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Campfire Collective Apr 13th, 2017

Drinking and boating in Canada – know the facts!

Sinking boat at a dock

Can I Drink Alcohol on a Boat in Canada?

We hear from a lot of Canadians who wonder what the laws are for boating and alcohol in their province or territory. So, let’s clear the fog and get you on the right track to stay safe (and legal) while boating anywhere in Canada.

It is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada to operate a boat if you’re impaired by drugs or alcohol.

You are  ‘under the influence’ if you have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) in excess of 80mg or 0.08%. Your BAC level is determined with a breathalyzer or blood test.

Sure, people’s tolerance level to alcohol may vary, but this number does NOT.

80mg = drunk boating. And for good reason. 65% of the boating-related accidents in Canada involve alcohol consumption.

What are the penalties for Drinking and Boating

In Canada, if you’re convicted of boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the minimum penalties are:

  • 1st Offence: A minimum fine of $600.
  • 2nd Offence: A minimum fine of $600 and at least 14 days in prison.
  • 3rd or Subsequent Offence: A minimum fine of $600 and at least 90 days in prison

The MAXIMUM fines & penalties will vary by province.

When can I legally drink alcohol on a boat in Canada?

Boat passengers may legally consume alcohol on board a boat in Canada if the boat is equipped with:

  • Permanent cooking facilities.
  • Permanent sleeping facilities.
  • A permanent toilet; and
  • The boat must be anchored or secured alongside a dock.

Most yachts and houseboats meet these requirements, but not all boat types will.

As the boat operator, it is YOUR responsibility to make sure your boat meets these requirements. Before anyone opens any beer or liquor. Additionally, it’s your responsibility to stay sober to make sure everyone gets home safe.

Remember, boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs is ALWAYS illegal. However, the rules for legal alcohol consumption and transport vary by province.

What Are The Laws For Boating With Alcohol In My Province?

Alberta

In Alberta, the fines and penalties for boating under the influence are the same as for driving a motor vehicle. Review these fines and penalties here. There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

In Alberta, if your boat is equipped with a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities you may consume alcohol. However, the boat must be anchored or docked.

Contact Alberta’s RCMP for more info about the laws for boating and alcohol in Alberta.

Ontario

In Ontario, the fines and penalties for a person who operates a boat under the influence are the same as those for a person who drinks and drives.

Ontario boaters convicted of operating a boat under the influence may have their driver’s license suspended for a minimum of one year. Additionally, Ontario’s Ignition Interlock Program applies to those convicted of drunk boating.

In Ontario, if your boat is equipped with a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, and sleeping facilities, boat passengers may legally consume alcohol. However, the boat must be anchored or docked.

Contact the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Ontario.

Quebec

In Quebec, there are fines and penalties for driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These are the same as those applicable to operating a motor vehicle under the influence.

Boaters in Quebec are permitted to carry open alcohol on boats while the boat is underway. Additionally,  the boat operator may consume alcohol if their BAC level is not more than the legal limit of 80mg.

Contact the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) for more information about Quebec’s laws for boating and alcohol.

British Columbia

In B.C., a person who operates a boat under the influence will face the fines and penalties. These are the same fines as those that apply to a person who operates a motor vehicle under the influence.

There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

In British Columbia, alcohol may be legally consumed if the boat:

  • Is licensed for alcohol consumption AND;
  • Has permanent toilet, cooking facilities and sleeping facilities AND
  • Is anchored or docked.

Contact B.C.’s, RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in British Columbia.

Saskatchewan

A person convicted of operating a boat under the influence will fae the same fines and penalties that apply to motor vehicle operators who drink and drive. That’s because there is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

Alcohol may be consumed on board a boat in Saskatchewan that is anchored or docked equipped with:

  • a permanent toilet AND;
  • cooking facilities AND;
  • sleeping facilities

Contact Saskatchewan’s RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba

In Manitoba, there are fines and penalties for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These match the fines and penalties for a person who drinks and drives.

Additionally, it is illegal to transport open alcohol on boats in Manitoba.

