Harbour master pushes for 'drink-boating' to be an offence

PUBLIC Services will consider whether to make being drunk in charge of a boat illegal, one of a series of recommendations from harbour master Captain Peter Gill.

PUBLIC Services will consider whether to make being drunk in charge of a boat illegal, one of a series of recommendations from harbour master Captain Peter Gill.

His plea comes after a series of boat crashes in recent years caused by drunken skippers.

A report about improving marine safety will be presented to the Public Service board within three weeks.

It includes suggestions about why people drunk in charge of a boat should be treated the same as drink-driving motorists.

Captain Gill was speaking following an incident on Tuesday night, which saw the lifeboat spend several hours searching for a man in a Rib, after he failed to arrive in Guernsey after leaving the Mermaid Tavern in Herm.

Comments for: "Harbour master pushes for 'drink-boating' to be an offence"


Quite right! Why has this not been introduced already? Hope the PSD board agree with the recommendation.


About bloney time too.


How's it took so long to come about, I see so many teens and adults out getting drunk on ribs and yachts I'm a surprised no one has died yet.


The time and resources that the rescue services have to put into boating incidents involving alcohol definitely warrants it being an offence.


I agree totally 110% but not just a suggestion ensure its made compulsary.

A full test like a driving test needs to be completed and passed too, along with the day skipper course and again passed before a boat licence is issued and compulsary third part insurance as minimum.

If people are caught without any of these their boat is confiscated and an extreemly heavy fine isissued.

Motorists have severe penalties for drink driving so why should boating be any different, plus it is far more dangerous in a boat.


Many people drive cars, who have presumably passed driving tests, are utterly incompetent.

The introduction of a licensing system serves only to employ another DVLA department, who will no doubt be equally incompetent.

Will you require visiting yachtsmen to take your test as well?

Compulsory (note the spelling) insurance is already required for all those berthing in a local marina.

Do you have a boat? Or qualifications?

If we are to support a water based police force I suggest that you pay for it personally because I don't wish for my taxes to be wasted on it.


In the USA it is illegal to have alcohol aboard your boat,and it is enforced. Who would enforce it in Guernsey?.


Not strictly true. It is a federal offence to be 'BUI' but it's only certain states that you may not have alcohol on board. The definition of BUI is c.0.10 alcohol which is a little more lenient than our drink driving threshold.


I'm nor advocating boating under the influence but the States have used a sledgehammer to crack a walnut and we would kiss goodbye to all of our French visitors (and many of the UK ones) if we did the same.


So there'll be a new police boat purchased and some new police staff out to patrol the russell then?. Making it an offence to have a few beers and get in a boat is ridiculous. It will kill trade in Herm and Sark. The thing to do would be to prosecute anyone that requires rescuing and charge them the full cost of the operation along with a sizeable donation. The problem isn't people drinking it's people who don't know how to use a boat properly.

Ello, Ello, Ello, Sailor

Better make that a gun-boat if General, or should that then be Admiral, Rice has anything to do with it.


I'll drink to that.


Couldn't disagree more. There a many good reasons why it's perfectly reasonable to be in control of a boat while under the influence (at anchor overnight, on a mooring, on a beach with an incoming tide) and there are times when you may need to move the boat (sudden change in weather, asked to by the authorities). For many their boat is either their home or an extension of it, and they act perfectly responsibly. To impact the majority due to a small but highly-visible minority would be deeply unfair.

Far better would be to have a charge of 'dangerous boating' which would include harsher sentences for those found to be over a certain alcohol limit. You don't have to be drunk to behave like an idiot in a boat.

Charlie G

Eric ...you will read from my 1st long " rant" i'm a bit of a rebel when it comes to errosions of freedoms..however there does have to be some kind of control over "wobbly" sailors,and i believe our Harbour Master is concerned more about the drunken knutters on the waves ,than someone who needs to up anchor due to bad weather.Of course we all like to think we are responsible persons,but so often than not with some,the odd "dram" can soon turn iresponsible,and the sensible majority as you say get "impacted" by the minority.

There have been cases on the roads/sea,even in the strictest regimes where the law recognised there were mitigating circumstances ,for drivers etc to be " on the move",whilst under the " influence",mostly relating to unexpected emergency situations,and the law has a fine line to deal with those circumstances.

Many "blanket".laws are introduced,because some of the human race is incapable of exercising common sense,so the rest of us get sucked down with it.In some cases, blanket laws are a better option,like alcohol consumption,at least in the Scandinavian(and other areas)example,you know whats what, zero tolerance , not, eh well have i had enough,can i drive/sail ,oh maybe just another few ,scenario.

