Of Booze And Boats

I've seen an awful lot of ridiculous, idiotic, dangerous things out on the water. A remarkably large number of them seem to involve booze.

Beer, wine and a propeller.

Cider beer, red wine, and the propeller from a 25-knot power skiff. Not a good combination!

A few years ago, a neighbour up north was regaling us with the previous week's nautical drama. It seems that on his way up the lake, he'd seen a man sitting on a rock about eighty metres from shore. No boat was in sight.

This rock, if I'm not mistaken.

Our neighbour stopped to pick up the drenched, shivering fellow and his companion, who had made it to dry land. Getting them on board was apparently a bit of a challenge, as both men were rather inebriated. They did, at least, retain enough verbal coherence to convey the name of their destination, a cottage a few kilometres upstream.

The next day, once the men had sobered up a bit, skippers on this quiet little lake were treated to the amusing spectacle of two guys in a borrowed boat, with float barrels and grappling hooks, fishing case after case of beer from the lake not far from the rock.

It seems that they'd borrowed a friend's old metal skiff, loaded it down with supplies (read: 24-packs) for a week at the cottage, and headed upstream with just a few inches of freeboard to spare. One of the two-fours may or may not have been opened en route. They saw the rock, cut the throttle, put the helm over – and down she went, taking the beer (and the brand-new outboard motor) with her.

This is not the only booze-and-boats story I have, but we can laugh about it because – luckily – everyone survived the incident. (We do not yet know whether they survived the eventual encounter with the owner of the boat they sunk.) In many cases, the outcome is far worse.

Oh, and by the way: I've been told, unofficially, that booze is one of the few infractions for which the water cops in Ontario take a hard, zero-tolerance line. (Lifejackets and blatantly dangerous driving are the other two.) Police officers I've met out there have generally told me that they're pretty easy about missing or expired equipment; if you take care of the issue right away and drop by the cop dock for a re-inspection, they're often happy to leave it at that. But open booze at the helm? They'll suspend your car driver's licence for that.

Booze, Amplified

We all know that driving a car after having a few beers is the kind of blatant stupidity that rightly gets you locked up in the slammer with a suspended licence.

Well, it's even worse on the water.

The motion of the boat, and the glare from the water, greatly amplify the effect that a bit of booze has on your co-ordination, your spatial perception and your sense of balance. In other words, you get a fair bit "more drunk" from three beers on a moving boat than you do from three beers in a downtown bar.

Save your beer for the dock or the anchorage. Risking it on the water is just plain stupid.

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