RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County leaders say the county is at a transition point in the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s noticeable for businesses in the marine industry.
Some are already seeing sales and services increase by more than 20 percent within days of boat ramps reopening.
Sales are rebounding at Grand Slam Sportfishing Supply in Riviera Beach.
"Ready to get back to work," said Jim McGrath, the manager of the store. "It’s going to get better for sure now that people are able to get out and move. And a lot of guys are heading north for the season early."
McGrath estimates customer purchases have already increased by 20 percent on inventory from dredge fishing accessories to offshore lures.
"I’ve got time to build my summer fishing list, swivels to fishing lines. That’s my wish list right there," said customer Freddy Vicens.
It’s the same story for service technicians with Gaston’s Seagate Marine Sales Inc. of Stuart. About a dozen vessels were transported for service out of Riviera Beach City Marina alone since Wednesday and that’s expected to increase.
"It’s how I live. It’s how I make my money," said Chris Statos, a service technician at the business. "Engine service, cleaning, and waxing."
Boat ramps are now open in Palm Beach County, but there are restrictions in place.
Boats must remain at least 50 feet apart at all times, boats cannot link to one another, and no gatherings of more than 10 people are allowed.
Law enforcement officers are out patrolling to make sure boaters are not anchoring at any sandbars or islands. Violators could be fined or have their boats towed.
The following limitations are in place for boaters:
- Boats 25 feet or less: four adult passengers maximum
- Boats 26 feet to 36 feet: six adult passengers maximum
- Boats 37 feet to 60 feet: eight adult passengers maximum
- Boats over 60 feet: 10 adult passengers maximum, not including crew members
Palm Beach County officials and law enforcement stress there are rules and regulations including social distancing to follow on the water. Failure to comply can range from a civil penalty to a second-degree misdemeanor with a fine up to $5,000 and 60 days in jail.
"These industries themselves will be partly responsible for enforcing these measures," Mayor Dave Kerner said. "But the public has a duty to understand and abide by them as well."