COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Broads.

Please also see our main Coronavirus information page for more information, our liveaboard information page and remember to get in touch if you have any further questions.

(Page last updated 15 May)

1. Access to the Broads

1.1 From 13 May onwards can I visit the Broads?

From Wednesday 13 May, you are now able to visit the Broads (on a day trip, no overnight stays) for a number of additional purposes assuming you adhere to social distancing guidelines and only do so with members of your own household.

Below is a list of some example activities that are now permitted:

  • Visit your vessel(s) to undertake maintenance work/checks/cleaning (etc.)
  • Access the Broads waterways on your private vessel (although overnight stays on board are not permitted by the Government)
  • Go sailing, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding or take part in water sports
  • Go walking or cycling in the Broads area
  • Take part in angling (coarse fishing season on the rivers remains closed until 15 June inclusive)

Access to the area for these recreational purposes is possible by driving, as well as by cycle/foot. The Government have stated that there is no limit on the distance or duration of journey to reach the area, however please be mindful that only day visits are allowed and avoid driving long distances.

Please visit the Coronavirus information page for more information.

1.2 Can I visit my private motor boat to go leisure boating, or undertake maintenance tasks?

Yes you can, providing you follow social distancing guidelines and do not have any overnight stays.

Please consider the following points before your visit:

  • Plan ahead – to ensure the safety of those around you and try to avoid areas that may attract lots of people.
  • Check with any facilities that you wish to use before you travel. Be aware that many businesses that support boating may not yet be able to open and this could affect marinas where your boat is normally moored and services such as fuel and pump out stations.
  • Only use your boat if you can apply social distancing at all times, including when mooring your vessel to leave a safe distance from others.
  • Travel with members of your household only, if no one in the group is displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
  • You may only meet with people that are not within your household if you apply social distancing. You should not meet with more than one person outside your household
  • Be aware of the impact on emergency services if you were to get into difficulties. Think about what action you will take if your boat breaks down – recovery services may not be operating
  • Apply all normal sensible safety precautions and always wear a life jacket when on deck.
  • Pubs and restaurants are not allowed to open as normal – although some may offer takeaway services. Check with any businesses you wish to visit before you leave home.
  • Your vessel will require a short visit or annual toll to enter the water in the navigation area/adjacent waters.

Finally, please be caring, kind and considerate of local residents who may be nervous about the risks of increased numbers of people accessing the Broads and the waterways.

1.3 Can I stay on my boat overnight?

The message from the UK Government remains clear that spending the night away from your primary residence is not acceptable in the current circumstances. This includes holiday homes, caravans, camper vans and of course boats.

We do not set the rules in this regard, however we support the current reasoning behind it to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

We are aware that this means only certain boat owners may be able to access the Broads at this moment in time, as only day visits are permitted and it is not sensible/feasible to drive extremely long distances to come here. This is a necessary precaution, and boat owners should wait for further instructions from the Government over the coming months regarding overnight stays away fron your primary residence.

The Authority will be working with local police forces and communities to identify those who are not following the Government lockdown instructions. Enforcement may be taken by the police, and we urge people to consider that the fines for not obeying lockdown instructions has drastically increased from 13 May onwards.

We and our partners ask for your cooperation by following the good spirit of this decision to give greater freedom for outdoor access, applying your common sense and not seeking to identify or exploit loopholes in the Government's guidance. The closer we follow the instructions, the more effective we will be in slowing the spread of Coronavirus and the sooner things can return to normality.

1.4 Can I use my canoe, kayak or paddleboard?

From Wednesday 13 May onwards, you are able to use your canoe, kayak or paddleboard for private recreational use on the Broads waterways. You are also able to drive an unlimited distance to access the area, providing it is for a day visit.

Please be mindful of your visit, plan ahead and ensure you follow social distancing guidelines.

You will require either an annual toll or a short visit toll depending on how often you plan to use your craft in the water. If you plan to use or keep your vessel for more than 28 days between 1st April and 31 March you need to register your craft and pay for an annual toll. For those who plan to use their vessel for 28 days a year or less you can purchase a short visit toll.

If you are a member of British Canoeing you are licensed to canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard on any of the Broads Authority waterways including the main rivers and associated broads and dykes without requiring a toll on your craft.

1.5 Can I go angling?

You are able to enjoy angling in private fisheries from 13 May onwards, and take part in coarse fishing on the Broads waterways when the season opens on 16 June. Please note you will need a rod fishing license to coarse fish. Night fishing is permitted, but this is not an excuse to stay aboard your boat overnight.

