Driving a boat while under the influence is a crime – on the water, it’s safest to be sober

Alcohol also increases the risk of having an accident in waterborne traffic. No matter how skilled and experienced you are on the water, drunkenness will impair your judgement and reaction time and also make you more likely to take risks.

The blood alcohol content limit for boating is 1.0 per mille

However, as for road traffic and cycling, it is safest to be sober when on the water. The penalty limit for being drunk in charge of a boat is somewhat blurry. If your ability to steer the boat safely has been compromised, you can still be penalised for being drunk in charge of a boat with a blood alcohol content of less than 1.00 per mille.

A person without the necessary sailing skills should not be left in charge of steering a boat. You can also be penalised for being drunk in charge of a boat if you are drunk and have handed over steering of the boat to a sober yet unskilled person.

No blood alcohol content limits have been set for rowing boats. However, more than half of all accidents leading to death by drowning occur under the influence of alcohol. It’s always safest to stay sober when sailing, swimming or engaging in other watersports.

The blood alcohol content limit for boating is higher than that for driving. In Finland, the drunk-driving limit is a blood alcohol content of 0.5 per mille. Read more about why drinking and driving don’t mix.

Drunkenness impairs your boating skills

Alcohol’s intoxicating effect on the brain causes drunkenness. Even with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of less than 0.5 per mille, your concentration and judgement will be impaired and you will be more likely to take risks. When your BAC rises above 0.5 per mille, your brain coordination will be impaired, hindering your ability to perform tasks demanding concentration.

Good balance is an essential aspect of boating. Even with a BAC of less than 0.5 per mille, alcohol will affect your balance and make you more clumsy. Falling off a boat is dangerous even when sober, but you are definitely at risk when you have consumed alcohol. Read more about the effects of intoxication.

Tips for safe boating

  • If you drink, don’t go out on the water.
  • Check the weather and wind forecasts before going on the water.
  • All passengers should wear life vests.
  • Properly maintain your other safety equipment as well. A boat should have an oar, paddle or anchor tied to a rope, a scoop for removing water and – depending on the size of the outboard motor – a fire extinguisher.
  • Enjoy your alcoholic beverages on land.
  • Avoid operating a boat with a hangover. Even if you no longer have any alcohol in your blood, hangover symptoms can also have a negative impact on your ability to operate a boat. Read more about hangover symptoms.

Article sources:
Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom

Article picture: Folio Images