How Does Alcohol Affect You When You Are Operating A Boat?

If you’re thinking about hosting a party with your friends on your boat or maybe even just taking a crate of beers out on your fishing trip, then you may want to reconsider as you may not only be breaking the law but you could severely be putting your safety and the safety of others at risk. 

This article will explain the dangerous effects that alcohol has on your body and how those things can affect you when you are operating a boat.

DISCLOSURE: is reader supported so if you buy any products featured on this site I may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my full disclosure here.

Slows Down Reaction Time

There’s a reason why driving after having alcohol is so dangerous and it’s because the alcohol slows down your reaction time and it’s exactly the same when it comes to operating a boat after drinking alcohol. 

Alcohol will increase the time it takes for your body to register information around you such as noises and movement and your body will also take longer to react to those things.

If you’re operating the boat on busy waters under the influence of alcohol then you’ll increase your chances of an accident as you may not be able to react accordingly if you’re too near another boat or if another boat is signaling at you.

How does alcohol affect you when you are operating a boat

Your reaction time is more prone to being slow if you are drinking or have been drinking all day in the sun on the boat as this will make you more fatigued and your senses will react slower to signals.

Things like wind, sun, the motion of the waves, vibrations, and noise are all stressors.

And exposure to these boating stressors over an extended period can cause people to become very tired even without having consumed any alcohol.

This is why many people find themselves falling asleep whilst laying out on a boat or feeling drained after returning to shore. 

The effects of these stressors on the body almost imitate some of the effects of alcohol.

So when alcohol is also introduced into the equation then it drastically increases their reaction time making it beyond dangerous to be operating a boat. 

Becoming Unbalanced

Whenever someone has a few too many, they’ll become unbalanced and stumble around when walking.

This not so much as a problem when you’ve got the stability and safety of being on land.

However, on a boat, especially smaller boats you’ll dramatically increase your chances of falling overboard and drowning. 

If you do happen to fall overboard then you’ll find it much harder to try and swim back to the boat or to stay afloat by paddling because alcohol slows down your breathing and swallowing so you’ll grow more tired easily.

Alcohol may diminish your ability to swim effectively as well and you could find yourself being dragged out by the water.

Alcohol can also distort your body temperature making you feel hotter or colder than you are, which could lead to you developing hypothermia if you are in cold waters for too long. 

For this reason and reasons unrelated to alcohol, all passengers on board the boat including the operator should always wear a lifejacket, but especially so if they’ve been drinking.

Impairs Judgement

There’s a reason why some people feel more confident and carefree after a drink and that’s because alcohol can impair people’s judgment and make them lose their inhibitions, causing them to act a way they normally wouldn’t when they’re sober.

Alcohol makes people more impulsive and they’ll be more likely to take bigger risks without considering the consequence and some people may overestimate their capabilities and put themselves in danger. 

For example, after a few drinks, the operator of the boat may want to show off to their friends about how fast they can drive the boat, something which they know they shouldn’t do after consuming any alcohol.

The driver or operator will be more likely to succumb to peer pressure from passengers on board to drive to unsafe waters or to mess around whilst on board. 

If you’re operating a boat, then you should be the one in charge of everyone’s safety and try to avoid dangerous situations.

However, what might seem like a fun idea may be a very dangerous one but the alcohol is making you think differently.

For example, maybe some of the passengers on board who have been drinking are diving overboard to swim in the water.

A responsible driver of the boat would encourage them to avoid doing this but alcohol can impair these thoughts and forget to think about the repercussions. 

Not only is your judgment impaired, but you’ll also be less able to carry out a rescue if someone begins drowning or struggles to swim in the water. 

If you do plan on hosting drinks or a party onboard your boat.

Then you’ll have to take one for the team and remain sober and ensure all passengers onboard who are drinking are acting responsibly. 

What the Law Says

In all the U.S States, it is against the law to operate a boat if you are under the influence of alcohol.

It’s also important to note that not only should the operator or driver of the boat be sober.

But he should operate a boat within an environment that is free from any distractions.

Even if the driver hasn’t been drinking, having a boat full of loud drunk people can be very distracting whether that’s preventing them from driving the boat safely. 

It is not illegal for passengers on board a boat to drink alcohol.

Which makes it more important for the operator of the boat to be completely sober and in control so they can drive the boat safely and look out for the welfare of their passengers. 

According to the U.S Coast Guard, half of the boating fatalities that happen on their shores involve alcohol which refers to both alcohol-induced drivers and passengers of the boat.