NewsletterStanding Watch

Covid-19 and the parameters of recreational boating

STATEWIDE—It’s now October. The Covid-19 pandemic is approaching its eighth month. No one can predict when the pandemic will come to end. The hope of this “new normal” being a temporary measure until we can resume our pre-pandemic life might or might not be lost, but the effects of the pandemic has certainly been felt across the board. Southern California’s recreational boating community hasn’t been immune. Many local boaters have maintained boating is the ultimate social distancing activity. Has the state, however, provided boaters with enough guidance to ensure all boating activities are safely pursued?

The Recreational Boaters of California (RBOC) certainly believes more can be done, in terms of streamlined guidelines and parameters for boaters. RBOC has issued a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, requestion his office to provide “clear and reasonable” guidelines for the boating community to follow during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As we all endeavor to protect public health and safety and defeat this pandemic, RBOC urges you and your capable executive team to establish clear and reasonable parameters regarding recreational boating on our state’s waterways that provide the opportunity for Californians to act responsibly and to get out on the water,” RBOC President Cleve Hardaker wrote in his Sept. 17 letter to Newsom.

“Without clarity, boaters are challenged by conflicting and confusing rules and guidelines that can be counter-productive,” Hardaker continued. “There is an opportunity and a need to provide clarity and to encourage boating as a recreational activity that is vital to our physical and mental health during these times.”

Hardaker said the state needs to make a greater effort in issuing a consistent set of rules in the response to Coronavirus. Each county responded to the pandemic differently. There was a stretch of time, for example, when San Diego County restricted boating activities. It wasn’t clear whether similar restrictions were in place in Los Angeles or Orange counties. Was a boater in Newport Beach precluded from navigating to Oceanside Harbor or San Diego Bay?

“It is difficult to determine what rules apply, in which areas, and on what dates,” Hardaker said in his letter. “Consideration should also be given to the various types of boating activities, from canoes and kayaks, to personal watercraft, to water skiing, fishing, regattas and racing.”

Yacht clubs have been one of the hardest hit sectors of Southern California’s boating world. Most regattas and racing events for this year have been canceled, and many yacht clubs drastically cut operations.

The state’s boating community is willing and ready to engage with the state, Hardaker told Newsom in his letter. He cited a reopening plan for recreational boating presented to San Diego County supervisors on May 15 as an example of what Newsom (and, possibly, legislators) could implement on a statewide level.

“The recreational boating community, as well as the boating industry, are identified, capable and ready to engage,” Hardaker wrote. “Indeed, a collaborative effort with the numerous stakeholders in the San Diego area has developed a Safe Reopening Plan for Recreational Boating that was considered by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on September 15 and will soon be implemented into the county health order,” Hardaker said. “This is a significant effort that RBOC supports being considered and endorsed by the state of California.”

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3 thoughts on “Covid-19 and the parameters of recreational boating

  • Robert

    I have some guidelines for you. Leave us alone. You’re welcome.

  • Peter M Phillips

    After a year of no’s, finally a yes! Because of the new orders issued last Friday (9/25/2020) by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors allowing non-members of the same household on recreational boats – we can all go boating together! (Adhering to Safe Boating Protocols, of course). It “ain’t like it used to be” but it’s great to be sailing and racing again!

    • Wayne Strickland, SDAYC Senior Director

      Congratulations to San Diego Association of Yacht Clubs (SDAYC) Boating Freedom Committee, working together with RBOC to get the San Diego County Supervisors to say yes to boating with crews to be allowed again. It was a big effort and hopefully the Governor will allow all boating in every County with crews soon.



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Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to

Should the state be more proactive in issuing clear, reasonable and streamlined parameters for all recreational boating activities in California? Are current rules and guidelines confusing and counter-productive? Or, should state, county and city governments allow boaters to use their own judgment in practicing social distancing and protecting themselves and others during the pandemic? Reach out to the following contacts and let them know your opinion or position.


Gov. Gavin Newsom


Twitter: @GavinNewsom


Division of Boating and Waterways

Armando Quintero, Director

Twitter: @boat_california


State Senate

Toni Atkins, President pro Tempore


Twitter: @SenToniAtkins



Anthony Rendon, Speaker


Twitter: @Rendon63rd


Recreational Boaters of California

Cleve Hardaker, President



Jerry Desmond, Advocate