Be forewarned, this is a serious post. "Don't drink and dink" sounds cute and tongue-in-cheek, I know, but drinking and boating is something people just don't take seriously enough. Please read on. I'm not going to judge you for drinking ten Painkillers and being ridiculous or silly, I promise. I just want us all to get home safely and be able to enjoy the water (and roads) without getting hurt.
When I discuss potential marinas in Annapolis folks always suggest a couple that are lovely, but a drive away from everywhere I want to go out. I explain I don't want to drink and drive, and I also don't want to cab it. I would rather just live in walking distance of my watering holes. The standard response is that I can just dinghy back across the creek so I won't have to drive. Really? Somehow I think that driving a dinghy home drunk at 2AM involves as many if not more perils as driving a car home drunk. Yes, one is less likely to get caught... but my concern is not just that spending a night in jail rather sucks, but I also want to arrive home safely, without hurting myself or anyone else.
So, what inspired this post? Maryland legislator Don Dwyer can't learn the simple lesson not to operate motorized vehicles when inebriated. After a drunken boating collision a year ago on the Magothy River, he just got arrested for DUI and over a dozen other charges after driving home drunk from Baltimore. Read the Capital Gazette article here and Washington Post article here. Naturally, Dwyer blames his drinking on marital problems (hey, idiot--it's the other way around, I promise you).
Apparently--and this actually turns my stomach--prosecutors in the drunken boating case have reached a plea deal that involves no further jail time. Seriously? Seven people were injured in that boating accident. Dwyer himself had to be hospitalized. This is NOT a situation where he had a couple hefty glasses of wine with dinner and then blew .08. His BAC was three times the legal limit. Read the Washington Post article on that incident here. Both boat operators were charged in that collision and apparently both failed to follow rules-of-the-road, but only Dwyer was charged with alcohol-related offenses as well. This guy shouldn't be operating motor vehicles on or off the water, period. When prosecutors just give a slap on the wrist they are endangering my life. It terrifies me that I am sharing the Bay with an idiot like this, not to mention the countless others who are only emboldened by the laughable "punishment" being doled out.
At my marina, at least two, (probably more), boats come back to their slips with virtually every person aboard trashed. Always loud and obnoxious, with volumes of beer cans in the recycling that actually shock me (and, trust me, that takes a lot). But sometimes staggering and slurring right when they step ashore. Who exactly was at the helm? And, no, these are not just power boaters. It scares me that I'm out on the water with these people.
I admit I have come back to the boat, both on foot and on another's dink, with little recollection of getting back aboard. I'm not proud of it, but it does happen to most of us now and again. And I am not judging folks who party to the maximum, and I'll just brush it off if others want to judge me. But we can and should judge behavior that objectively puts others' lives at risk.
Unfortunately, there is such a taboo around DUIs that virtually everyone denies that they ever drive when they shouldn't. I think that is usually just lying to ourselves, but it is also partly that people simply do not understand BAC (blood alcohol concentration) or how many "drinks" for BAC purposes are really in every "drink" you have. It isn't the most beautiful or easy-to-read BAC chart, and uses too many European measurements, but the one from Wikipedia doesn't have any axe to grind, as do most sites posting BAC information. (I am absolutely not a fan of MADD or other temperance movements.) This chart is much easier to work with, but comes with the message that any alcohol in your system makes you unsafe to drive.
For their own safety, everyone should know their BAC table. As a woman, I can have two drinks the first hour and one drink an hour thereafter and (theoretically) be just under .08. (And I really don't think you want to be anywhere near .08 and get pulled over lest you plan to spend the night in jail.) If I'm flabby, my BAC will be higher; if I'm muscular, it will be lower. Yes, the fat guys we would think could handle their liquor actually get drunk faster than the lean, muscular, fit guys. I rarely drink liquor when out if I'm going to be driving because no bar in Annapolis pours a drink with 1.25 ounces of liquor. Think two or three times that. Not many wine pours are only 5 ounces, and the volume is very difficult to judge because of the diverse wine glasses used in different restaurants. And a pint of beer is not one drink. A 12 ounce beer is one drink, so a pint is 1.33 drinks. I actually count my drinks very, very carefully if I am in a position where I will be driving.
When I took friends out for a cruise Saturday before last I did drink. It isn't illegal to drink while underway and I don't think it's irresponsible per se. But how much did I drink? Six drinks spread out over eight + hours, and with plenty to eat. Food does not prevent alcohol from reaching the bloodstream, but the right food (fat and protein) does slow it down. My BAC was probably about .04. Some people will take the view that anything over 0 is too much. I understand their reasoning, but I think that is extreme. But I do take my responsibility at the helm seriously. The safety of my friends and crew (including my pets) depends on it. It's good seamanship. I want to have fun on the water and hope everyone can, but, yeah, it's better not to drink and dink.