There is NEVER a good reason to be under the influence whilst in control of a boat or vehicle,but there are ,and have been many reasonable and acceptable reasons for doing so.


What a bunch of sad people, exactly why i left Guernsey for freedom.

An ex born and bred donkey


Just watch them walking to their vehicles after mooring their boats after a night out in Herm at the marinas

Charlie G

I'm certainly not one for ever increasing "rights" of freedom being undermined by over powering nonsense laws,especialy from the madness of H & S.I like a good time and drink like most,however....being intoxicated at the wheel or the helm on a public highway/sealane is a 100% no no.Smoking is banned nearly everywhere,and the dropping of cigarette butts and litter are quite rightly fineable deeds,but drunk in charge of a "vessel in bottle" is still" tolerated,"and an alcohol percentage is still acceptable on the highways!

Compared with other inteligent countries,Britain continues to play around,and lags patheticaly behind in its alcohol on the "highways/seaways" policy,with the brewers and other associated groups rigorously objecting to every movement of implementing a " 0 tolerance" policy.....wonder why !

Get real here,the fact is that vehicles and vessels are killing machines at the best of times,just like guns etc,and in the wrong hands,and add in a little alcohol,is like lighting a blue touch paper ,recipe for disaster and heart break.

It was refreshing to see ,on a recent motoring trip to Norway just how other laws deal with things.My initial surprise/shock on their hard line laws soon gave way to relief ,to be within simple inteligent thinking,and was pleasantly surprised at that whole country and its collective support for such ,maybe to us,brainwashed ideas....you drink ,or you drive/sail, NOTHING but NOTHING inbetween,total zero tolerance.Their laws are hard and loudly clear...first offence,automatic 3 week stay at their majestys pleasure and automatic confiscation of vehicle/craft and permit/licence..heavy fine and bans,which in some case meant for life.Along with their patrol vehicles they have patrol fast craft,policing sea and inland lakes ,with no messing about, spot checks.

Harsh ? law gone mad? over the top? ...at first i thought so,but the absolute fear of what the consequences would be ,for those who dared step over the line,was enough to make you tow that very line,with a very precise responsible

attitude to ones self ,and towards others.

Before the bleeters post their threads,think about how you would feel/react to the news of a loved one/friend etc having been mown down by a drunk incharge of vehicle or vessel....mmm

Our harbour Master is correct in showing responsible attitude towards this subject ,and public services should without question,show worthy strength in full support of his request...before disaster strikes.

As a foot note...the inexscusable waste of taxpayers funds on such nonsense purchases like an armoured car, was without doupt unacceptable.Instead ,such funds should of been afforded to more inteligent requirements ,like that of a Police fast craft,for spot checking,around our waters,allowing the people of this Island to witness funds put to proper use,for inteligent purpose.At the same time backing up the Harbour Master,after all, the problem of drunk sailors,is nothing new.

Stats are the way

Drinking and Driving isn't the problem. It's each on their own, look at the stats:

Number of people killed in the UK last year as a result of drinking: 35,000

Number of people killed in the UK last year as a result of driving: 18,000

Number of people killed in the UK last year as a result of drinking & driving: 560

Discuss ........

more stats

Be good to see what the estimate of cost is for saving reckless boaters who are drunk in charge.

Island Wide Voting

Did you lend that one to Lee Mack?

Oh Dear

I thought I'd heard that before IWV.

The difference is, when you drink yourself to death, you're not killing anyone else (I know it can lead to depression in family members which can increase the risk of suicide but you know what I mean). Drink driving can kill many people in one incident. The figures are probably lower than they've ever been due to the crackdown.

I wonder if those killed by drink driving also fall under the "killed by alcohol category".

Guernsey Fudge

If a drunk driver hits a tree on an open road and kills himself so be it.

However if they are mowing down innocent people walking on pavements it is a big concern, whether 56, 560 0r 5,600.

Only hope that no one you know Mr Stats gets wiped out that way.

Oh Dear

Guernsey Fudge, Stats are the way posted a copy of a joke said by Lee Mack, I don't think it was actually a serious comment.


In reference to rules in other parts of the world, in Canada, being under the influence at the helm can impact your vehicle license.


Response to stats

Give me the stats for drink boating accidents

Devil's Advocate

Locally in the past few years - A fisherman was convicted of driving his boat out of control in the harbour - anyone trying to row a dinghy in the area was at risk. Another crashed into the south coast having returned from Jersey whilst drinking a bottle of spirits. Greg Forino drove his boat back from Herm to the QE2 marina and nearly hit Vivian Beacon - only intervention from his passengers prevented it. He was subsequently done for DIC of his car later in the evening.

