Drinking and Boating: Why You Shouldn’t Do It

Sailing is often associated with leisure and relaxation and might be a recreational activity you look forward to while on holiday. The atmosphere, location, and sense of occasion evoked by boating is certainly conducive to conviviality – so you might be tempted to indulge in a few drinks to relax and simply enjoy the experience of being at sea.

Can You Drink and Drive a Boat?

If you’re a passenger, then there’s no reason you can’t have a few alcoholic drinks like you might on other social occasions. After all, if you’re on a weekend break, then drinking in a boat might seem completely natural because it’s an opportunity to unwind, take in the sights and chat with the others on board.

That said, if you’re sailing or operating a boat yourself you should probably avoid drinking altogether. While it’s not strictly illegal to consume a small amount of alcohol and drive a boat, the law is a bit muddy here. Drinking obviously impairs judgment, reaction time and can result in accidents.

It’s also worth noting that the same restrictions and precautions apply to operating boats in canals and lakes, as well as at sea.

The alcohol limit for driving boats varies from country to country, but you could take the laws that apply to drink-driving on roads as a starting point. If you’re planning a sailing or boating trip outside of UK waters, it’s crucial that you research the specific legislation that applies in the country you’re visiting. Croatia, Italy, Greece and Ireland are all popular coastal holiday destinations whose laws may differ from those in place in the UK.

Whatever you’re planning to use a boat for – whether it’s purely for leisure or professional purposes – it’s crucial that you consider the right insurance. Here, we look at Yacht & Boat Insurance Comparisons – The Pros & Cons, which should give you an idea of what kind of protection is best for you. Drinking alcohol may invalidate your insurance cover.

Can you drink and drive a boat?

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Can You Drink Alcohol and Drive a Boat in the UK?

In the UK, it is noted how difficult it is to enforce drinking and boating law. The government has had trouble passing exact legislation, but local harbour masters may have bylaws they can use. Regardless, if you have a bad accident and alcohol is involved, it is likely to exacerbate the situation for you.

Aside from legal consequences, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol can be dangerous and poses a risk to the safety of the operator, the people on board, and any other vessels in your vicinity. We offer crew employers’ liability insurance, as well as more general sailing yacht insurance, to help protect you when you’re operating a vessel for leisure activities.

Can You Drink Alcohol and Drive a Boat in the UK?

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Can You Drive a Boat Drunk?

It’s been estimated that up to 70% of all boating accidents are alcohol related. The law in the UK – and many other countries – will have scope for penalising excessive consumption when operating a boat. So, while it may be okay to drink a small amount, driving a boat while intoxicated is dangerous and could bring you severe legal difficulties.


What is the alcohol limit for driving a boat?

In the UK, the law pertaining to alcohol consumption while boating does mention the same limits as for drink-driving, but it is noted how difficult this is to enforce.

Can you drink and drive a boat in international waters?

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Whether or not you can drink and drive a boat in international waters depends on which country you’re in. Many countries have laws related to the amount of alcohol you’re permitted to drink while operating a boat, and they often reflect the laws that are in place around drink-driving. It’s worth checking exactly what the law says in the specific country you’re planning to visit.

Is it illegal to drink and drive a boat?

It’s not illegal to drink and drive a boat in UK waters, provided you restrict your consumption. Think the kind of limits set for drink-driving – roughly, that amounts to two pints of ordinary strength beer (a maximum of four units of alcohol).

That said, any amount of alcohol will have an effect on your general competency in terms of navigating a sea vessel – so it’s best to avoid drinking entirely while you’re operating the boat and wait until you’ve docked safely to drink.