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Boating and COVID-19

By Gino Bottino, MD

As a member of the US Sailing Sports Medical committee, I have been working on plans to reopen sailing centers for sail training and Olympic sailing, as well as big boat sailing, amid the pandemic. Here are a few recommendations that can be made applicable to recreational boaters as well:

  • Educate yourself by watching the CDC’s videos about COVID-19.
  • Follow all state laws and city mandates.
  • Conduct temperature checks for all participants and staff upon arrival and document them in a daily log (journal).
  • Remind participants and staff not to attend if they have a fever, are feeling sick, have been in contact with someone who may have COVID-19 or have displayed influenza-type symptoms within the last 14 days.
  • All participants should wear face coverings over their nose and mouth while onshore. Face masks should not be worn on small boats with a risk of capsizing.
  • All participants should wash their hands or use hand sanitizer upon arrival and frequently throughout the day. Set up additional convenient hand-washing stations that allow for social distancing, and provide hand sanitizer, if possible, for use between hand washings.
  • Increase space between boats and equipment to allow for 6-plus feet of space between participants whenever possible. Mark 6-foot buffer zones, for reference.
  • Boats and equipment should be washed with environmentally friendly soap and water or cleaning solution before and after each use in accordance with local environmental regulations.
  • Any common areas—such as equipment storage, changing areas, restrooms, water fountains/water refill stations, etc.—should be cleaned and sanitized frequently.
  • Any shared gear or equipment, such as life jackets, should be cleaned and sanitized frequently. Consider the sanitizing recommendations from the Life Jacket Association that may be viewed at bit.ly/covid-life-jacket-care.
  • Post signage around your facility reminding participants of sanitization and social distancing practices specific to your venue. Copies of CDC posters are available at bit.ly/3cW7fn1.
  • Require participants and parents to sign off on your organization’s procedures and protocols as a condition of participation.
  • Assign staff or volunteers to serve as “safety officers” to help oversee and enforce distancing and sanitizing procedures.
  • Remind participants not to share water bottles, food, gear, equipment, sunscreen or other items with others.

When recommendations change to allow small groups to get together without social distancing, take precautions to keep yourself and others safe.

We still need a lot more answers and research before we can get back to normal. In the meantime, stay safe.


Gino Bottino, M.D., has had wide experience in medical practice and emergency medical matters. A member of United States Power Squadrons First Aid Support Team (FAST) and the Safety Committee, Gino also has a background in competitive sail racing and is familiar with health-related problems afloat.

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