We get a lot of questions here on the Legend Boats’ showroom floor, from questions about towing boats with cars, to questions about our favourite fishing holes.
But in true Canadian fashion, one of the most commonly asked questions is “Can I drink on my boat?”
It's common knowledge that drinking and driving is not tolerated, but it seems that many are still unclear on the rules of drinking and operating a boat.
Did you know that operating a boat while under the influence of either drugs or alcohol in Canada is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada?
Yup, similarly to drinking and driving a vehicle, drinking and operating a boat will also lead to some major penalties including fines and imprisonment!
In fact, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation defines impaired driving as follows:
"Impaired driving means operating a vehicle (including cars, trucks, boats, snowmobiles and off-road vehicles) while your ability to do so has been compromised to any degree by consuming alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two."
— Ontario Ministry of Transportation
Drinking on the water can be extremely dangerous since you become dehydrated much faster outside in the sun. Not only are there risks of colliding with other boats, but you become disoriented when dehydrated, making it easy to lose your balance on a boat, which is clearly a hazard on the water.
So, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s dive into what you can expect should you be found boating while impaired.
Let's Talk Penalties
As mentioned, boating while impaired is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.
Operators with more than eighty (80) milligrams of alcohol per One Hundred (100) millilitres of blood are liable to the following fines:
- 1st offence: at least One Thousand ($1,000) fine
- 2nd offence: at least Thirty (30) days of imprisonment
- 3rd offence: at least One Hundred Twenty (120) days of imprisonment
The maximum sentence may vary from one province to the next.
In Ontario, the consequences and penalties for operating a boat under the influence are the same as those for operating a vehicle under the influence. And while the crime might take place on the water, the penalties can extend onto land.
Most aren't aware that if you are convicted of operating your boat while under the influence you can also have your license for your car suspended!
In fact, if convicted of drunk boating you may even have an Ontario's Ignition Interlock Program installed in your car.
You may have seen these devices over the years. The ignition interlock device is an in-car alcohol breath screening device. Before you start your vehicle, you need to blow into the device and should it detect a blood alcohol concentration over a pre-set amount, your vehicle won't start.
Definitely something worth avoiding!
Let's Talk Exceptions
Ok, so there are a few exceptions to the rule we feel you would like to know about!
Passengers actually can legally consume alcohol on board the boat if it meets all of the following conditions:
- The vessel has permanent sleeping facilities
- The vessel has permanent cooking facilities
- The vessel has a permanent toilet
- The vessel is anchored or secured alongside a dock
It is also worth clarifying, you need a pump out toilet, not just a porta-potty. And while most houseboats and yachts meet these requirements, many smaller boats will not.
Here's the thing, there isn't a difference between drunk boating and drunk driving. And considering that the statistics show that around 65% of boating accidents in Canada involve alcohol consumption, and around 40% of drowning fatalities are alcohol related, it is safe to say it is time to change the culture on the water.
People view boating as a getaway from the day-to-day grind, and a space to relax and unwind. And the problem is, when you add alcohol into the mix it can lead to accidents and dangerous situations.
It's all about keeping the waterways safe for everyone, and enjoying those beers once you hit shore!
With the new cannabis laws hitting Canada we recommend brushing up on the new legislation.