NSBC BoatBeat Blog: Alcohol and Boating Don’t Mix

Photo Credit: U.S. Coast Guard

Consuming Alcohol While Boating

  • Boating can magnify the side effects of alcohol use. Effects include impaired judgment, reduced balance and poor coordination. See “Almost A Perfect Day.”
  • Drunken passengers can easily fall overboard, swim near the propeller, lean over the side, or stand up in small vessels, causing vessels to capsize.
  • Sun, wind, boat and wave action intensify the effects of alcohol.
  • Alcohol greatly increases the effects of cold water shock.

The Law

  • Under federal law and in most states it is against the law to operate a boat or water ski with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more
  • A boat operator can be arrested even when the BAC is less than 0.08% if conditions are deemed to be unsafe
  • In some states, if convicted, a boater may be sentenced to jail for up to 6 months or longer and assessed fines of up to $1,000. Two convictions within 7 years could add a jail term of up to 1 year or more. More often than not a boater will be transported to and booked into jail.
  • If a boater is operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol and cause the death of someone they could be charged with felony manslaughter, besides having to live with a guilty conscience for the rest of their life.

Blood Alcohol Concentration

  • BAC .01% to .04% – Maybe DUI. Loss of judgment, decreased coordination, thinking dulled, changes in mood and behavior.
  • BAC .05% to .07% – Likely DUI. Operating ability impaired. Walking, speech, and hand movements clumsy. Chance of accident greatly increased. If a boater is a commercial pilot, they will be considered legally under the influence at this level.
  • BAC .08% and over – Definitely DUI. Inhibitions and judgment seriously affected. Responses slowed and dull. High risk of accident. At .08%, a boater is legally under the influence of alcohol.

Download PDF

Related Content

Hundreds of Thousands of New Boaters and Paddlers Expected Fourth of July Weekend

Millions of boaters are expected to head out on the water this Fourth of July weekend, including more than 830,000 first time boat buyers who purchased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in crowds coupled with the number of inexperienced new boaters has caught the attention of the Water Sports Foundation.    “While we are […]

Read More

Video Interview: WSF Associate Wins Top National Award for Public Relations Outreach 

The Water Sports Foundation launched the first-ever national public relations campaign for recreational boating safety in 2021. Supported by the U.S. Coast Guard and executed  by Kenton Smith Marketing, in its inaugural year the program exceeded its outreach goal by nearly ten times.  The Sea Tow Foundation honored the program with its National Boating Industry Safety Award […]

Read More

Hundreds of Thousands of New Boaters and Paddlers Expected Fourth of July Weekend

Water Sports Foundation offers seven safety tips for sharing waterways with inexperienced boaters ORLANDO, Fla., June 14, 2022 –Millions of boaters are expected to head out on the water this Fourth of July weekend, including more than 830,000 first time boat buyers who purchased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in crowds coupled with the […]

Read More