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    Coronavirus - advice and information for recreational boaters

    Guidance for boaters (updated 06/04/21)

    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 welcome the confirmation that outdoor sport and recreation will be 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. 

    Whilst we are disappointed not to be able to make a full return to our normal boating activity sooner, we will work with our members and stakeholders to support a safe restart to boating activity as soon as the roadmap allows. 

    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.

    2. 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 England, Scotland, Wales 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

    The government has set out new regulations that will pave the way to the easing of all restrictions in England from 21 June at the earliest. The regulations (The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021) came into force on 29 March.

    The new regulations impose restrictions on gatherings and businesses in England. The Restrictions are set out in 3 steps which are listed in Schedules 1 to 3 of the regulations starting with step 1 on 29 March. The step 1 restrictions apply to every area of England including the territorial waters adjacent to England and the airspace above England and those territorial waters. In due course the government will specify the step 2 and step 3 areas where the step 2 and step 3 restrictions apply respectively. The restrictions are at their most severe in Step 1. 

    To help outline what the next steps mean for our sport we have developed our own roadmap for the return of recreational boating in England setting out our current understanding of what each step means for our sport. We have also published mixed household guidance for sailing and racing and an updated FAQ for clubs, classes and RYA recognised training centres. In this context step 4 is simply the earliest date set out in the government’s roadmap when all limits on social contact and remaining restrictions will be removed in England.

    The regulations place restrictions on leaving England for destinations outside the United Kingdom or to travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom without a reasonable excuse. Our guidance on the restrictions on leaving England for destinations outside the UK outlines our current understanding of the situation and includes a set of international travel FAQs. 

    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 guidance provided by their administrations and in the country specific links that follow further below. 

    Recreational boating in Scotland

    Updated guidance available at the  guidance update for Scotland page of 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 Northern Ireland Return to Boating page.

    Recreational boating in Wales

    For the latest information, please visit the RYA Cymru Wales Return to Boating Wales pages.


    The RYA’s advice to all our members is that you should check your insurance policy with your insurers no matter what the policy itself actually states, particularly if the latest restrictions are preventing you from visiting your boat. Our understanding is that most insurers are willing to extend the period when boats are left unattended and we would be surprised if any insurer refused to extend this provision, although there is likely to be a condition that the vessel must have been adequately maintained prior to lockdown.

    UK canals and rivers

    Guidance for the Canal & River Trust navigations was last updated on 15 March 2021 and you should look at its coronavirus and boating FAQs for more information.

    Entering or returning to the UK

    You must not travel internationally unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so.

    The regulations in force in England place restrictions on leaving England for destinations outside the United Kingdom or to travel to, or be present at, an embarkation point for the purpose of travelling from there to a destination outside the United Kingdom without a reasonable excuse. Our guidance on the restrictions on leaving England for destinations outside the UK outlines our current understanding of the situation and includes a set of international travel FAQs. 

    Check the rules that apply to you in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    If you intend to travel to the UK from abroad, including UK nationals returning home, you must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result taken up to 3 days before departure.

    Before you return to the UK you must provide your journey and contact details.

    You must self-isolate when you enter the UK from any foreign country except Ireland, unless you have a valid exemption.

    When you enter England from abroad (except Ireland), you must follow the new requirements for quarantining and taking additional COVID-19 tests. If you are travelling from a country on the banned travel list you must quarantine in a hotel. Different rules apply for arrivals into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    International recreational vessel arrivals

    The new measures for arrivals by sea are still being clarified with the Department for Transport.  It is unlikely that arrivals by recreational vessel into a UK port will be permitted to quarantine on board.   

    Further information

    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. 

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