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Campfire Collective July 17, 2018

Drinking and boating in Canada – know the facts!

Sinking boat at a dock

‘Booze Cruise’ Rules, Risks & Penalties

We hear from a lot of Canadians who are all wondering what the laws are for boating with 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.

In Canada, operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. You’re considered to be ‘impaired’ or ‘under the influence’ if you’re tested (with a breathalyzer or blood test) and the results determine that your Blood Alcohol Concentration level (BAC) is in excess of 80mg. 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 as a factor.

What are the penalties

If you’re convicted of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the minimum penalties in Canada 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 province by province.

When can I legally consume alcohol on a boat?

Boat passengers may legally consume alcohol on board a boat in Canada, so long as 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 will 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 any passengers crack open any beer or liquor. It is also your responsibility to stay sober to make sure everyone gets home safe. Remember, boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is ALWAYS illegal, however, the rules for when alcohol can be legally consumed and transported on a boat vary from province to province.

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

Alberta

In Alberta, the fines and penalties for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs match the fines and penalties for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating. Alcohol may be consumed on board a boat in Alberta so long as the boat is equipped with a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked. Contact Alberta’s RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Alberta.

Ontario

In Ontario, 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. Understand that an Ontario boater convicted of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol of drugs may have their driver’s license suspended for a minimum of 1 year. Ontario’s Ignition Interlock Program will also apply to those convicted of drunk boating. Boat passengers may consume alcohol on board a boat in Ontario so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked. Contact the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Ontario.

Quebec

In Quebec, 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. However, boaters in Quebec are permitted to carry open alcohol on boats while the boat is underway. Even the boat operator may do so, as long as their BAC level does not exceed the legal limit of 80mg. For more information about Quebec’s laws for boating with alcohol, contact the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).

British Columbia

In B.C., the fines and penalties for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs match the fines and penaltiesfor operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating. Alcohol may be legally consumed on board a boat in British Columbia so long as the boat is licensed for alcohol consumption, or the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked. Contact B.C.’s, RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in British Columbia.

Saskatchewan

In Saskatchewan, the fines and penalties for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs match the fines and penalties for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating. Alcohol may be consumed on board a boat in Saskatchewan so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or moored to shore. Contact Saskatchewan’s RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in Saskatchewan.

Manitoba

In Manitoba, the fines and penalties for operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs match the fines and penalties for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is NO difference between drunk driving and drunk boating. In Manitoba, it is illegal to transport open alcohol on boats. Boat passengers may only consume alcohol on board a boat in Manitoba so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or moored to shore. 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 to driving 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 New Brunswick so long as the boat is equipped with permanent sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities and the boat is anchored or docked. 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 by alcohol or drugs are the same as those applicable to driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is no difference between drunk driving and drunk boating. Boat passengers may consume alcohol on board a boat in Newfoundland and Labrador so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked. 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 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 consume alcohol on board a boat in Nova Scotia so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is 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 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 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 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 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, 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 Nunavut so long as the boat has a permanent toilet, cooking facilities, sleeping facilities and it is anchored or docked. Contact the Nunavut RCMP for more information about the laws for boating with alcohol in the Nunavut. Remember, these boating laws may change over time, so you should check with your provincial police (OPP for Ontario, SQ for Quebec & RCMP for all other provinces and territories) for the alcohol carriage and consumption restrictions that will apply to your type of boat, in your province.

The Effects of Alcohol when Boating

There are numerous negative effects of consuming alcohol while boating. Two important ones to be aware of include:

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

Dehydration: Heat and sun can cause dehydration as the body tries to cool itself by sweating. If you’re dehydrated, you will feel the effects of alcohol more quickly. Even mildly dehydrated people will absorb alcohol more quickly into their system and will have a higher blood alcohol concentration than a non-dehydrated person. Dehydration causes the body to lose fluids, which can lead to stomach cramps while attempting to swim and stay above water.

Other negative effects of alcohol when boating can include:

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

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

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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.

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