Photo: Somers Cove Marina in New Jersey

Md. Lawmakers: Boating Ban Could be Eased This Week

As three states just to our north lift restrictions on the recreational boating industry, Maryland Republican leaders are calling on Governor Hogan to follow suit. And Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga believes it could happen as early as this week.

Szeliga and House Republican Leader Del. Nic Kipke expressed confidence Wednesday morning that the governor’s directive keeping pleasure boats off the Bay may soon ease up.

“I think it’s quite reasonable that people could take a cruise with other family members without putting the safety of others at risk. I can’t imagine how that would have any negative outcomes,” Kipke tweeted. “I think the governor is on the same page.”

The governor held a call on Friday with Republican leaders in which the boating ban was discussed, according to Hogan’s communications director, Mike Ricci. Szeliga, who was on that call, put it simply in a Facebook post:

Ricci says as of mid-morning Wednesday, there are no changes to the governor’s executive order.

The calls to reopen the Bay come the same week that the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a joint statement announcing marinas, boatyards and marine manufacturers can reopen for personal use “as long as strict social distancing and sanitization protocols are followed.”

The statement from Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Phil Murphy (NJ) and Ned Lamont (CT) said chartered watercraft services or rentals will not be allowed. It also specified that restaurants at marinas and the like must stay limited to takeout or delivery only, like anywhere else in those states.

Governor Cuomo says the decision was made as a region to avoid confusion and “state shopping” by boaters. On the Chesapeake, Maryland and Virginia have had distinct differences in policy.

In Maryland, recreational boating is still banned with the exception of paddling for exercise and fishing for your supper. Boatyards and marinas that serve commercial vessels are allowed to remain open, but those serving only pleasure boats are closed.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) specifies boaters are allowed to move their vessels from a marina to their home, or travel to perform essential maintenance that “seeks to prevent the loss of or damage to one’s property.” DNR has been updating specific boating ban guidelines on its FAQ page.

Virginia allows recreational boating, noting that “social distancing guidelines still apply.”

The New York, New Jersey and Connecticut decision to lift restrictions comes as New York sees COVID-19 deaths begin to slow. Governor Cuomo also announced the state will no longer need the support of the hospital relief ship USNS Comfort, which has been deployed there in recent weeks.

Bay Bulletin will continue to track changes boating restrictions in the Chesapeake Bay region throughout the pandemic.

-Meg Walburn Viviano