Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that marinas, boat clubs, and boat launches will reopen to the public on Saturday, May 16 at 12:01 a.m. This is part of the Ontario government’s phase one plan for reopening the province. It also includes loosening restrictions around golf courses, private parks and campgrounds, and businesses that board animals.
These services are being opened in time for the Victoria Day long weekend, as key public health indicators continue to show progress in the fight against COVID-19.
“During the last several weeks, the people of Ontario have been called on to make incredible sacrifices to help us stop the spread of COVID-19, including staying home from work, closing down businesses and going without a regular paycheque,” Ford said. “However, we are reopening even more of our businesses beginning this long weekend. We are taking a cautious, balanced approach to our economic reopening, to protect the health and safety of everyone.”
The Boating Ontario Association is welcoming the news. It has been lobbying for the reopening of marinas since the middle of April. “We sent a very detailed letter to the premier on April 17,” says Rick Layzell, CEO of the association. “We asked at that time for a phase one, phase two reopen.”
The phase one reopen was granted to marinas on May 4, allowing them to launch boats while remaining closed to the public. Since the partial reopening, Layzell says Boating Ontario has launched 40,000 boats.
With the full reopening on May 16, customers will be allowed to pick up their boats from local marinas. However, Layzell warns that customers shouldn’t necessarily expect to get their boats this weekend. The process has been slowed by social distancing as only one mechanic is allowed to work on a boat at any time.
“It normally takes us four to six weeks to get the boats ready,” Layzell says. “Generally, we start in March, and then somewhere around the second half of April, the boats are ready and away we go. We didn’t get that period this year…we’ve only had 10 days.”
Layzell asks boaters to be patient. Marinas are working around the clock to make sure their boats are launched safely and ready for the summer. He adds that some municipal marinas may not even be ready to open this weekend. He advises calling the marina in advance to make sure it will be open.
Despite the reopening, marinas will still abide by social distancing protocols. To protect staff and customers, Boating Ontario has released their best practices for social distancing during the reopening. This includes limiting store traffic, keeping a respectful distance from employees, and proceeding directly to your boat.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get [marinas] open,” Layzell says. “The best boating happens between June and September. There’s a great boating season in front of us.”