PADDLERsmart! Canada Knowledge Base

Module 04 - Safe Boat Operation


Boating under the influence is still a significant issue on Canadian waterways and is a factor in approximately 40% of boating-related accidents and deaths in Canada

Remember: Consuming alcohol and not wearing a life jacket can be a deadly combination. 

Alcohol can affect boat operators in the following ways: 

  • Boater Fatigue caused by sun, wind, noise, vibration, and the motion of the boat can quadruple the effects of alcohol on boaters.
  • Dehydration caused by the heat and sun occurs when your body tries to cool down by sweating. Dehydrated people will absorb alcohol into their system more quickly. They'll even have a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level than a person who isn't dehydrated. Since you’re sweating, you’re losing fluids- this causes stomach cramps, making it harder to swim!
  • Poor judgment and ability to process information–alcohol will make you less attentive.
  • Reduced motor skills equal slower reaction and reflex time! This causes accidents but also affects your peripheral vision, and balance, putting you at a higher risk of falling overboard.
  • Poor depth perception, vision, and focus.
  • Inner ear disturbances caused by alcohol can result in vertigo and balance issues, making it harder to distinguish the water surface if you fall in.
  • Accelerated hypothermia, since alcohol lowers the body’s resistance to cold

The rules vary in each province for when alcohol can be consumed by boat passengers (guests), and how alcohol can be transported on a boat. In some provinces, boat operators found guilty of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol will lose their motor vehicle driver’s license for up to one year.


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