Following changes in Government guidance for Wales, which allow people to participate in more outdoor activities, RYA Cymru Wales is engaging with the RNLI and representatives from the ports and leisure marine industry to help ensure a safe return to recreational boating activity. The Welsh Government has announced that it wants to encourage people to spend time outdoors and exercise as often as they wish, as long as they are following social distancing guidelines. This means, alone, with members of their household, or with one person from outside of their household. Guidance for Welsh boating clubs considering a safe plan to restart activity is available on the RYA Cymru Wales website and should be used to prepare to re-open facilities ahead of the next review of 18th of June, 2020.

Working in partnership

In preparation for the return to watersports, the RYA and RNLI have been working together throughout the lockdown and continue to do so, to ensure that boaters can return to activities on the water as quickly and safely as possible. Gerwyn Owen, RYA Cymru Wales Chief Executive, explains: “We welcome the Welsh Government enabling people to participate in more outdoor activities that will be beneficial to our communities.” “After such a long period in lockdown people will want to enjoy sailing, windsurfing or motor boating, especially given the favourable weather conditions. However, people will need to remain within their local communities, meaning generally not to travel further than 5 miles, with no overnight stays on boats, no landing in communities beyond their immediate local areas and the requirement to return to point of departure. “Social distancing and hygiene considerations will need to be considered when undertaking such activities with crews only made of people from the same household. Currently restrictions still remain in place for club and centre facilities, but this gives them the time before the next review on June 18th to implement appropriate control measures to re-open activities.”

Stay local, stay safe

Alice Beetlestone, from the RNLI’s Water Safety Team in Wales, adds: "We completely understand that people will want to take to the water, particularly if the good weather we have seen in recent weeks continues. Our volunteer lifeboat crews are still ready to respond during the public health crisis, but crew volunteers are under increased pressure and place themselves at risk responding to incidents. So we are urging anyone who is planning a return to the water to follow key water safety advice, which includes ensuring equipment is maintained and functioning correctly, making sure that lifesaving apparatus is available, carrying an appropriate means of calling for help and always wearing a personal floatation device. By following this advice we can work together to enjoy a safer summer and reduce the demand on our crews and other emergency services."

Boaters are being reminded that while the RNLI is working to establish a lifeguard service on some Welsh beaches in the coming weeks, at present there are no RNLI lifeguards on the beaches of Wales.  Although the charity's volunteer lifeboat crews are fully operational, should they be needed, it is important that anyone visiting the coast understands the risk and takes the necessary steps to keep themselves safe. This will also help to reduce the demands placed on the RNLI and Independent Lifeboat crews and other emergency services including HM Coastguard.

Gerwyn concludes: “This is a significant step forward for a return to boating in Wales, however the current restrictions will only see boaters who have direct access to their boats and to the waters will be able to enjoy their chosen activity. We continue to work with the Welsh Government to identify a phased approach to organised activities, training and racing. We will continue to be considerate and responsible in our decisions and actions. By being prepared this will mitigate the risk to the boating community, the communities around them and the emergency services at this unprecedented time.”

“As we start to get back on the water, we advise boaters to be mindful of the potential impact that you could have on other water users and do not place unnecessary extra strain on the RNLI and emergency services.”

You can keep with the Return to Boating plan by RYA Cymru Wales, engage on online forums for members, clubs and centres as well as general guidance during this Covid-19 period by clicking here