Boating is fun.
The wind in your hair. The sound of the waves crashing against your boat. Your friends. An unobstructed view of the sunrise and sunset.
But for whatever reason, in our culture, boating and alcohol seem to go hand-in-hand. And for recovering alcoholics, the temptation to grab a drink as soon as you step on that boat can be all too powerful to resist. Luckily, Operation Dry Water is calling attention to this problem, and helping to spread the truth about boating under the influence.
Every year, law enforcement from around the country participates in Operation Dry Water, a three-day heightened awareness and enforcement campaign aimed at eliminating substance-related boating accidents. This year, the Heightened Enforcement Weekend will take place from June 24 – 26.
Despite its social acceptance, drinking and boating isn’t as benign as our society gives it credit for. Urban myths (and excuses) abound when it comes to the subject of drinking and boating. But the truth is that it’s not any safer to drink and operate a boat than it is to drink and drive a car.
In fact, the mix of elements like the bright sun and the motion of the boat intensify the effects of alcohol. And unlike driving, there are hidden underwater obstacles that you must be alert and vigilant to avoid. Not to mention there are no lanes and few traffic signs to help safely guide you, and most boats don’t even have headlights!
It’s no wonder that drinking and boating is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 17% of boating deaths according to a 2012 report from the US Coast Guard.
But the safety of you and your passengers isn’t the only thing you put at risk when you boat under the influence. Getting caught can have serious, long-lasting legal and financial repercussions. You can have your boat impounded, get your boating license suspended, pay steep fines, and even face jail time.
But you already know the dangers aren’t worth it.
The trouble is that if you’ve formed a habit of drinking every time you go out on the water, your first time back on a boat without a drink to fall back on can make you feel like a real fish out of water. Just remember that habits are formed, and habits can be broken.
So what’s next? Where do you go from there?
Start by replacing drinking on the boat with a new tradition:
- Replace your beer with refreshing, hydrating water, soda or juice.
- Try water skiing, fishing, or take a dip in the water.
- Bring a guitar and have a sing-along. Play a word game, or just talk to one another.
- Take the opportunity to learn more about your boat, how to better maintain it and make basic repairs.
- Instead of “pre-gaming” with a drink, take some time to clean your boat before going out and give it a touch-up before the rest of your party arrives.
Your options are limitless.
Commit to boating sober and show your support for Operation Dry Water by taking the Pledge. If you’re having a hard time adjusting to boating without a beverage in hand—you’re not alone. Reach out to your supports at home and at Prelude whenever you’re having doubts or feeling tempted.