I'm sure it varies state to state but what are the rules in regard to alcohol consumption on a boat? Specifically in the TN river if anyone knows.  Keep in mind I am not referring to operating the boat under the influence but merely enjoying s few barley pops while at anchor. We are anchoring out overnight memorial day weekend for a fireworks show and the marine patrol are thick then.

Dumb question I'm sure but I'm a small boat guy growing into the big one.     

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In general, at anchor, off channel with proper anchor lighting, even our sometimes aggressive water patrol do not hassle boaters, stress proper, off channel and sometimes.  We do have some occasions with the Coast Guard wannabees (Aux) that think they have boarding privileges.  If challenged I have decided to ask for written ID so I can properly introduce them to my attorney, phone in hand, and this probably will help.  Some education occurred on the return from the Mecca Rendezvous, see issues of Styled in Fiberglass, could have been an interesting deviation on that episode.  Hard to be that quick at 2 AM.

WWYP

Here in Mass. an alcohol violation underway is treated the same as a motor vehicle alcohol infraction including insurance surcharges and jail time. Properly at anchor your commander is considered a second home and your alcohol policies are no different than in your house except that they fall under the jurisdiction of whichever state waters you are currently anchored in. As far as the boarding by CG members they do have the right to board you at any time be it for a routine safety inspection or if they feel a law is being broken. Your only right is to request that the boarding is done at a port if the conditions do not warrant safe boarding and disembarking by said personnel from your vessel. You can expect the "every nook and cranny inspection should you request it be done in port as they normally will not ask to come aboard unless conditions are safe. When you request a port boarding it screams " I have something illegal onboard".  My 35 years of experience including may years as a marine officer is that they are far, far less likely to board you if you are a federally documented vessel rather than showing state registration numbers, not sure exactly why but the numbers here in the Boston area have proven it out clearly over time. I couldn't agree more with Tim that the CG Aux members are a PITA. What I believe is that the  "weekend warriors" on their two week stint are also PITA but alas they do have the same privileges as full time CG personnel. I agree with Tim though that the CG Auxiliary are another story, they have no boarding rights under any circumstances and can only provide a courtesy safety exam when they are aboard with a captains invitation. Drop that anchor and have a cold one for me!

Interesting discussion, thanks for asking Alan.  Kevin, what is a "federally documented vessel" and how does one go about getting this status?  Chris

Kevin is right. At anchor and with the keys out of the ignition in MA then it is basically like your home and even the captain could get lit (or high, since it's legal here now ;) ). But if you have alcohol in your blood stream or are seen drinking an open container while under way then it is treated like driving a car and in MA it hits your record/insurance exactly as it would if you were driving.

In Oklahoma there is a charge of Actual Physical Control which is pressed against a drunk person sitting in his car but not driving it.  This charge can only be brought if the circumstances prove that the Defendant has the possibility of driving his car while under the influence.  The theory follows the line of thought that a drunk's actions cannot be trusted and at any moment could decide to start driving and endanger other citizens.  To thwart this type of action all a person needs to do is remove the ignition key and place it somewhere that is not easily accessible.  Of course the State could try to support its charge by alleging the Defendant could readily retrieve then key at any time, thus still being in actual control.  This is why when asked about the proper way to be out of Actual Physical Control I would advise the best way would be to throw the key out the window. The second best way is to hide the key in an unaccessible place so that the arresting officer lacks the ability to produce the the pivotal evidence to prove the crime.  So going along the line of this theory, I would say to remove your ignition keys and hide them far away from the helm.  If an officer asks where your keys are, just show him your hand with all five digits showing and say you respectfully decline to answer by claiming your Fifth Amendment Right.   

Two suggestions: 1) if you want to know the law in TN, consult a TN lawyer. 2) if you're at anchor and not acting in such a way that it's obvious you are under the influence, you are not likely to be questioned or boarded. 3) ok, i lied.  check here  https://www.boat-ed.com/tennessee/handbook/page/37/Alcohol-and-Drugs/

Seems like the keyword of the linked law is, "operating."  If you are anchored and there are no keys in the ignition, it is my opinion this law does not apply.  I agree, however, that a consultation with a TN lawyer can give you the final word on this topic.  

Unexpected events can happen while on the water. Best to have at least one sober person on board. Even at anchor, things can get out of hand quickly.

Thanks for the replies guys. Don't worry I have no intention of getting hammered onboard. I'm too old and it hurts too much the next day for that nonsense. My concern was what Lewis brought up. I have heard of people being charged with DUI while sitting in a parked car.

I'll remove the ignition key and stow it in the cabin.

Chris, Federally documented means the boat is effectively titled with the USCG and in many states NOT required to carry state marine registration numbers. You need to check your state but here in Ma. no state numbers or associated fees are required so after the initial documentation costs of $ 133.00 the renewal costs $26.00/year so $52.00 every two years. State registration for my 41' is $100.00 every two years so my cost is almost 1/2.  Make sure you document it yoursel. many web firms will do the paperwork but charge huge fees to do it( try 800-1000 dollars. Try looking on this CG website and use form 1258. They are very helpful if you call them. this is the national vessel documentation website.                      https://www.uscg.mil/nvdc/nvdcforms.asp

the actual documentation form and instructions are here.                    https://www.uscg.mil/nvdc/forms/cg1258.pdf                                                                                        If you want you can PM me and I'll give you my phone number.  



Chris Bales said:

Interesting discussion, thanks for asking Alan.  Kevin, what is a "federally documented vessel" and how does one go about getting this status?  

Lewis is correct. The difference is that your car is always a motor vehicle. Your boat with no keys in the ignition is a house. You can leave your keys anyplace you want (out of the ignition) and you are ok. I also agree with Bruce, having a sober person is a safe thing to do but difficult sometimes  when you are anchored for the evening or a weekend.  Tip a cold one for me!

Alan Waite said:

Thanks for the replies guys. Don't worry I have no intention of getting hammered onboard. I'm too old and it hurts too much the next day for that nonsense. My concern was what Lewis brought up. I have heard of people being charged with DUI while sitting in a parked car.

I'll remove the ignition key and stow it in the cabin.

At least in my area, law enforcement tends to hone in on jet skis, pontoon boats, and smaller fishing boats. They normally leave the big guys alone. That and the coasties are the only ones with the right to board whenever they want, and they almost never do. The state law enforcement that is overly aggressive are the same ones who need your permission to come aboard, which I deny as a rule, because duh.

When they ask why I say that's exactly what I'd tell one of my clients to do. Got some reasonable and articulable suspicion that I've committed a crime? Then let's hear it, otherwise move along.

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