Memorial Day weekend is the normal start of the boating season for a lot of us, but there’s nothing normal about the season this year. In many parts of the country, people are just starting to emerge from their stay-at-home restrictions, trying to figure out where and how to get back to their normal boating and cruising lives again.
In the Miami area, some people had an early start. The boat ramps were filled, and overflowing, when the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted; the pictures were evidence of pent-up demand in action. It is a good time to have a trailer boat, where you not only can get to the launch ramp nearby but you also can choose to cruise farther away – much farther away.
More than a few owners of larger cruising boats have to delay or change their plans this summer. Some locks on the Erie and Champlain Canals, prime spots for people on the Great Loop, will open on July 4, but others aren’t even scheduled to open until August. (Work was delayed by the state’s shut-down orders.) Some locks on the Illinois River, between Chicago and the Mississippi, will close for maintenance work in the fall.
And don’t think of cruising in Canada for a while. The border is closed, and the Canadian Coast Guard (pictured above) is planning to prevent visits from American boaters. Maybe it’s better to put off the cruise to Alaska for another time.
Cruising close to home, with overnights or long weekends at favorite spots, looks like an attractive possibility this summer, no matter what size boat you have. But then so does longer-range cruising. On the East Coast, the Waterway beckons. The Low Country is there for the taking; so is the Chesapeake, Long Island Sound, the Islands, and Down East. On the West Coast, Puget Sound and the San Juans will be just as beautiful this summer as the usually are. You could easily, and happily, spend an entire summer exploring any of these spots.
Part of life is adjusting to changing circumstances. Go with the flow. Make lemonade out of lemons. If the worst case scenario is that you have to spend a summer cruising around mid-coast Maine, or the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, or anywhere out of Seattle, well, things are really not so bad; in normal times, those would all be prime destinations.
It helps to remember the true value of boating. Where else would social distancing be so appealing? There’s a reason that boat sales are booming in some areas, while other industries are struggling to stay afloat. You can cast off from land and enjoy cruising with your family or a few friends. Spend some time together. And you can do it again and again. What better place to be?