Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the things we now must do to be safe and courteous to everyone on the water have changed a bit. The Coast Guard Auxiliary, National Safe Boating Council, BoatUs, the U.S. Power Squadrons, and other safe boating organizations can provide guidance.
Now you should think more about your destination. Will it be open? Are there restrooms? Be sure to bring hand sanitizer. You will be touching many surfaces others have touched. The fuel pump at the fueling dock, just as at the local gas station, can have more bacteria than a toilet seat. Wear gloves and use hand sanitizer.
Be sure your passengers can maintain a safe social distance on your boat. Don’t just look at the number of passengers allowed by your capacity plate, but the number that can safely social distance. Preference should be to boat with only your family members.
Clean Your Life Jackets.
If you haven’t considered cleaning your life jacket, now is the time. The surface of life jackets, particularly those you may stow aboard for guests, is susceptible to bacteria from others. Life jackets have cleaning recommendations printed on them. Once cleaned, the life jacket should be allowed to dry for at least 72 hours before using.
To clean your life jacket, hand wash or sponge down the jacket in warm soapy water. Be sure not to submerge the inflator when washing an inflatable life jacket. Then, rinse your life jacket and hang to dry it. Never dry-clean your life jacket or use chlorine bleach. Dry it in a warm well-ventilated place out of direct sun. If you have an inherently buoyant life jacket (foam filled), you can use the same process but you can fully submerge it in the soapy water. Because the COVID-19 virus can potentially live on surfaces for three days, clean and dry your life jacket three days before intended use. Because of the surface bacteria, wear gloves when washing.
Boating etiquette calls for being courteous at the launching ramp. Give others a little extra room when launching or loading a boat at the ramp. If launching on a busy day, it’s a good idea to wear a face covering and gloves when at the ramp.
Take Shorter Trips.
As much as time on board your boat is enjoyable, consider taking shorter trips from home. Less time and distance from home means fewer stops for restroom and meal breaks. It will help limit the number of people you come in contact with and surfaces you touch. It might also help prevent the unknowing spread of the virus to others.
Avoid Rafting Boats Together.
Do not tie up your boat with other boats. This encourages people to move from one boat to another. Maintaining a safe distance is not possible when boats are rafted together.
Helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 is critical for all of us. We all want to get back to enjoying the water and keeping our friends and family safe. Stay healthy and enjoy the water.
– Greg Fonzeno, public education officer and vice commander of the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit (Flotilla 22) at Allatoona Lake.
The recreation season at Allatoona Lake was just beginning to gear up when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In response, many U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas were closed, following guidance from corps headquarters and the state of Georgia’s stay-at-home orders. However, many corps areas that were already open were able to stay open. Cooper’s Furnace and Riverside Day Use Areas, including the Etowah Disc Golf Course, stayed open. Most ramps, and all trails and trailheads, stayed available to the public.
As we head into the month of June, please be aware of changes in the recreation program during these unprecedented times. First, corps campgrounds are tentatively set to open June 1. As a change to usual policy, campground sites will be by reservation only, and there will be no walk-ins. The public can download the recreation.gov app, or visit the recreation.gov website, to make reservations. Visitors will not be allowed at campsites, and no more than eight people are allowed on each site. Campers will be asked to be aware of social distancing, and there will be capacity limits for restroom and shower facilities. Remember to bring your own soap and hand sanitizer when visiting any corps-operated area.
The Allatoona boating community is passionate about getting on the water, and we want to ensure visitors remain safe while boating. Practicing the following recommendations can help improve visitor safety while recreating on the water.
It is important to stay active and healthy in these uncertain times. Fresh air, nature and outdoor activities are the perfect way to maintain and improve your mental and physical health. The corps will continue to keep the public up-to-date on any changes regarding the recreation program at Allatoona. In the meantime, be safe, keep healthy, and please recreate responsibly.
– Christopher Purvis, lead ranger at Lake Allatoona over Partnerships, Volunteers and Project Security.