The charity making life better by water

The wrong sort of cocktail

Alcohol and boating at the same time are not a great mix.

Two glasses of champagne on the bow of a narrowboat

Balmy nights, sunny weekends, alfresco evenings and loads of boating. It's summer holiday time at last and there's nothing so enticing as a cool drink on a boat bathed in sunshine, sunlight glinting off the water. Canal boating holidays for me conjure up visions of wonderful countryside, great weather (I'm an optimist), historic places to explore, and of course pubs with lashings of real ale or a decent wine list.

Over the years, I've learnt that indulging in a beer whilst boating is not a good mix and that sometimes even a trip to the pub and going back to a moored boat after one too many can be fraught with danger.

Don't drink and drown

Every summer people sadly drown and alcohol is often a contributory factor. About a quarter of all drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream. Accidents do happen whilst boating and unfortunately the chances of things going wrong increase significantly the more you've had to drink. This is why drinking and boating at the same time are the wrong ingredients for a cocktail of summer fun.

Balance is affected and tends to get worse the more drink you consume, you can literally fall overboard! It doesn't take much, on the counter of a traditional stern narrowboat there's not much room for even a little wobble. There are lots of opportunities for slips, trips and falls of all sorts, whilst on the move, working locks and bridges and mooring up and even in summer the water can be colder than you think. Those of us who have been on the water for a few years will all know of sad cases where boaters have been found drowned after a night out. I can think of three such incidences in my local area in recent years.

What to do with a drunken skipper?

You are less able to judge speed, distance and timing and an increasing lack of any inhibitions after a few drinks may result in speeding and more aggressive behaviour. The boating team regularly receive complaints about antisocial behaviour by people out boating often fuelled by the consumption of excessive amounts of booze.

Report it!

If you are concerned about drunken behaviour on the canals you should report it to the police in the first instance on their non-emergency number of 101, unless circumstances dictate otherwise and there is an immediate grave threat to life or property. It would also be helpful if you could also report the situation to us, give us as much detail as possible including the boat index number/s.

Drinking and boating could expose you to several criminal offences, including the offence of Drunk & Disorderly. If convicted, you would be liable to a fine or custodial sentence. Anyone successfully prosecuted under the Trust's own bye-laws would be liable to a fine of up to £1,000 for each offence.

Let's hope there are no serious incidents to spoil everyone's enjoyment of the waterways this summer. I've got every intention of discovering as many canal side pubs as possible on our long cruise this summer, I love getting a chance to sample real ales that aren't normally available in my local. Hope you all enjoy your boating this summer, just remember to save your favourite tipple for after you've moored up for the day.


The boating team

Boat moored outside White Cross Pub on Lancaster Canal

The White Cross, Lancaster Canal

Last Edited: 30 June 2017

photo of a location on the canals
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