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SoCal boating report: Marinas open. Ferries and whale watching not quite yet

Boating options in Southern California
Ventura Harbor, above, is open to boaters who have slips, but kayak rentals are closed.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California marinas are gearing up for the busy Memorial Day weekend as recreational boaters look for rays and relaxation. Launch ramps and docks are open, with COVID safeguards requiring social distancing, masks and limited group sizes.

Whether the weekend will see a flotilla of fun-seekers remains to be seen, though roomy harbors and open oceans are likely to spread the action. Lake Havasu, Ariz., has seen stir-crazy boaters jam facilities and wait in lines of up to 70 cars to launch.

Weekend forecasts for the Southern California coast call for mostly sunny skies, with highs in the low 70s.

That is sure to draw kayakers and paddleboarders, who are welcome in harbor areas and in the wet zones of beaches.

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In Marina del Rey, kayak and SUP rental companies have been approved to re-open this weekend. Charter services are still closed.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual for boaters in Marina del Rey, with its astounding 4,600 slips and fuel facilities in full operation. The boat launch at 13477 Fiji Way is open, with social-distancing precautions in place. Masks are required at ramps and on docks when other boaters are present. Once on the water, boaters are not required to wear masks.

In Long Beach, marinas are also open, as are rentals for kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and electric boats, with social-distancing protocols in place.

“Our waterways remain open and can be accessed by utilizing the Davies Harbor and South Shore launch ramps,” according to an email from the city.

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Face coverings are required when in close contact with people but are not required while engaging in physically distanced exercise.

As much of California closed down its beaches in the face of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Golden Staters looking for freedom and respite from the heat have flocked to Lake Havasu.

Ventura Harbor is open to boaters who have slips, said harbormaster John Higgins. Masks are not required, but boaters are asked to follow social-distancing guidelines. The launch ramp is open.

Ventura Harbor Boat Rentals is open, and offering pedal boats, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and electric boat rentals. Island excursions, dive charters and sport fishing boats are currently not operating under the current COVID-19 restrictions.

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Higgins said boaters should be aware of recent small-craft advisories for strong winds near the Channel Islands. The latest National Weather Service reports for all of Southern California can be found at weather.gov/lox/marine.

Spot checks of ferry services and whale-watching excursions show they have yet to resume, though some hope the state will give them the green light later this week.

Catalina Express, one of the primary services to Avalon, is operating with reduced staff and ferrying only essential personnel back and forth to the island, out of its Long Beach terminal.

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Farther south, most Orange County marinas are planning on being in full swing this weekend.

Huntington Harbour Marina, with 171 slips, is open for business as usual.

The Marina at Dana Point is open, including guest slips. Call (949) 496-6137 for information and reservations. Parking lots are open to boaters only.

Embarcadero at Dana Point is open, including the launch ramp. Info: (949) 496-6177. Check the Dana Point fuel dock website for the latest info on COVID-19 procedures.

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Anchors aweigh, my friends.

National Safe Boating Week, which runs through Friday, kicks off the summer season.

In that spirit, many boater advocacy groups are offering safety and refresher courses.

Among the options available to novice boaters, SailTime, a sailing and powerboat-sharing service, is offering a “Sail Safe” campaign to encourage boaters to take appropriate safety measures.

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Meanwhile, the National Safe Boating Council offers these safety tips for boating and social distancing. guidelines:

  • Leave an itinerary with a friend or family member.
  • Wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Limit passengers to your immediate household.
  • Don’t tie up to other boaters or pull up onto a beach next to someone else.
  • Pack food and drinks, because restaurants and marina stores may not be open.

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