After the pandemic lockdown, Vancouver waters beckon to freedom

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      Given the times, it wouldn’t be surprising if the allure of the sea becomes irresistible.

      Where else but out on the water can one have fun under the sun and at the same time satisfy the new normal of physical separation?

      As Bob Putnam, co-owner of Deep Cove Kayak Centre, puts it: “When we are on the water, you can keep social distancing quite easily.”

      The North Shore–based water-recreation business has a branch at the Jericho Sailing Centre on English Bay, and the general manager of this Vancouver ocean community centre, Mike Cotter, shares a similar view.

      “The ocean is a great place to practise physical distancing,” Cotter says.

      The Georgia Straight contacted Putnam and Cotter to find out what’s happening on their turf with the arrival of summer amid a pandemic brought about by COVID-19.

      Although Deep Cove Kayak Centre was not mandated to close for public-health reasons, the establishment suspended operations in April and for the first half of May.

      “Deep Cove is a small community, and we decided that we didn’t want to be bringing too many people,” Putnam recalled in a phone interview.

      The centre has resumed rental operations and lessons in Deep Cove as well as at its Jericho Beach Kayak Centre in Vancouver and its other location, the Cates Park Paddling Centre in North Vancouver.

      The water-recreation outfit is offering a $99 deal on its three locations. What this entails is three three-hour rental sessions at each location.

      Although keeping one’s distance from another person on the water is easy, Putnam noted, there are times when people can become close.

      The water may be a bit rough and someone needs to have a short break to put on a jacket or have a drink, so two people need to do what’s called “rafting up” to counter the instability of moving about in a single craft. That’s when they hold on to each other’s kayak to form a raft.

      According to Putnam, staffers at Deep Cove Kayak are advising visitors not to raft side by side.

      “Instead of hanging on to the person’s right side where they’re sitting, you’re going to move to the stern of the boat and the other person is going to move to the bow of the boat, and so by doing that, you’re going to separate yourself by a good six feet, or two metres, from the other person,” Putnam explained.

      Deep Cove Kayak is also limiting launches at this time to four people.

      When the Straight made a follow-up enquiry on June 24, Putnam said the Deep Cove Kayak Centre is now accepting “family bubbles” of six.

      The centre is also encouraging clients to book online to limit interaction at the beach during orientation about equipment use and safety on the water.

      Over at Jericho, Cotter said the location reopened during the Victoria Day long weekend on May 16.

      “Standup paddling is a great sport to learn by yourself,” Cotter said by phone. “Lots of room for physical distancing, as is kayaking and windsurfing.”

      Jericho Sailing Centre is implementing COVID-19 protocols, including mandatory face masks within and outside its compound.

      “We’ve designed and built outdoor changeroom cubicles, which are, surprisingly, quite popular among our regular users, and they’ll be with us long after COVID-19 leaves us,” Cotter said.

      Outdoor showers have been installed, and the indoor washrooms are now used exclusively by people with accessibility challenges.

      Lessons on dinghy sailing at the centre typically use two-person boats. Because of the health crisis, people are now taught as singles, unless they are couples or come from the same household, Cotter said.

      He noted that with the pandemic’s business lockdowns and home quarantines, there now seems to be a “real thirst” for people to get out on the water.

      “We’ve been signing up new members over the last three-and-a-half weeks, more than I could ever remember in such a short period at this time of the year,” Cotter said.

      Cotter has a message for everyone raring to break out, especially with summer coming.

      “Set yourself free,” Cotter said. “Get out on the ocean.”