Alcohol and boating

Don't mix alcohol and boating

The RYA does not condone the drinking of alcohol whilst in charge of a boat and encourages boaters to act responsibly in this regard.

The RYA position

  • The RYA promotes safe recreational boating

  • The RYA encourages boaters to behave responsibly and to understand how alcohol can affect their safety and the safety of others 

  • The RYA urges all boaters not to mix alcohol and boating

  • The RYA opposes the implementation of section 80 of the Railways & Transport Safety Act 2003 for ‘non-professional mariners’. As drafted it creates confusion and uncertainty and the RYA considers it to be unenforceable

  • The RYA would not object to legislation based on compelling evidence, provided that it was clear, understandable and enforceable

The RYA has successfully

  • Resisted Government proposals to enact section 80 of the Railways & Transport Safety Act 2003 as drafted


A significant aspect of our work is aimed at ensuring boaters - through training courses and awareness initiatives - are well equipped in terms of knowledge and experience for the boating activity they are participating in.

The RYA believes that knowledge, skills and experience are the foundations on which personal safety and responsibility are built.

Alcohol and boating law in the UK

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.  The RYA encourages harbour authorities to enforce those rules.

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.