Boozing and boating don’t mix

Most know by now drinking and driving don’t mix. But a lot fewer seem to have gotten the message about boozing and boating.

Most know by now drinking and driving don’t mix.

But a lot fewer seem to have gotten the message about boozing and boating.

Stettler RCMP Sgt. Duncan Babchuk regularly patrols Buffalo Lake with his boat and is seeing the same poor choices made over and over.

“This our second year for the boat out on the lake here and we’re finding a lot of liquor on board,” he said.

He routinely finds open cans of beers and coolers full of extras, sometimes right next to the cans of pop and juice for the children on board.

“Unless you’re living on that boat, that’s a no no,” said Babchuk.

No alcohol is allowed on boats unless it is outfitted with a toilet, permanent berth and galley. Even then, it has to be at the dock or anchored.

Boaters caught with booze will be directed to shore to dump their stash.

Babchuk said many boaters don’t see it in the same light as driving a car or truck, even though the penalties are the same. The same goes for personal watercraft, snowmobiles, planes or any other motorized vehicle.

“They don’t equate operating a boat, which is a motor vehicle, to driving a car,” he said. “I think there is a big learning curve that has to be worked on.”

He spent six hours on the water on Canada Day and issued eight tickets, mostly for liquor offences.

It may come as a surprise to some boaters that getting caught driving impaired could cost you your driver’s licence for a year or more — the same as if you were pulled over on a road.

Babchuk has a roadside screening device that he can take out on the water to check boaters. If over the limit, they are hauled back to shore, charged and given a court date.

The only laws that don’t apply are provincial measures such as automatic licence suspensions.

Legislation on the water is a complicated web of jurisdictions. The Criminal Code, Alberta Liquor and Gaming Act and federal boating regulations can all be applied depending on circumstances.

Whatever the charge or ticket though, boaters breaking the rules can expect to dig deep into their pockets.

Boating with an open can of beer is an automatic $115 fine. Consuming alcohol while driving a boat means a $287 ticket.

Not licensing a boat is a $250 fine. Not having enough life jackets is a $200 penalty, plus $100 for every life jacket missing, as well as an automatic court date. On the positive side, he has not found many cases where boats don’t have the proper safety equipment on board this year.

Babchuk has little patience for those claiming ignorance of the law. Everything anyone needs to know about boating regulations is easily available online and the laws have been around for a long time.

For more information on boating regulations go to Transport Canada’s site at