By Matt Rainis
An executive order passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 7th has closed all public and private marinas and boat ramps. Members of Long Island’s boating community fear that this could have dire effects on the upcoming summer boating season.
Since the order’s passage, all boating activity on Long Island has effectively been shut down for the time being. Boating is an integral part of both Long Island’s culture and economy, and with no clear end date for the closures in place, both recreational and commercial voters fear the effects this shutdown could have.
“Some of my clientele are blue collar workers, and if they’re not able to work, they’re not gonna be able to afford their boat,” Peter Roy, a boat mechanic from Bay Shore, said. “Some of these guys work paycheck to paycheck, and if they don’t have discretionary money, it’s gonna be catastrophic. Not just for me, but for all the bars and restaurants on the waterfront, all the gas docks, and all the marinas that rent out slips.”
Others have not yet felt the direct economic impact of the virus. “It really hasn’t impacted my business, yet,” Mike Schilling, the owner of Southard’s Boatyard in Babylon, said. I think if we see issues regarding the coronavirus, especially if markets don’t turn around, we’ll see it more in the fall. For people on the Great South Bay, boating is a big part of their life, and they’re not going to give up boating, as long as it’s economically feasible for them.”
Long Island’s more than fifty yacht clubs and other recreational boating groups find themselves scrambling to adjust to the new situation created by the virus.
“We as a club have been closely following our local government’s guidelines concerning restrictions to club usage,” Dom Russo, former commodore of the Bay Shore Yacht Club, said. “Until things change we can’t make any definitive future plans regarding our opening day and when we’ll start our annual sailing program.” For clubs that depend financially on member dues as well as money for sailing instruction and similar programs, summer months of shelter in place could deliver a hefty blow.
Restrictions to outdoors activities and group gatherings can affect not only large organizations, but also individual boaters.
“Sailing is a year-round treat for me,” Roger Daisley, Governor of the South Bay Cruising Club, said. “Normally by now, my boat would be sailing, and I would have already spent the night at Atlantique on Fire Island.”
Year-long boaters like Daisley, have found the quarantine troublesome. “Many boatyards are closed, and we can’t get to our boats to get them ready. Many of the retail boating stores are closed or have reduced help and reduced hours.”
With all state-run boat ramps closed due to New York State’s shutdown order, thousands of boats on Long Island already find themselves with nowhere to launch from. If Long Island’s 30,000 boats find themselves stuck on land this summer, there could be an unprecedented economic impact.