“Alcohol and Ego - a bad mix”

RYA Cruising Manager, Stuart Carruthers, dispels any myths about the RYA’s position on alcohol and boating.

The RYA’s stance on alcohol and boating.

At the risk of opening up a Pandora’s Box, I thought that it might be a good time to uncork the knotty subject of alcohol and boating and to dispel a myth or two on where the RYA stands.

Now that the summer sailing season is upon us, many of us will be out on the water enjoying the sun, picnics in cockpits and spending as much time as possible on our boats. Undoubtedly at some point, this will involve the consumption of alcohol.

It is crystal clear

Before I go any further, I must make one thing crystal clear: the RYA does not condone drinking alcohol whilst in charge of a vessel. It is as simple as that!

If you think that the two mix then think again, the RYA is not on your side; we encourage all boaters to act responsibly in this regard both for their own safety and the safety of others on the water.

What about regulation?

But, and there is always a but, the RYA believes that if the Government does implement specific new drink driving laws for non-professional mariners then they must be clear, sensible and easy to understand.

The RYA also believes that any regulation should only be targeted where sound risk analysis demonstrates that such action is needed.

Failure of past attempts

Past attempts to bring current drink related legislation into force have singularly failed to do this; it is legislation that is confusing and incomprehensible that we have resisted – not the right to drink and drive.

The law needs to be clear as to when it is an offence to partake in a glass of well chilled Pinot Blush and when it is not.

There is already current legislation under the Merchant Shipping Act and most harbour authority byelaws to prosecute boaters who are a danger to others or who are found to be under the influence of alcohol.


RYA view

We therefore take the view that further drink driving laws for non-professional mariners should not be brought into force unless and until the evidence and resultant risk demonstrates that there is justification for further legislative intervention and above all that it will work.

To date it does not and we have seen no data that shows that there is a case. If such legislation is introduced then it must be proportionate and understandable if it is to be effective.

It is reckless to think that it is acceptable to boat and booze under way. Not only is it irresponsible, antisocial and dangerous, but it is certain that the Government will regulate if the arrogant and foolish few think only of themselves and ignore our advice and common sense.

Current legislation

Merchant Shipping Act 1995

Boaters may be prosecuted under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 if their actions on the water are seen to be endangering other vessels, structures or individuals and they are under the influence of alcohol.

Harbour byelaws

Locally, most harbour authorities have harbour byelaws under which they can prosecute if boaters are found to be under the influence of alcohol when in charge of a vessel.

Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003

A law to introduce drink driving offences (including specific alcohol limits) for non-professional mariners was included in the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003. This provision has not been brought into force.

Stuart Carruthers, RYA Cruising Manager
Quote: “Alcohol and Ego – a bad mix” Don Dokken, Heavy Metal singer