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Coronavirus rules apply to boaters: Boats to stay 50 feet apart, no more than 10 onboard

Madison Arnold Pensacola News Journal
Published 12:51 PM EDT Mar 31, 2020

With places like bars and beaches closed and any large gatherings cancelled in an effort to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, boating is one of the few recreational activities left for Florida residents.


Recreational boating hasn't gone unaffected by the outbreak though. A new executive order from Gov. Ron DeSantis went into effect over weekend that requires boats to stay 50 feet away from each other and have no more than 10 people on board.

Enforcement of the order is left to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but agency spokeswoman Rebekah Nelson didn't immediately have details on what a penalty for violating the executive order may be.

A boat takes off in Little Sabine Bay in Pensacola on Monday, March 30, 2020.
Gregg Pachkowski,

"During this unprecedented event facing the state of Florida, the FWC is dedicated to doing our part to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and mitigating its effects," Nelson wrote in an email statement. "As part of this, we have enacted an executive order to limit congregations of vessels on the water. As with any new rule or regulation, our intention is to encourage compliance with the (executive order). We will enforce the (executive order) with a strong emphasis on educating the public.

The executive order is in response to the FWC statewide receiving complaints that boats were congregating together and "tying up or anchoring close together, and individuals are often leaving their vessels and assembling closely in shallow water," according to the order.

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Many boaters gathering together would go against social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak, which recommend that people gather in groups no bigger than 10 and stay at least six feet away from one another.

Nelson said she didn't have exact numbers on how busy the FWC was over the weekend enforcing the new executive order, but said that officers will continue to be out on the water with an emphasis on educating boaters.

"We want people to be able to enjoy their time on the water while adhering to the (Department of Health) and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines regarding social distancing," Nelson said.

FWC officers may have plenty of work on their hands. At least one area boat rental company is seeing record sales with the beach being closed and fewer recreational opportunities.

Paul Dove, operations manager with Pensacola Beach Pontoon Boat Rentals, said his business has been selling out its rentals every day amid the closures.

"Well, for us we've been busy every single day," Dove said. "Surprisingly enough, it's actually better this time of year than last year."

Dove's company said they are stricter than the governor's executive order, recommending their renters keep at least 75 feet away from other boats.

"We actually recommend everybody stay 75 feet away so you can't have any question about the 50-foot rule," Dove said. "The more informed you are, the safer you're going to be and happier you're going to be."


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