Speed and impaired boating

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Operate at a safe speed

You may have to stop or turn suddenly to avoid a collision, so operate at a safe speed. When choosing a safe speed consider:

  • The visibility conditions (fog, mist, rain and darkness) and your ability to see ahead
  • The wind, water conditions and currents
  • The manoeuvrability of your boat
  • The traffic density, types of vessels in the area and their proximity
  • The proximity of any navigational hazards (rocks, and tree stumps)

Be especially careful when operating in areas of restricted visibility, such as entering or exiting a fog bank.

Consider the effects your boat’s wake might create while choosing your speed. Your boat’s wake can damage other vessels, docks and the shoreline.

Also, consider other users of the waterway such as swimmers, divers and people aboard small vessels that your wake could cause to capsize. You could be held liable for these damages.

Impaired driving on the water

Boating under the influence of alcohol, or drugs is illegal. It is also a danger to yourself and others.

Staying sober is your responsibility

Boating while drinking or taking drugs can lead to dangerous situations.

When boating impaired, you are not just a danger to yourself but to others too. Each time you operate a boat, you are responsible for the safety of your guests and other people using the waterway. You must always be prepared and alert.

Mixing alcohol and drugs with boating is far more dangerous than you may realize. Fatigue, sun, wind and the motion of the boat may dull your senses. Alcohol and drugs intensify these effects, leaving you with reduced fine motor skills (for example, hand-eye coordination) and impaired judgement.


Impaired driving, whether on land or water, is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada.

Convictions for a first offence can result in:

  • fines
  • prohibition from operating a boat or motor vehicle
  • seizure of the boat for a period of time
  • possible prison terms

The laws and penalties for when a boater is considered impaired follow provincial and territorial driving laws.

Remember, provinces and territories also have their own rules on:

  • impairment limits
  • when you can drink alcohol on a boat
  • how alcohol can be carried on board from one location to another

Contact your local, provincial or territorial law enforcement authorities for more information.