While it may seem like a good idea to crack one open on the boat, the RCMP are reminding everyone that alcohol does not have a place on or near the water.
Sylvan Lake RCMP Sgt. Michelle Boutin said alcohol and water can be a dangerous mix.
“They don’t go hand and hand,” said Boutin. “It’s dangerous out there. There’s lots of kids and families out there . . . If anything I find it a little bit more dangerous than the road even though the traffic is heavier on the road. On the boat the rules of road do not apply. It’s open space. It can be very, very dangerous.”
Patrols are out on foot and on water in Sylvan Lake daily to write tickets or to give warnings at the officer’s discretion. A first offence for open alcohol under the Alberta Gaming and Liquor law would net offenders a $115 fine.
Boudin was able to give a specific number of tickets written so far this year but she said they are down from last year at the same time.
“It’s an ongoing problem,” said Boutin. “Sadly it’s a nature of the beast. People seem to think alcohol goes great with boating. They want to sit out there and have a few pops on the lake. We haven’t had any major issues. If it’s anybody it’s the odd group of guys having a beer or two. It hasn’t been any thing in excess this year to manage.”
Stettler RCMP Sgt. Duncan Babchuk said it is against the law to have alcohol in a boat unless you can live on the boat and the boat meets particular criteria. The boat must have permanent sleeping birth, permanent cooking facilities and a permanent toilet.
“If you have a type of house boat it has to be at the dock or either anchored,” said Babchuk. “What we are seeing is people buying a pontoon boat and the common name for that is a party boat.”
The pontoon boat is popular for fishing but it does not meet the criteria of a house boat.
Babchuk said patrols have been relatively quiet around Buffalo Lake, 30 km northwest of Stettler, so far this summer. The majority of the policing has been at the dock where the officers have been checking boaters before they hit the water.
“We have the option of ticketing everybody on board who is consuming,” said Babchuk. “There is that option at $115 a piece.”
Check Transport Canada’s Safe Boating Guide for more information on boating practices at www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/.