Alcohol and Boats

Drinking and boating (in just about anything that floats) carries the same penalties as drinking and driving a car. Your driver’s licence can be suspended for one year up to a lifetime depending on whether it is a first, second or subsequent offence. The laws are enforced by local, provincial and federal police who carry alcohol-screening devices on the water.

You can be charged with Impaired Operation of a Vessel under the Criminal Code of Canada if your blood alcohol level exceeds .08 (80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood). If you are convicted, a judge can suspend your boating privileges. Upon conviction, a person is liable of the following:

1st offence - a minimum fine of $600
2nd offence - imprisonment for not less than 14 days
3rd & subsequent offence - sentence varies with province

In all provinces of Canada, operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol is illegal. In some provinces, no one on board can consume alcoholic beverages while the boat is being operated. In Ontario, you can't even transport alcohol unless the boat is classed as a "home" (see below). There are differences between provinces, but all require alcohol on board to be packaged and out of reach.

In Ontario, when you visit shore or even on your own boat, provincial law says you must not "display alcohol to the public". That might include a bottle of alcohol sitting in your boat's cockpit. Alcohol consumed at a picnic table on a dock or ashore is usually illegal.

Under Ontario Bill 209, drunk boaters will be subject to the same suspension penalties that now apply to vehicle drivers. The Highway Traffic Act applies to “anyone operating or having the care or control of a vessel”. Anyone found operating a boat while impaired can face an on-the-spot vehicle drivers licence suspension, with additional suspension if convicted.

Canadian border officials can deem people inadmissible at the border if they've been convicted of certain crimes, including drunk driving (car or boat). American laws are similar.

Red Cross statistics: Boating and Alcohol

Carrying Alcohol on a Boat

What boats may carry alcohol in Ontario?

In most provinces, acohol may be consumed on board a boat only if the vessel meets all of the following conditions:

  1. has permanent sleeping facilities
  2. has permanent cooking facilities
  3. has a permanent toilet
  4. is anchored or secured alongside a dock

Check with the appropriate provincial authorities (OPP for Ontario, SQ for Quebec, RCMP for other provinces/territories) for carriage restrictions.

In Ontario, it is illegal to carry alcohol in a car, snowmobile or boat unless the container is unopened and the seal unbroken, or unless the beverage alcohol is packaged in baggage that is fastened closed or is not otherwise readily available to anyone in the vehicle. In a boat, the beverage alcohol must be stored in a closed compartment. (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario)

This page is a just a summary and may be out of date.

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