to top up on diesel until the fall for winterizing. I have cancelled most of my lake cruising plans to visit Canadian and US ports this summer, at least until the situation deescalates officially.

With the appropriate level of action from everyone, the course of COVID-19 will be addressed sooner rather than later.
Aug 19, 2019
C&C 25 mk2 Seneca Lake
This Covid 19 virus is a real mess and lets face it - sailing is for fun and can be put on hold, especially if sailing out of a busy marina could put ourselves and others at risk. On the other hand there are circumstances, like mine, where purposeful physical distancing is not much different from how I usually operate (I day sail on a lake, usually single-hand and if i have a crew, it's my kids). Too early to splash where I am (its snowing right now :banghead:) but come late April I will be itching to get back on the water. Who knows what the situation will be then, hopefully - a lot better. In the meantime, I am staying put, working remotely, and spending more time on SBO.
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May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
the chances of using even one of my boats this summer is zero. in ohio we have been asked to not leave our houses. food and medical only. driving, walking, peddling from house to vessel has been stopped. you dreamers, and all of us sailors are guilty of that, may think your having fun playing on your boat this season. NOT. the economy in ohio is now 100% dead. nobody has an income. if you think you do, wake up.
in italy the orders are that those 60 and older will not be put on a respirator.
we are all in this together. help a neighbor, wave to a friend
aeolus will not get launched i'm sure. can't get there from here.
i sure hope i'm wrong! ............ refer to the "sailors are dreamers"

Dr. D

Nov 3, 2018
Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 Herrington Harbour North
Being on your boat by yourself, or with others who live in your house, is no different than being in your house. Of course, that is only true if getting to the boat does not involve close contact with others.

Even NYC allows people to go outside for a walk, or jog, just so everyone doesn't go nuts. Going to a boat is no different. When I get to my boat to dewinterize it tomorrow the first area to be commissioned is the head. Then I don't have to go to the marina bathrooms.
May 25, 2012
john alden caravelle 42 sturgeon bay, wis
here in toledo, all the big auto assemble factories have been shut down. the big steel plants that supply the auto industry are shuttering indefinitely. that will mean the ships will not be sailing. all small businesses will close.
just reporting what's happening here. in n/w ohio.

those fat squirrels out at my bird feeder are looking tastier with every passing day :)