In addition, boat passengers may only consume alcohol on board a boat in Manitoba if the boat is anchored or docked AND has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities.

Contact Manitoba’s RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Manitoba.

New Brunswick

In New Brunswick, the fines and penalties for driving a boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs are the same as those applicable motor vehicle operators.

There is no difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

Boat passengers may only consume alcohol on a boat if to boat is anchored or docked. Additionally, the boat must be equipped with permanent sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities.

Contact New Brunswick’s RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in New Brunswick.

Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the fines and penalties for driving a boat while impaired are the same as those applicable to driving a motor vehicle while under the influence.

There is no difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

Boat passengers may only consume alcohol on a boat in Newfoundland and Labrador if the boat is anchored or docked. Additionally, the boat must have permanent sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities.

 

Contact the Newfoundland & Labrador RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Newfoundland & Labrador.

Nova Scotia

In Nova Scotia, the fines and penalties for driving a boat while under the influence are the same as those applicable to operating a motor vehicle while impaired.

There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

Boat passengers can consume alcohol on board a boat in Nova Scotia so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities. Additionally, the boat must be anchored or docked.

Contact the Nova Scotia RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Nova Scotia.

Prince Edward Island (PEI)

In PEI, the fines and penalties for driving a boat while impaired are the same as those applicable to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

Boat passengers may legally consume alcohol on board a boat in Prince Edward Island so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked.

Contact the Prince Edward Island RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in PEI.

Northwest Territories

In the NWT, the fines and penalties for driving a boat while under the influence are the same as those applicable to operating a motor vehicle while impaired.

There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

Boat passengers may legally consume alcohol on board a boat in the NWT so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked.

Contact the Northwest Territories RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in the NWT.

Yukon

In the Yukon, the fines and penalties for driving a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs are the same as those applicable to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

Boat passengers may legally consume alcohol on board a boat in the Yukon so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked.

Contact the Yukon RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in the Yukon.

Nunavut

In Nunavut, a person who is convicted of drinking and boating will face the same fines as a person who drinks and drives a car. There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating.

 

Boat passengers may legally consume alcohol on board a boat in Nunavut if the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities and sleeping facilities. In addition, the boat must be anchored or docked.

Contact the Nunavut RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in the Nunavut.

Remember, boating laws change over time. Check with your provincial police for the alcohol laws that apply to your type of boat, in your province.

The Effects of Alcohol when Boating

There are numerous negative effects that result from consuming alcohol while you boat, including:

Boater Fatigue: Caused by a combination of the hot sun, wind, noise, vibration and the motion of the boat. These factors quadruple the effects of alcohol on boaters. Alcohol also slows your swallowing and breathing reflexes, and makes you more likely to drown if you fall overboard.

Dehydration: Heat and sun cause dehydration as the body tries to cool itself by sweating. A dehydrated person feels the effects of alcohol more quickly. Additionally, mildly dehydrated people absorb alcohol more quickly into their system and will have a higher blood alcohol concentration.

Dehydration causes the body to lose fluids, which leads to stomach cramps while the person attempts to swim and stay above water.

Other negative effects of alcohol when boating can include:

  • Diminished judgment and ability to process information – alcohol makes you less attentive
  • Slower reaction and reflex response times
  • Reduced motor skills, peripheral vision and balance. This puts you at greater risk of falling overboard
  • Poorer depth perception, vision and focus
  • Inner ear disturbances. This will make it harder to distinguish the water surface if you fall overboard
  • Accelerated Hypothermia, since alcohol will lower the body’s resistance to cold

Safe Boating Tip: Consuming alcohol and not wearing a life jacket or PFD are a deadly combination.

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LET'S WORK TOGETHER

 

Go boldly, tell your story. Campfire is building a collective of ambassadors who share a passion for the wild. If you’re an influencer, publisher or sport expert drop us a line. Let’s hook up and inspire others.

CAMPFIRE STORIES

Stay in the loop. Sign up for our newsletter
to get the latest stories from around the fire.