Reckless Florida East Coast Boaters Cause Launch Ramp Shutdowns

Florida Parks and Ramps

Boaters at Haulover Sandbar in South Florida did not practice proper social distancing.

After boaters ignored requests from state and local officials to practice social distancing and not gather in large numbers and raft up last weekend, boat ramps in Palm Beach County and in Miami-Dade were closed by officials. Boating is one of the few ways to get out of the house and enjoy the outdoors — if done with social distancing. It is a shame that irresponsible, thoughtless boaters choose to ignore common sense in these pandemic times. 

Party Scene. The biggest violations of the recommendations took place at the popular Haulover Sandbar off Miami Beach and Lake Boca Raton off the city of the same name on the East Coast of Florida.

“Two days ago, I drove up to Boca on an errand and Lake Boca had people hanging out drinking beer and jumping from boat to boat,” said Vic Spellberg, a longtime employee of Formula boats and a resident of Fort Lauderdale. “There’s more people with time off and they’re not social-distancing. They don’t care and they don’t want to be responsible.”

He added, “It’s a shame because it could have been a release for a lot of families who were practicing proper social distancing.”

No Other Choice. After seeing the mass gatherings, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer was quoted saying, “It deeply concerns me.” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the shutdown of all boat ramps and marinas after seeing the gatherings at Haulover. 

“I am disappointed to see photos and videos on social media of boats close together and large groups of people congregating,” Gimenez said in a statement. “We are in a state of emergency, and I cannot stress enough the need for personal responsibility. Those of you not following these guidelines are putting others at risk, perhaps your own family and friends. And, you could be contributing to a much longer scenario and further shutdowns in our community.”

Gimenez also ordered the closing of all public beaches, parks and recreational facilities in Miami-Dade and he prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people in any parks, beaches or recreational facilities. has learned that boaters actually printed flyers for the gatherings and distributed them to try to draw as many people as possible.       

Even Rentals. Palm Beach County closed boat ramps and marinas as of March 22. The order includes boat launching, in-out storage activities and boat rentals until further notice.

Licensed commercial fishermen who provide food for restaurants and markets, commercial marine operations and support services are still allowed to operate. Fuel docks, retailers and service facilities will be allowed to run. On the West Coast of Florida, Lee County has closed the fishing pier and boat ramp parking lot immediately to help stop the spread of the virus.