COVID-19 concerns follow eager boaters anxious to start the season - InfoNews

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COVID-19 concerns follow eager boaters anxious to start the season

May 02, 2020 - 8:00 AM

It’s already May, the days are getting warmer and so are the region’s lakes.

With the COVID-19 pandemic throwing a monkey wrench into a lot of land-based activities, it seems like there’s no better time than now to launch the boat and get out on the water.

Unfortunately, those COVID-19 self distancing protocols still apply when you’re on the water, which could complicate things for owners of small pleasure craft wanting to socialize while on the lake.

Canadian Coast Guard assistant commissioner Roger Girouard weighed in on the subject recently, issuing a note to the boating community and marinas.

He says even though lakes in the Okanagan are largely under the jurisdiction of the province, the advice works for boaters there as well.

“We were wanting to raise COVID awareness for on-the-water activity and at the same time protect small isolated communities from possible spread,” he said in an email issued today, April 30.

Girouard acknowledges the desire to get out on the water and get away from restrictions currently limiting activities on land, but he’s asking mariners to stay close to home in a bid to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Don’t get on a boat if you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, or if you have been feeling sick,” he advises.

Girouard says the Coast Guard has responded to more search and rescue calls than at the same point last year, putting those responders at risk of catching the virus.

“If you become involved in a water emergency and are feeling ill, let your rescuers know,” he says.

Boaters are also advised to boat only with family members where the vessels aren’t big enough to provide social distancing.

Municipal boat launches are open for the most part, but the closure of provincial parks and forestry sites has limited access to those boat launches, something Eric Wickham would like to change.

He has set up a petition on and currently has more than 7,100 signatures in a bid to reach 7,500.

“With all forestry sites and provincial parks closed, access to our waterways is very limited. This action has prevented citizens from being able to fish, as a form of outdoor activity, as most access is by utilizing boat launches within those locations,” Wickham states in the petition.

The petition can be accessed at this website.

The Okanagan's regional districts also operate boat launches in their regions. The regional districts of North Okanagan, Central Okanagan and Okanagan Similkameen say their launches remain open to boaters practicing safe hygiene and social distancing protocols. Signage has been posted at the boat launches providing physical distancing information.

The Thompson Nicola Regional District does not operate any boat launches in their region.

City owned boat launches in the region are taking a similar approach, with the City of Kamloops, the City of Penticton, the City of Kelowna and the City of Vernon all indicating their launches remain open to boaters who are practicing COVID-19 precautions.

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