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Rebecca and I have long had a rule that we don’t drink alcohol on the boat when we’re underway. On the days when we’d be moving the boat several times, common when we were chartering, we also wouldn’t drink alcohol if we were going to be getting underway again. Our guests are always offered drinks when we travel, and on charter that often started early, at breakfast, with Mimosas or Bloody Caesars on the menu. As much as we wanted to, we just never joined them*.

After we’ve anchored for the day though, and have no expectation that we’ll be moving again (you never really know though — things happen), I may enjoy a post-passage beer (that’s actually part of my anchoring ritual/strategy), or wait for sundowner time to enjoy a cocktail.

Sundowners. Definitely at anchor!

What do we do on a multi-day passage? Simple… we don’t drink alcohol. Period. And yes, that includes beer. Others, no doubt, have different rules, but that’s what we feel is the best practice. As there is always the chance for some type of drama when underway, I’d rather not have alcohol influence my reaction time, or my decision making ability.

When we are doing an overnight passage, as a treat, Rebecca and I will typically still celebrate the setting of the sun with a mock-tail, a virgin cocktail (club soda or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, on the rocks). Since we often follow the same no-booze protocol during weekdays, it’s not a big deal for us.

*As you might imagine, sometimes it’s fun for us to be the guests (not crew), and not in charge. 🙂


  1. Ken Page has that rule. I wasn’t sure I could do it knowing cold beer was in the box. But, 34 hour passage didn’t kill me. The beer tasted better.

  2. Smart move IMHO!!

  3. We have that rule. Have easily survived passages of 21, 28*, 4, 12, and 10 days with no booze. good rule.

    *Well, on Christmas Day during the Endurance Crossing, we did split a tiny serving of Schnapps.
    Since we had already lost the propane and the fridge, we figured we deserved it.

  4. We have the same rule.

  5. I wish all cruisers adhered to such a policy.

  6. As a fisherman and sometimes away for up to 12 days, I fully agree with that rule, well done!

  7. I totally agree that as charter crew / skipper, staying away from alcohol while on duty is the most reasonable strategy. I found it also a very good idea to consume only in moderation even off-duty. I just don’t want to be that totally wasted charter-skipper in the stories told afterwards. Being the hero of stupid stories is a privilege for paying guests.

    When not being paid, we never had problems with alcohol to the point we needed to make rules. Perhaps I just was lucky enough to sail with mature and responsible people. In the end the alcohol consumption on longer passages limited itself to the sundowner-beer for those going off duty and the tot of rum for crossing the equator for the first time.

    • Completely agree with alcohol consumption with paying guests on board. While a few of them may have gotten tanked, we never did.

      It’s worth noting that when I say it’s our “rule” not to drink when underway, it’s not like it’s written down anywhere. It’s just what we do.

  8. This is an excellent rule. I ran captained charters on the Chesapeake Bay for (9) years and adhered to this type of policy for crew and guests. I also found that even after the anchor is down I might have (1) social drink. After that I followed the policy of not indulging so that my guest would know that the captain is always on duty. People tend to relax and drink on boats. I also followed a rule that I was the last person to turn in making sure all my guest were down for the night. When I had people on board I also would wake up with most any people movement during the night. Always making sure everyone is safe. People don’t realize how dangerous the boat environment lends to accidents. It’s hard to get people to understand a lot of things we take for granted, like “One hand for the boat”. We do it instinctively because we live on boats.
    Keep up the great work. Your awareness to safety and sharing with others is very effective.

    • Near the end of a charter, with guests who liked to party late, and had proven themselves to be responsible, we’d often let them stay up without us. We’d seldom go to sleep until we heard them turn in though.

  9. Years ago while helping a guy move his sailboat to eastern Long Island Sound, we were nearly to Mystic after a great day of sailing ( sober ) and our mooring and the owner said “go downstairs boys and help yourselves to anything in the bar”. After several really good scotches I was feeling no pain and back up on deck to watch the sunset. The captain asked me to take the helm for a moment so he could use the head. At that moment just as I took the wheel I looked up and saw a police boat headed our way! Was a “sobering ” moment and I am not 100% sure if I would have been held responsible at that moment or if the owner would be but it was a lesson learned. I thought ” how did I get into this ?”And then thankfully they sped right by us, the captain returned and all was well.

    • Yeah, could have been a bad situation. I’d love to see what would happen if the CG did checks on the bareboats leaving the Soggy Dollar at 4:00 PM.

  10. My rule is never to anchor right in front of a water front bar. I’ve watched the “bumper boats” too many times to sleep well.

    I can’t claim to cruise dry (though in any kind of breeze, night underway, or crowded conditions it turns out that way), but since college I could count the times I have had 2 drinks less than 6 hours apart on one hand. But I probably have 200 beers a year–studies seem to suggest a stout a day is good for you.

    No one gets crocked, 2 drink limit. What’s the point when you’re in such a cool setting? You’ll miss too much.

  11. Simple rule, smart rule, common sense rule. Things only have to go pear shaped once and it’s too late. Loving the sea and the cruise should be enough stimulus.

  12. We save the beer for the dock, too.
    The motion of the boat, the glare off the water….. all of it amplifies the disorienting effect of alcohol. There are enough booze-related boat accidents as it is on our lakes, we don’t need to add more!

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