Marina life in a time of virus


Protecting people and boats

The COVID-19 crisis has meant that marina managers have had to shoulder all sorts of major additional burdens during this crisis, from the need to design and establish a clean and safe environment, to being under pressure to furlough staff, rapidly having to set up an effective teleworking system and of course applying a whole series of extra measures to safeguard all of the boats in their care whilst concerned owners were obliged to stay at home.

Whilst many countries applied stringent lockdown criteria meaning that owners were not allowed to visit their boats, in the Netherlands for example, some marinas remained open, despite sanitary blocks, restaurants and other ancillary services being off-limits. This led to a build-up of all sorts of waste, from bins crammed full of takeaway leftovers to onboard tanks needing emptying. Serving customer and environmental interests, Jachthaven Wetterwille took the initiative to offer boaters free self-service pump-out and set up open-air water and sanitation services.

Communication has been key, both within the boating community in order to learn about different approaches, monitor and relay government advice and discuss solutions, and in order to address some of the main concerns expressed by boating customers and tenants. Early in the pandemic, Port de La Rochelle and Marina Punat in Croatia, quickly set up Frequently Asked Questions series on their websites to allay fears, clarify the situation regarding access and permissions, and help direct enquiries towards relevant authorities.

In their owners’ absence, the focus has been on ensuring boat safety and helping owners coordinate maintenance work where required (and permitted) and otherwise step up daily boat checks, with one manager claiming that he’d never checked so many bilges!

In award-winning Marina Punat, where numerous customers are based overseas, the team has once again gone over and beyond, offering additional free yacht care services and extended hardstanding, keeping people updated and informing the media about problems faced by the sector. (See article)

On the sunny shores of Andalusia, Spanish Marina Alcaidesa was also in the news for services to international cruisers obliged to remain on board during the quarantine. The article praised warm community values, the use of local food suppliers and sailors’ gratitude to the marina staff for their kindness.

Over on the German Baltic coast, with a very short season in which to explore a fantastic and expansive cruising area, our members within the Marina Network Association have been proactively delivering informative proposals to government, describing clearly defined measures to enable boating activities within safe and acceptable parameters.

Across the group, we have heard uplifting stories about yards and sailmakers donating PPE to frontline services and staff have otherwise been busy on social media helping to boost morale, promote onsite restaurant businesses able to provide a takeaway service, and spread the word about free online courses offered by resident sailing schools in order to help boaters develop new skills during lockdown.

In a lovely example of efforts to raise morale, the manager of Portishead Quay Marina helped facilitate street fitness activities to the delight of marina residents and local followers. He explains being asked by an ex-rugby player to use one of the pontoons to give fellow residents a good view of a twice-weekly fitness work-out.

So having spent 15 years touring with rock and roll bands before joining the marina, my inner roadie forced me to collect some PA equipment, buy a radio mic and turn up twice a week to make sure he is heard well around the North end of the marina.  It’s a great idea and very popular and completely in keeping with the ideas of the lockdown.

My Marina is the centre of a community and a town and we embrace the residence around us and hope they will do the same for us. There is a lot of good will and a real desire to get along in Portishead generally but specifically around the marina. Anything like this can only be a good thing for us all.”

We are all aware that this is far from over and that the forecast bodes very unsettled times ahead. As members have shown however, flexibility, patience, staying in touch with the boating and local community and nuturing thoughts of cruising destinations as yet unexplored, may well help to lift our spirits.