Miami-Dade County opened its shuttered boat marinas Wednesday for the first time in more than five weeks, drawing boaters in masks eager for an outing on the water — even on a work day.
Two popular marinas at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne and Matheson Hammock in Coral Gables saw steady traffic, but not nearly the crush they expect to see this weekend.
WLRN is committed to providing South Florida with trusted news and information. In these uncertain times, our mission is more vital than ever. Your support makes it possible. Please donate today. Thank you.
“We expect it to gradually increase as we get closer to the weekend with probably our peak day being Sunday,” said Miami-Dade Marine Patrol Sgt. James Barrett. “That's why we're glad they opened midweek. That way we can make the adjustments as needed.”
At Matheson Hammock, trailers filled half the parking lot by midday. Staff greeted drivers at Crandon Park with fliers outlining rules that set new limits for boaters.
For example, boat size limits the number of passengers — so only four people can be aboard any boat less than 25 feet and jet skis can only be driven by a single person. Boaters will be required to wear masks until they leave the ramp and stay 50 feet apart.
“There's access to both sides of the pier, so be patient,” Barrett said.
At ramps, boaters should wait until space opens up so boats can remain 50 feet apart and people can be at least six feet apart, he said. Popular sandbars near Haulover Inlet and at Nixon Beach near Key Biscayne are off-limits. So are spoil islands in Biscayne Bay.
“People are sometimes confused with what is a sandbar. Basically, if you can stand in the water, you're on a sandbar,” Barrett said. “There may be some exceptions to that rule, but if you can stand, you’re probably not in the right place. Go someplace deeper.”
Tying boats together, or rafting, is also not allowed.
“We get a lot of questions. ‘Well, that's my family. That's my cousin.’” he said. “The law is one boat. You have to be 50 feet away from the other boat, whether they're your relatives or not.”
To help marine patrol officers cover what are some of the state’s busiest waters — a quarter of the state’s recreational fishing vessels are registered in South Florida — police will also patrol by air, Barrett said.
At Crandon Park, paddleboarder Fabio Kern said a chance to get on the water was a welcome relief after being furloughed from his job and stuck at home for weeks.
“It's just a little breather,” he said. “Just a little, little break from the whole quarantine thing.”