Drinks on the boat

When’s it appropriate to use alcohol (or other stuff) onboard? Tied to the dock? Securely on the anchor? In easy cruising conditions? Whenever?

In my experience of the boating community, ideas on this are all over the chart. A few don’t drink at all and don’t want any on the boat ever. An offshore fishing friend, when caught out in a serious blow, would double-secure all the hatches, retire below, open a bottle of vodka and wait it out. But most are in between. Here’s an excerpt from a sailing magazine’s ad for stainless steel ‘ice cubes’:

“ ‘We’re coming about!’ yells the captain, so you set your glass of white wine in your cockpit drink holder to tend to the lines, only to come back to a lukewarm version of your once-chilled wine.”

Liquor cab.jpg

To some extent this bothers me. But I’m a pragmatist, and I find a happy hour with a one beer a day limit even when offshore can make an enjoyable break in the daily routine and bring a crew together. If that limit is strictly observed, I feel the risk is minimal.

Owners’ participation can make things trickier. Those who are okay with a one-beer policy, and those who don’t want any drinking at all, I’m fine with. If they turn out to be heavier drinkers, I don’t feel it’s my place to object. But I can accept that they’ll be unreliable in an emergency and plan ahead so their help is not needed.

I’ve only experienced this a couple of times, and with no serious consequences. Much more serious disruption has resulted from owners, or crew, who try to quit an addiction—-to alcohol or something else—-by going cold turkey when the boat leaves the dock. I’ve learned to be careful in screening out anyone who might try to unmedicate themselves in that way.

Offshore passages, especially long ones, come with their own inherent stress levels, and most experienced sailors and cruisers are realistic about avoiding any extra impairment that might imperil the voyage. But, as we see, the ideas on how to achieve this vary. What’s your pleasure?