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Local

Harbor managers cite confusion on boating rules

Businesses plan to open following guidelines

According to rules that took effect May 1, more than two people, regardless whether they are immediate family, will not be able to share a boat while fishing, but two people from different households could.
According to rules that took effect May 1, more than two people, regardless whether they are immediate family, will not be able to share a boat while fishing, but two people from different households could.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s restrictions on boating have created some confusion for those who spend their summers on the water ­— especially one rule in particular.

“Nobody likes the two people per boat rule,” said Craig Collier, owner of Snug Harbor in Marseilles.

Prtizker said during a recent briefing that no more than two people can be on a boat together regardless if they are from the same immediate family or not. Boating associations across the state, including the Fox Waterway Association, are seeking clarification on the rule.

“Most of my people that come in are in yachts, and they go out in groups of two or three couples or with their kids,” Collier said. “If you’re a family, what do you do? Leave them at home? Aren’t you already at home with them all day?”

Jeremy Fowler, the harbor master at Heritage Harbor in Ottawa, said the two-people order put out by the governor is something that seemed to have come off the cuff. 

“There’s been a lot of confusion about the two people in a boat thing,” Fowler said. “It was in a question that was asked and it was off the cuff, but his idea is saying that if you have two guys that are fishing buddies, limit it to two. He was speaking in regards to state parks.”

Collier expects to have more people coming to the Marseilles harbor as the weather warms up and people start to feel more cooped up. He’s still open for package liquor sales and gas sales, but it’s too early in the season to tell how this will affect his business.

“We’re basically going to be dealing with people in yachts until this is all lifted, and with some of those, they’re so big you could put six people on one boat and have them six feet apart,” Collier said. “Somebody needs to address this change pretty soon or explain what they meant pretty soon, because what they did isn’t right.”

Fowler said Heritage Harbor has been keeping patrons in compliance with social distancing measures, and they’re taking the changes in stride.

“We don’t want anyone out here looking like it did at spring break in Florida,” Fowler said. “We’re going to be positive about this, and we don’t need anyone being silly.”

Fowler said Heritage Harbor has been limiting its office to one couple or one family per visit. When they can, they prefer to meet people on the dock where they can keep farther distance.

Fowler added they’re taking steps to make sure people at the harbor aren’t borrowing things, such as garden hoses or beer, from their neighbors.

“We have folks that actually live on their boat and for them, this quarantine has been great,” Fowler said. “They go out and anchor and they don’t have anyone within a quarter mile of them. It creates some unique challenges, but we still want people to be able to get out and participate in water recreation safely.”

The Spring Valley Boat Club, along with the South Shore Boat Club and Illinois River Boat Club in Peru, all will remain closed until the restrictions have lifted, although the Peru club did receive permission to put its docks and boat slips in as long as they implement social distancing measures.

Tony’s Butt Shack at South Shore Boat Club is open for curbside takeout and delivery.

• Craig Sterrett of Shaw Media contributed to this report.

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