Should You Be Sailing During The Coronavirus

By: Sailing Tips

COVID-19 Sailing Recommendations

UPDATE (4/20/2021): Get the latest recommendations from the CDC at

Before you decide to go sailing you should check with your local county, city or municipality to understand what they are recommending. While some cities/counties are on a soft lockdown your locations may not be on restrictions. Some regions are being effected greatly by the Coronavirus and your location may have different restrictions.

How those restrictions relate to sailing is somewhat ambiguous.

If you do sail, here are some guidelines to follow:

Sailing Guidelines For CoronaVirus

While we are in the CoronaVirus crisis social distancing has been recommended by the experts as the best way to limit exposure to the germs that can spread the virus.  If you decide to go sailing this is what you should do. These are some guidelines and recommendations if you decide to sail or take others out. 

Take a look at these updated guidelines from the CDC:

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person, including between people who are physically near each other (within about 6 feet). People who are infected but do not show symptoms can also spread the virus to others. Cases of reinfection with COVID-19  have been reported but are rare. We are still learning about how the virus spreads and the severity of illness it causes.

These guidelines follow those that are being offered by the Center for Disease Control (CDC): 

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Does Size Matter?

Going out on a boat can be a form of social distancing. Now, if you are sailing with your immediate family there is a good chance that the space between the people you are living with is far different than your spacing among others outside your household. A small boat for your immediate family is no different than sitting on the couch binge-watching your favorite Television shows.  

Sailing with Others. That’s a different story.  The Covid -19 virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person (per the CDC) 

How the Virus Spreads (CDC)

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
  • When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe they produce respiratory droplets. These droplets can range in size from larger droplets (some of which are visible) to smaller droplets.

These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

It is fair to assume that social distancing on a small sailboat will be much more difficult than on a larger vessel. Keep the size of the boat you will be sailing on in mind if you choose to go sailing.  Also, being downwind of an infected person is not an ideal spot to be in. If someone is sick, DON’T ALLOW THEM ON THE BOAT.

Per the CDC:

Take a look at these updated guidelines from the CDC:

  • People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
  • Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

Wash the Boat

While you most likely already keep your boat clean it is a good idea to wipe down all surfaces that will be or have been touched by others.  Use soap and water for cleaning all surfaces. 

If you believe the boat requires disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.

You can prepare your own bleach solution for disinfecting by mixing 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water. 

Wipe Down the Tiller /Wheel – As you hand off the helm to one of your passengers don’t forget to wipe down the surface. This will prevent the transfer of germs. It is also a good idea to wear sailing gloves. Not only will they protect your hands from a wayward line, but gloves are also another barrier for protection. 

If You Do Sail

A Few Tips When Sailing During The COVID-19 Event:

  • Clean the boat
  • Wipe down the Chart plotter
  • Wipe down all navigation screens and tools
  • Don’t touch your face after touching surfaces.
  • Clean the tiller/ wheel
  • Wear gloves
  • Clean winch handles

Coronaviruses are thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Although the virus can survive for a short period on some surfaces, it is unlikely to be spread from domestic or international mail, products, or packaging. However, it may be possible that people can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

  • Social distancing is still important so make sure to keep your distance. 6 feet is recommended, consider how many people you can have on the boat in terms of spacing.
  • Sailing can be therapeutic and getting some fresh air is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety.  Be safe about it.

Alternatives to Sailing

ASA's Sailing Challenge App
ASA’s Sailing Challenge App
  • Take a look at our videos to help improve your sailing education