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The Common Sense Approach

by Peter Schrappen

A show of hands, please—Who among us predicted the COVID-19 pandemic? What if I told you that a quick Google search of “1918 flu economic impact” would result in a report from the trusted Federal Reserve Board of St. Louis 13 years ago that predicted our current situation? Talk about getting it right. What the authors foresaw in 2007 rings eerily true. Here’s a snippet:

“The possibility of a worldwide influenza pandemic in the near future is of growing concern for many countries around the globe. The World Bank estimates that a global influenza pandemic would cost the world economy $800 billion and kill tens of millions of people. Researchers at the CDC calculate that deaths in the United States could reach 207,000 and the initial cost to the economy could approach $166 billion, or roughly 1.5 percent of the GDP.”

Right now, you are probably thinking, “That’s great, Peter, but where does that leave us now?” Well, about the same time Governor Jay Inslee flipped the switch off on economic activity, boating, and fishing to flatten the curve, boating and fishing enthusiasts, including yours truly, sprung into action to both ensure our voice was heard when the reopening conversations occurred.

Faithful readers of On Watch know by now that the magic occurs when your values and messages can percolate up to policy makers. This connection occurs when your voice stands out from the chorus in a respectful and cogent manner. Fortunately, our boating and marine business perspective was heard and our approach paid off in spades these last couple of weeks.

Looking for some highlights? Look no further. Boating and fishing were shut down, but were greenlighted back on May 5. As we go to press here, shrimping looks to open in May. Boating businesses that can be open have expanded from only essential workers (vessel repair and marina workers) to boatyards and boat and kayak rental businesses. Boaters can look forward to May 15th to buy a new or used boat with their dealer or broker.

Other industries have not had the same amount of momentum that we have enjoyed. What sets us apart? For one, boaters are no strangers to boating safely and responsibly. Washingtonians can thank boaters (via Recreational Boating Association of Washington) and the industry (via Northwest Marine Trade Association; my employer) for the now 400,000 boaters who have their boater education cards.

Even more, RBAW and NMTA have not wasted time getting our voices inserted into the reopening conversations. Joint letters into the Governor’s office have come on the heels of emails and phone calls to his leadership team. Data, memos, and new-and-improved safety guidelines have all trickled in. It’s the same advocacy recipe as before, but just with more urgency. As far as anyone can tell, reopening boating and fishing was not on anyone’s advocacy work plan originally.

Another tried and true principle of finding influential like-minded partners has served our community well in this advocacy effort. The Association of Washington Business (AWB) and the Washington Retail Association (WRA) have both included marine industry professionals in their campaigns to assist in the efforts to open up the state of Washington. Their relationships augmented our voice, and when we weren’t always reaching key decision makers, they were.

Wrapping up here, you might be wondering what does boating in June 2020 look like? Fortunately, Boat US is on the scene, too. As you venture back out, practice these principles:

  1. Limit the people on board to the people in your immediate household.
  2. Stay at least 6 feet away from others when launching your boat.
  3. Wear a mask and one-time use gloves when fueling and encountering high-touch areas.
  4. Don’t raft up with other boaters.
  5. “Pack it in, pack it out.”

Or as my father would have said, “Use good common sense.” Call ahead to make sure your boat can be pumped out and your favorite marina is open. As Governor Inslee, an experienced mariner in his own right once said, “Think of this reopening as turning up a dimmer switch.”

The good news is that we are open and pretty much back in business (although I am still concerned about boat manufacturing, which is not quite open yet as we go to press on this issue). The unfortunate news is that this entire situation changes day by day and if there’s a spike in COVID-19 cases, we could slide back to where we found ourselves in March. As I’ve previously written, I’m reminded of the game “Chutes and Ladders.”

Until next month, I’ll see you from a safe distance on the water.

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