Waterways Ontario
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Alcohol and Boating
Rules about Alcohol on Board

Beer Wine and Liquor on Board


When you read reports about boating accidents, it is disturbing that so many of them involve alcohol.  It makes you think that the accident could have been avoided entirely.  Unfortunately, there is no way to legislate common sense but there are very specific rules about carrying and consuming alcoholic beverages when you go boating in Ontario.


PLEASE keep in mind that any rules here apply in Ontario and may or may not be different in other jurisdictions.


First of all, it’s a criminal offence to operate a pleasure craft under the influence or alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances.  The blood alcohol and other levels are the same at the helm as they are behind the wheel, and the penalties are the same.  You might lose your drivers license, be banned from driving (car or boat) for a year, and so on.  As it is when driving a car… you’re much better off to have taken no alcohol or other substances when you leave the dock.


More Detail about the Penalties and Costs


A first conviction for impaired boating will result in a one-year suspension of your driver’s license.  To reinstate your license you’ll pay $150 and take the rehabilitation program ($500.00+).  You will also have to use an ignition interlock device in your car for at least a year ($1000.00+) and your insurance rates will likely skyrocket.  You might even face jail time. 


Whether your blood alcohol level is within the legal limit or not, it is also against the law to drink when you are underway.  In fact, the only time you can drink on board is when you are moored at the dock, or anchored.  But you can only drink on board if the boat has permanent washroom facilities, kitchen facilities, and sleeping accommodations.  So you cannot legally drink on board when your bowrider or runabout or canoe is moored or anchored. 


Can you Carry Alcohol on Board?


Yes… but common sense comes into play here.  You can carry unopened beer cases, wine and liquor bottles – crossing the lake to the island or whatever.  You can also carry partial beer cases, or opened bottles, provided they are closed, and secured out of reach.  In other words, if you had an opened case of beer on the deck between the captain and companion seats, an officer who stops you might get suspicious. 


Keep in mind that most, if not all, OPP boats carry breathalyzer equipment, and, if the office has reason to believe you are under the influence, he can administer the appropriate test.


When you’re out in the sun and on the water, the effects of booze can be exaggerated.  Do yourself a favour and wait until you’re on shore before you open anything.  One moment’s lapse of common sense can have devastating – and lifelong – effects. 


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