Gov. Charlie Baker had his reopening update news conference on Monday, May 18, and a lot of strict limitations on boats for hire are still in place.
As I understand it, all boats for hire or charter may begin operating on Monday, May 25, but are limited to 10 passengers total — and that includes crew. I find it rather odd that one number would apply to all vessels from a six-pack charter to a 250-passenger whale watching boat.
This is the exact wording as sent to boat operators from the state: “With respect to for hire and charter fishing, the order provides that no more than 10 people, including any captain and crew, are aboard a single vessel at any one time. This means that vessels with more than 10 passengers and crew are not allowed to operate at this time.”
It goes on to say that Phase 1 rules are still in effect, so six-passenger charter boats still need to figure out six-foot distancing, and there is a threat of “sanctioning” if rules are broken, as described in these words, also from the state:
“Operators are further reminded that in addition to implementing Covid-19 measures in Phase 1, they must still comply with all federal, state and local laws. Operators who fail to implement applicable Covid-19 measures may be sanctioned in accordance with Covid-19 Order No. 33.”
These policies are in effect for “at least 21 days,” according to Gov. Baker, and may be reversed if the data suggest reopening has precipitated a significant spike in infections statewide.
A call to Boston Harbor Cruises resulted in a statement that they are not likely to start service to Provincetown until mid-June, if and when Phase 2 begins.
So, even though boats for hire can technically begin to operate on May 25, between the impossible six-foot distancing still in place for small charter boats and the 10-passenger limit imposed on all, including the bigger whale-watch boats and ferries, it’s probably almost better to just stay at the dock and not operate. These are extremely significant handicaps to overcome to operate in compliance. I truly have no clue how many of these boats are going to manage this minefield of conditions.
As far as fishing goes, there are mackerel in our harbor and all the way out to Race Point, and a lot of smaller striped bass around with an occasional keeper being taken as well off of Herring Cove. Tautog fishing around the breakwater has been good for guys who can fish it with green crabs or fiddler crabs. The right whales have all departed, heading north towards Canadian waters, so lobstermen can begin to set their gear for the season now, as gear restrictions have been lifted.
The Provincetown Marina is open and fuel is available, but service will not be extended to boaters not wearing masks. Launch service to the moorings is available as well, but no masks, no service for those mariners either. Life on the waterfront is different from the way it has ever been, and the “new normal” is clearly going to take time to be something we are all comfortable with.