Advice and information for recreational boaters

Find out what the COVID-19 regulations and guidance mean for recreational boating in the UK and overseas

Guidance for boaters (updated 17/05/21)

Government Guidance

It is critical for everybody to observe the following key behaviours:

  • HANDS - Wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
  • FACE - Wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
  • SPACE - Stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).

RYA return to boating strategy

We are pleased that outdoor sport and recreation has been confirmed as the first activity after education to be released from lockdown in England. This prioritisation by the Government clearly acknowledges the many positive mental and physical benefits of outdoor sport, as well as its safety and low rates of transmission.

We will regularly update our guidance for recreational boaters; please keep an eye on the page below for further information.

  1. Our guidance

Covid-19 preventative measures are vital in keeping you, your family and others safe and to minimise pressure on frontline services. The RYA will continue to support the national effort to control the spread of Covid-19 and assist members of the RYA family with any variations that might develop at a local level. We recognise that we have a role to play by providing guidance to the RYA community as the restrictions are eased as each step is taken.

  1. Our approach

Our guidance on safe boating remains unchanged: know your limits; look after yourself; keep in touch and, above all, have a plan; we advise boaters to think carefully about these factors.

As always, all of us should carefully consider the potential impact that we could have on other water users when we go afloat and ensure that we do not place any unnecessary strain on the RNLI, Independent Lifeboats and other emergency services. We can do this by helping to minimise risk and by being considerate in our approach to our boating and acting responsibly.

Coronavirus regulations

The regulations enable the Government and devolved administrations to respond to the serious threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of the virus and its variants.

While guidance sets out how governments expect people should behave, the regulations set out how people must behave and it is the regulations (rather than the guidance) that may be enforced within the law.

The current regulations in EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland differ and people should follow the specific rules for those parts of the UK and read the more detailed guidance on recreational boating in the RYA home country pages referred to below. 

Recreational boating in England

Government regulations (The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021) came into force on 29 March and provide the framework for the Government ‘Roadmap out of lockdown’ and the easing of all restrictions in England from 21 June at the earliest.

From 17 May, the ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation has ceased and international travel has been allowed to restart, governed by a new traffic light system. Health measures at the border will vary depending on whether travelling from a green, amber or red country. The Government has provided guidance on the countries rated as red, amber or green for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the rules you must follow to enter England.

In the Home Countries, the RYA return to boating strategy depends on how the devolved administrations assess the risk. People who live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the travel and transport guidance provided by their administrations:

Recreational boating in Scotland

Updated guidance available on the RYA Scotland website continues to provide support and detailed guidance across all forms of boating.

Recreational boating in Northern Ireland

For information specific to Northern Ireland for affiliated organisations and individuals, please visit the RYA Northern Ireland website.

Recreational boating in Wales

For the latest information and guidance in Wales, please visit the RYA Cymru Wales website.

UK canals and rivers

The Canal and River Trust navigations are open for boating and you can enjoy exercise and being in the outdoors, close to nature, on its towpaths. Boaters can find more information about how the Government’s guidance applies to them in the Canal and River Trust's FAQs.

The Environment Agency continues to update its guidance as the national situation develops, so please do keep checking the guidance for the latest information on any restrictions.

International recreational vessel arrivals

The European Union has set up a website and a mobile app where you can see if travel is possible to each member state, the requirements of each destination, and other information to answer travellers’ questions. Go to Re-open EU for travel information and guidelines for each destination.

Noonsite provides a considerable amount of information that may help recreational boaters abroad and its Covid-19 document has guidance as well as links to the latest developments.

To get in touch

Should RYA members require any advice related to the guidance on this page please contact the RYA Cruising Team on +44 (0) 23 8060 4233 (please have your membership number to hand) or email (please include your membership number in your email).

For other enquiries, call the RYA on +44 (0) 23 8060 4100.