PROVIDENCE – As the early boating season gears up, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is asking boaters to follow COVID-19 social distancing rules and other safety guidelines as they work on their boats at marinas and boatyards and while they're on the water. Paying strict adherence to social distancing guidelines is a key element in Governor Gina M. Raimondo's plan to reopen Rhode Island businesses and the state economy.
"As boaters prepare to launch their vessels during the COVID-19 public health crisis, we're reminding them to stay close to home and practice social distancing," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "Responsible boaters know how important it is to wear a lifejacket and take precautions to stay safe in cold water. This year, as we're dealing with the public health emergency, we're also asking boaters to take additional steps to protect themselves, their families, and the people around them so everyone can safely enjoy the boating season."
Boating during COVID-19 Boaters are urged to follow these safety rules to protect themselves and others:
- Stay close to home. Travel to and from the access site without making other stops.
- Boat only with people in your immediate household.
- Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from others at all times and keep your distance on the water by not tying up to other boats or beaching your boat near other boaters.
- Fuel up and plan ahead by packing hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and disposable gloves. When fueling, wash your hands as you would when fueling a car. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- When launching and loading your boat, give people ahead of you plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before you approach.
- Do not enter the marina office unless you have an appointment.
- While on the water, find a secluded spot away from others to relax.
- Call ahead to your destination to make sure it is open and accepting visitors.
- When returning, be prepared to dock or trailer with your own crew and avoid assistance.
- Keep distance at dock. Dispose of trash according to marina rules and guidelines.
- If you are sick or exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, stay home and self-isolate for 14 days.
Cold-water safety Captain Steven Criscione of DEM's Division of Law Enforcement reminds boaters about the importance of wearing a lifejacket because the water is dangerously cold at this time of year. Falls into the water can quickly turn tragic. With water temperatures not much above freezing, a fall in likely will trigger cold-water shock. Numbness will set in quickly, swimming or calling for help will be difficult, and the falling victim probably gasp uncontrollably and draw water into their lungs. Even strong swimmers may drown within minutes.
"The best way to prevent a tragedy from happening is to wear a life jacket – actually wear it, not just have it along," said Captain Criscione. "It's the easiest and most effective way to prevent an unfortunate situation from turning into a tragedy."
DEM also advises boaters that they should never boat alone, especially when water temperatures are low. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, people should boat only with members of their immediate household and let others on shore know where they're going and when they plan to return. They should also keep the floor of the boat free of clutter to avoid tripping and falling into the water and ensure that all required safety equipment including life jackets, fire extinguisher, audible and visual signaling devices, and a first-aid kit is aboard the vessel.
For information on Rhode Island boating laws and regulations including the mandatory boating safety education requirement and certification process, please visit www.dem.ri.gov or contact the Division of Law Enforcement at 401-222-2284. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for timely updates.