1.6 Can I water-ski?

Yes you can, providing you follow the existing restrictions in place and maintain social distancing.

2. Marinas and boatyards

2.1 Are marinas and boatyards now required to re-open?

Although previously asked to close under the classification of caravan parks, Defra has confirmed (14/05) that marinas may re-open to allow people to visit their boats to carry out maintenance or take them out on the river, ensuring appropriate measures are in place to follow social distancing guidelines.

Marina operators are able to decide the manner in which they open and the freedoms they will offer to those who have craft in their marina.

If it is safe to do so, boat owners should be allowed by the marina operator to sit in, work on and use their craft.

2.2 I manage a marina, what steps should be taken to open it safely?

Defra has advised that marina owners should refer to government guidance on outdoor sports facilities and maintaining social distancing.

2.3 I own a boat, am I allowed to remove my vessel from the marina it is stored in?

This is primarily a matter for the marina operators to decide, but if it can be done safely following social distancing guidelines then it should be possible.

Please remember that private boating is permitted on the Broads waterways for day trips only.

3. Hire craft and other commercial operations

3.1 Are hire boat companies allowed to resume, and am I able to provide paddle/sailing lessons?

The Broads Authority has received confirmation from the Government that the new guidance is to allow private individuals greater freedom to enjoy the great outdoors and access recreational activities, whilst safely following social distancing measures.

At this moment in time (13 May), the UK Government have not stated that the hiring of vessels in any form (whether motor, sailing or paddle craft) or provision of lessons is able to resume likely due to challenges around social distancing.

If operators have any questions regarding the likely re-opening of these areas these should be directed to the UK Government.

The Broads Authority will endeavour to communicate any news regarding the above when we are able to do so.

3.2 Why can't commercial operations resume, and when will this change?

The Broads Authority has been advised by Defra that it is not appropriate for commercial boating operations to resume at this moment in time.

Commercial boating operations may resume when the hospitality sector is anticipating starting to re-open in July 2020. Please await more information from the Government.

4. Boating concerns

4.1 My Boat Safety certificate has run out and I can’t renew it – what should I do?

The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) has announced that they are allowing a temporary extension to safety certificates for those craft requiring an examination in the period until 31 July. This is to provide additional leeway to boat owners.

For more information please see the BSS website.

4.2 Are the rail swing bridges and Mutford Lock currently manned?

We have received confirmation from Network Rail that from Thursday 14 May the rail swing bridges will be able to open on demand as usual.

Mutford Lock and Swing Bridge are able to open at 24 hours notice (to ensure that correct social distancing is catered for). Please book transit by calling 07572 039790.

4.3 I live aboard my boat, how will the new changes affect me?

Whilst the new rules allow greater freedom for private boat owners to access their vessels and the Broads network, the Authority will continue to work with those who live aboard their vessels to ensure they continue to have access to moorings and facilities as required.

We advise any person who lives aboard their vessel and is concerned to get in touch with Broads Control and our Ranger team on 01603 756056 for help and advice.

4.4 Can I have a discount on my toll for the period I couldn't use my boat?

Private boats that are kept or used in the Broads navigation area or adjacent waters do still need to be tolled, regardless of whether the Government lockdown meant they could not be accessed. We fully appreciate the frustrations that some private owners have had in not being able to use their vessels during this time, coupled with financial concerns that many are facing.

We ask for your understanding that your tolls have funded essential navigation works which, because they have carried on throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, have meant that the Authority was in a position to welcome boats back to the water before other inland navigation authorities.

If you are having difficulty paying your toll or are experiencing financial concerns, the Authority will give careful consideration to exceptional circumstances. Please speak to our Tolls Team on 01603 756080 for more information and advice.

4.5 Why does the hireboat industry not have to pay tolls?

There is provision within the Broads Act (2009) that any hire boat that is effectively in storage and not being used does not need to be tolled. This is normally applied when a boat is for sale or in need of repair. We have reminded the hire boat industry of this exception whilst they are not able to hire boats out at this moment in time.

If hiring is able to resume later on in the season, an annual toll will be required for each vessel used.

4.6 Why is the Broads Authority still patrolling, dredging and carrying out maintenance tasks?

The Broads Authority will continue essential maintenance and Ranger patrols of the Broads to ensure the safety of those on the water and to ensure the waterways are in good shape when we are all able to access them again. We will continue to do so unless Government instructions tell us otherwise.

Friday 27 March 2020