Paddling with Covid 19
Social distancing. Covid19. 44 degree water. Feeling like paddling?
Thus far, as of 3/26/2020, outside activities are still permitted and even encouraged by the CDC. Keep a social distance, but walk and bike. How to paddle in these times, and where?
In SE MN rivers are open, and lakes are starting to thaw. Paddling alone is considered unsafe, but you can examine the issues and make changes to the routines to stay safe but be active.
Here are some thoughts:
1. Keep a social distance. Avoid shuttles. If you must, I’ve seen some suggestions to open the windows and wear masks if you’re riding with someone. It’s hard to maintain 6’ of social distance inside a vehicle, and 6’ between moving objects is not sufficient. Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recommends 50’ between recreational boats.
2. Use loop routes to avoid shuttles.
3. No to groups. Paddle with a trusted friend or two that you’re already exposed to. This time of year, that’s my preference anyway. Most paddles scheduled by organized groups are cancelled.
4. Carry your own boat, or limit who helps you. Being independent is a good thing.
5. Take zero risk. You don’t want to have to involve a rescue group.
6. Don’t advertise. There’s no reason to post on social media which might encourage someone else.
7. Remember to dress for immersion still. Water temperatures are still under 50. See What to Wear When.
8. Realizing that Covid-19 is now thought to spread less by contact and more airborne, it's still wise to clean up afterwards by wiping down your boat and paddle and cleaning exposed clothing. Recommendations for life jackets are to clean following the manufacturers recommendations for cleaning and then let dry in a warm low humidity environment for 72 hours. See http://www.lifejacketassociation.org/life-jackets/covid-19-virus-cleaning-storing-your-pfd/.
Some potential places to paddle and things to do on the water:
1. Lakes. Chester Woods will be thawed soon. While the buildings are closed, there is or will soon be open water on the shoreline. Other lakes too. Silver Lake is ice free now.
2. Buoy drills... you can get a workout anywhere there is open water.
3. Upstream. Paddle upstream as far as you care to, then turn around and return to your vehicle. The bridge at Hammond is a favorite place of mine to do this on the Zumbro.
4. Play parks. I haven’t been to Charles City yet ever, but I’ve seen pictures posted of play parks like Wausau before stay at home rules started. No release needed this time of year though travel there might not be the best choice, and if there are other people there you should not put on. The staircase at Oronoco is closer.
Read thoughts from American Whitewater.
Remember to wash your hands as always, and think about wiping down your paddle, boat, and other gear. Your lifejacket could harbor a virus for a while. Don't breath in what others breath out. A friend’s coworker said “Wash your hands, and don’t eat poop.” Seems like a wise choice.