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2020 Boating Season – What’s in your marina’s survival kit?

Social distancing is a new reality, sailing adventures are on hold, lots of unknowns when looking into the future, but the harbourmasters we recently talked to still have a positive outlook and expectations for the upcoming boating season.

During the past several weeks I had a chance to talk to some of our partner marinas about their expectations on the upcoming boating season. I was curious to better understand what life is like for marinas during the time of a global pandemic, what challenges they are facing and the moods and feelings in general. 

Below is the summary of my discussions with various marina managers and administrators from around the world as well as my own personal insights on what to expect in the upcoming 2020 boating season.

Challenges and trends

Talking about challenges and trends, most of the marinas are expecting to receive fewer boaters and marina visitors from abroad this year resulting in financial difficulties due to considerably decreased income. Revenue streams from marina managed restaurants/bars, various memberships, and hosted events may remain suspended for a longer time as well. However, the marinas are expecting to welcome more local boaters and marina guests this summer, potentially creating new possibilities as well as new challenges.

In addition to lower income, getting sanitary facilities managed in a proper manner according to all the rules and regulations of social distancing and hygiene is another significant challenge. This is something we are all experiencing for the first time, and it’s unclear what the best approach to handle everything properly is. Especially, when it comes to human behaviour, which is hard to control and monitor. Even if you provide all the necessary information and tools, you can’t assure that people will utilize them responsibly. Taking care of marina staff and visitors’ health is of top priority for most of the marinas, however, it’s not clear how to ensure this in the best possible way.  

Taking care of marina staff and visitors’ health is of top priority for most of the marinas.

William Jones – Regional Harbourmaster for Dumfries and Galloway – has also noticed that some boaters are getting impatient about accessing their boats. Good conditions mean more temptation for setting sail on adventures. However, this eagerness quite often leads to frustration which makes for added pressure on marina staff. Most customers have been very understanding after some initial opposition to marina closures. The situation started changing once people realised the severity of the pandemic. 

Mixed feelings

For me, it’s always fascinating to discover how different approaches to situations affect the way we feel. Very often we feel confused as our feelings to certain situations are contradictory. Most of the marina managers are feeling scared and uncertain these days. Some are scared to make a mistake complying with all the rules and regulations, others are scared to open their marinas too soon, and thus increase the chances of spreading the virus further, yet others are simply scared of the unknown. 

Sadness is another common emotion. As Carl E. J. Hansen – Chairman at Nykøbing F Lystbådehavn – says, it’s sad that we cannot meet face-to-face with our friends and relatives or that we have to cancel various planned events at the marina. According to Carl, there is a group of children who should have started their sailing practice, but due to the COVID-19 epidemic, they cannot do that. At least not for now. He is also missing all the routine chatting and ordinary marina activities on the dock. 

Finally, some of you are simply overwhelmed, as suddenly, you have to balance having your kids at home, while at the same time trying to do your regular job at a new “home office”. Being a full-time marina manager as well as a parent can truly be an emotional rollercoaster experience. 

However, and to my great surprise, in addition to feeling scared, insecure, uncertain, or overwhelmed, most of the marina managers I talked to are also feeling optimistic about the future as well as grateful for being safe and healthy. Many of you are continuing the marina maintenance activities as usual, as Jana Schnalke – Harbourmaster at Marina Altefähr – says with a smile on her face – cleaning the docks, fixing what’s broken, planting flowers and preparing for the upcoming boating season hoping for the best. Others are seeing this time as a great opportunity to re-think their marina management strategy and activities, explore external grants and future marina funding opportunities. 

Life still goes on, and as a rule of thumb, there is always something to do at the marina. It’s like a living organism, constantly changing and in need of your attention, care and support.

Life still goes on, and as a rule of thumb, there is always something to do at the marina.

Patience is the key

The good news is that little by little more and more countries are starting to reopen their borders. Many travel restrictions have already ended and the others will soon end as well. The nautical sector is slowly coming back to normal as marinas are gradually opening their “doors” and welcoming vessels from neighbouring countries.

Certainly, the 2020 boating season is going to be different in many ways. Some ways we are already familiar with, and some – which are yet to unfold. We all have fear of the unknown to some extent. However, what one does with that fear will make all the difference.

Robert Gray – Treasurer at Tayport Harbour – says that patience is the only advice he could give for other fellow marinas. I do strongly agree with him. Patience is the key to surviving all of this mess. I would also add willingness and ability to adapt as well as the positivity and creativity as a few more secret ingredients to the survival kit for the upcoming boating season.

Stay safe, healthy, and remember, that going into the unknown is how you expand what is already known. 



Special thanks for the following people who dedicated their time and contributed to this article: Carl Erik Juel Hansen (Nykøbing F Lystbådehavn), William Jones (for Dumfries and Galloway), Jana Schnalke (Marina Altefähr), Jim Smith (Tayport Marina), Guntram Seiss (Segelvereinigung Pinnau), Urban Engberg (Aarhus Nordhavn), Robert Gray (Tayport Harbour), Simon Cooper (Port of Wells), Stephen Duffy (Castlepark Marina) and others.

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