Grande Rivière Sailing Centre starts season under COVID-19 measures
With the lightening of COVID-19 safety regulations, the local sailing community will finally be able to set sail this summer, with a list of rules to adhere to. On May 27, the Quebec Government announced the reopening of the province’s marinas starting on June 1.
Michel Pilon, Manager of the Aylmer Marina and the Grande Rivière Sailing Club (CVGR), said he was ecstatic upon hearing the great news, noting that it allows him and his employees to finally get back to work. “We’re very happy with the decision. We were waiting for it incessantly. We would’ve maybe wanted it at the beginning of May,” Pilon said with a laugh.
The main downside is that they won’t be able to host a number of big events, including their annual grand opening celebration, which consistently draws hundreds of people. Noting that the CVGR started last season on June 8 because of floods, Pilon said a delayed start time has become relatively common for the club. “It’s already seven days earlier,” Pilon said.
However, since members didn’t have access to their boats for the first two-plus months of the pandemic, the majority of boats will need some extra days to be ready to set sail this summer. “It’s like a last-minute decision for us,” Pilon said. Depending on how much upkeep is done on any given boat, Pilon said preparing one for the season can take anywhere between a long day and almost a week.
Fortunately, Gatineau has been very cooperative in allowing the CVGR’s members to remove their boat covers to avoid condensation in their boats, despite not being able to work on them, Pilon said. To be able to finally set boats in the water, Pilon added that the Marina’s employees have a lot of infrastructural work to do, notably setting up their travel-lift and connecting electricity on their nearly 200 different docks. “We have to prepare everything,” Pilon said. “It’s not something that takes two seconds.” Pilon said the Marina’s preparation process will take around eight to ten days.
Noting that they would’ve gotten things done much earlier had the government’s decision also been made earlier, he stated that he’s understanding, considering the current circumstances. Pilon noted that the club typically opens in mid-April and that its members would begin sailing by mid-May. “We would’ve started putting boats in the water on May 15,” Pilon said. “The season would’ve been a bit longer for our members. It’s still not bad. But we’re a bit late.”
“There’s a whole different kind of preparation because of COVID-19 that we need to put in place for the members not to get contaminated during their summer activities,” he added. Noting that the CVGR was greatly affected by last year’s record-breaking floods, Pilon said that this year has been a much more significant challenge, considering the number of lives that are at risk. With social distancing still in effect and mass gatherings also remaining a no-no, a number of activities for members have been cancelled this year, including six of the CVGR’s largest events of the season. Those include, Lobster Weekend, the Festivoile and the Baskin’s Beach activities.
With large events not happening this summer, Pilon said the CVGR will mostly focus on their sailing school. However, the number of students attending CVGR’s sailing school this summer will be reduced from around 50 kids per week over nine weeks to 30 kids per week. Pilon explained that the program will be the same as usual, except with a number of safety regulations in place. “At this time, it’s a little bit more difficult for the school’s instructors,” Pilon said.
For members wanting to go sailing, Pilon pointed to a list of rules to adhere to, including that all people on the same boat must have spent quarantine under the same roof. With so many safety rules in place, Pilon said he anticipates to see around 30 per cent of the club’s membership not bothering with sailing this summer, because of the inconvenience. Noting that the club runs on membership fees, Pilon added that member’s docks that end up being freed will be available for non-members to purchase. The CVGR has 189 members.
Boasting 18 employees, which won’t be reduced because of the pandemic, Pilon said he’d love to double his staff numbers. But finding qualified employees is never easy, considering the different kind of certifications one needs to work at the Marina.