Then there was the boat that ran aground on the Black rock outside St.Sampsons this summer - was the skipper drunk? Plus the two fog incidents this week, were they drunk?


Agree with Eric's suggested charge of 'dangerous boating', for those causing incidents through stupidity.

I don't think the guy who potters around at eight knots all day has a few beers in the evening and then steams home at thirty knots via a large rock...it's those who race watercraft around the bays, speed around in the fog and have never heard of coll regs who are the problem, sober or drunk...not the guy having a glass of wine on his boat whilst moored up for the night.

A drink boating law, no doubt overzealously enforced, will probably end up snaring a highly proficient french sailor moored up somewhere rather than a local numpty causing a real danger.


Who knows the full picture? Was the accident down to being drunk or believing they could navigate safely in thick fog, or a combination of both?


I agree that something probably needs to be done with being very drunk and skippering a boat, but he big question is "What shall we do with a drunken sailor?"

(I'll get my coat)


What a miserable old killjoy Capt Gill is. Let's hope the new young harbour master Captain Chad is not averse to introducing a few merry events like this one to our local waters.



that would be perfect we could get a line of boats all the way to Herm we could then walk across to the Mermaid!

Devil's Advocate

Better to be a killjoy than a 'killpeople' though?


Devil's Advocate

How many people have been killed because of drink on boats during the past few years.

We have to be very careful that we are not just introducing legislation for the odd person who is irresponsible to the detriment of the thousands who enjoy their boating in a responsible manner.

Island Wide Voting

A perfect add-on for Alderney week ?


Yes lets hope that the new harbor's master is even more strict and welcome even more serious maritime measures!


Looks like a club 18-30 p*ss up on water ... I'm all for a party but I note this one is on a lake, slightly different to the Russell with some of the most treacherous waters anywhere. This is part of the problem, some boaters don't appreciate how dangerous these waters are. RYA category 5 of 5 for navigation difficulty I believe which means if you're blind drunk in charge of boat, the risks of an accident are much greater than a lake or a beach in Ibiza.


What about the boaters that arrive back from herm after night in mermaid moor up and then jump in their cars and drive home?



the're drunk in charge !


I gladly should think so! Why not? If accidents are prone on the road with people under the influence, why not on any one boat? Actually I being ignorant about maritime matters I thought that this was already in the island jurisdiction!


Exactly! Why punish everyone just because some idiot can't handle their boat/beer. Charge them, Make them cover the cost and fine them a decent amount to be donated to RNLI etc.


Totally agree ShinfoGSY, give them a heavy fine and then donate it to RNLI!

This seems an over reaction yet again, we have one or two cases of people being idiots, which detracts from the hundreds of people that enjoy all forms of sea activities and cause no problems at all.

Sounds like they are gearing up for some expensive new Sea Police!!


surely Herm must know these people have to sail back to Guernsey and take some responsibility



As long as the person is not drunk, then the landlord has no responsibility, quite rightly.

If you are drunk then the responsibility lies with you as to whether you use your boat or not and yes there should be an offence of being over the limit if you actually use your boat.

But, what about the thousands of visitors who visit Guernsey in their boats each year. Whilst they are in the marina or harbour their boats are their homes. Why shouldn't they have a few drinks on board as long as they have no intention of going to sea whilst drunk.

Be very careful waht you wish for before you start calling for more legislation for all just because of the few who abuse privilages.


Will this new law include alcohol tests the morning after..? If so then we may as well cancel all sailing races where the crew have a night out and then race back to Guernsey? Certainly people should not be drunk in charge of a boat, but to make it a crime for responsible people to enjoy a couple of beers or wine with dinner and to use their boats perhaps might be a step to far? I am all for a harsh penalty for anyone who requires assistance from the R.N.L.I to at least cover costs of a call out/search due to someone being negligent due to alcohol consumption. I think that common sense should prevail in this situation as if strict laws are implemented then I can imagine that the last 'freedom' available to local residents will be gone forever. Boating is about risk assessment, common sense and experience. I feel that this new law would be punishing the masses for the faults of the few. Introduce strong penalties to the idiots and don't make criminals of the boating community.....


You need a licence to drive a car so then the states of guernsey should make it compulsory to have a licence to sail in baliwick waters.

Navigation skills,safe handling of their craft,insurance cover.

les pets

Can the harbour master give an honest answer to the rumour that GY police have applied for a mooring more than 6 months ago in readiness for their panda boat. More of Mr Rices take over of the island...