In recognition of National Safe Boating Week, May 16-22, 2020, Maryland Natural Resources Police recommend boaters not only follow safe boating practices, but continue following updated guidance for social distancing and outdoor recreation to protect themselves against COVID-19 transmission.

Following the governor’s Roadmap to Recovery, the state has expanded opportunities for outdoor exercise and recreation in the state. With the kickoff of boating season in Maryland, the department urges boaters to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others in order to have a safe boating experience.

Last year, Maryland had 144 reportable boating accidents; 65 of those accidents caused injuries and 16 were fatal, resulting in 20 deaths. These numbers are up from the previous year, where Maryland saw 132 reportable boating accidents, 58 injury accidents and 13 fatal accidents resulting in 17 deaths.

“We cannot allow these numbers to continue to rise and the key to that is to focus strongly on education and enforcement,” Maryland Natural Resources Police Superintendent Col. Adrian Baker said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources offers boating safety classes online and through video teleconferencing. Statewide, in-person classes will resume when safely possible. Also, Natural Resources Police conduct routine safety checks to make sure boaters have all the required equipment they need on board to be safe in the water. Officers will wear personal protective equipment and take all precautions necessary to protect boaters and themselves against COVID-19 transmission.

The Maryland Natural Resources Police, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Safe Boating Council, offer these safety tips for boating and social distancing during the 2020 season:

  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • File a float plan with a family member or friend with the details of your trip in the event of an emergency.
  • Carry all required boating safety equipment such as flares, a fire extinguisher, a horn or whistle, a first aid kit, throwable life jackets, line, etc. 
  • Check navigation lights prior to your departure.
  • Stay at least six feet away from other people who do not live in your household. If necessary, limit the passengers on your boat to those who reside with you.
  • Have no more than 10 people, including captain and crew, aboard a vessel.
  • Boats should be distanced from each other by at least 10 feet and avoid rafting up, beaching, or having rendezvous events where prohibited by law.
  • Maintain safe distance at the launch ramps, fuel dock or loading up at the marina.
  • Wash hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer after touching things such as a marina gate, dock lines, pilings, fuel pump etc.
  • Go right from your house to the boat and back to limit unnecessary contact with others.
  • Pack food, water, and other things you may need as restaurants and marina stores may not be open.
  • Never boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Avoid distracted boating and travel at safe speeds. Check the Maryland DNR speed zone map.
  • Have more than one form of communication that works when wet.
  • Download the AccessDNR mobile app for essential boating information.