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Some states estimate the accident rate for combining alcohol and boats at a whopping 50 percent of all aquatic mishaps, so it's no surprise there are more aggressive procedures to curb boating under the influence. The most confusing aspect of many state laws (including California boating under the influence laws) is that unlike automobiles, open containers of alcohol are permitted on boats in most cases. This gives the false impression that boating while intoxicated is either ignored or under-enforced.
The truth is, open containers may be legal, but if the boat operator's blood alcohol content exceeds .08, it is a violation of the law and punishable by fines, jail time, and suspension of permits or licenses. If you have the responsibility of operating the boat and steering it around the waterway, you bear the burden of remaining within the legal limits for alcohol consumption.
Waterway law permits passengers to enjoy alcoholic beverages and does not attempt to regulate consumption, except where state and local laws typically apply. One area that does apply to passengers in many states? Once a person puts on a pair of water skis, they are subject to the same penalties as the boat captain for boating while intoxicated if caught skiing under the influence.