Am I an 'operator' at anchor? - SailNet Community

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Old 06-26-2013
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Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Ok, first off, regular common sense should probably suffice. Just wondering though, if I am at anchor on a reservoir for the evening can I have a few beers without worry of a 'BUI?' I have looked at a few boards, and the answer seems largely to be a yes-I can get cited. However, if the waterway I am on crosses state lines, or runs to the ocean it becomes a navigable waterway and hence maritime law takes over which seems to say at anchor I am at my port of call, thus the equivalent of my home for the evening and thus ok.

I understand that it is unwise to boat and booze it, and also that there may be an odd event that causes my anchor to need tended to.

It is not a big deal to me, I just like sleeping on the boat, but it seems a bit much for me to have to concern myself with getting in trouble for getting a little tipsy with the wife down below when anchored for the evening.

Any thoughts?

Q
PS. I am in CA if anyone knows anything state specific. tnx
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Last edited by QuickMick; 06-26-2013 at 03:03 PM. Reason: PS
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

A very interesting question, especially for full time liveaboards.
Every once in a while, my girlfriend and I will get totally plastered at anchor (we are on our anchor about 11 months a year with a month on our mooring), and I've no doubt we'd be able to handle any situation that arose, even if we couldn't pass a sobriety test.
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

It depends. Those resevoir areas have cops out looking solely for BUI's. So yeah, you'd probably get in trouble.In the Key's you'd be all right. In Honduras, I sail up to the dock with a bar at it. Drink rum and beer, and sail off the dock with a drink in my hand, and every body compliments me on me captaining skills, never even noticing the drinking.
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Most states usually are consistent with DUI laws ... you dont have to be 'driving' in the vehicle just be the 'operator' and be 'inside or on' and/or 'direct contact capable' of driving at a BAC of greater than the 0.08% limit. This includes horses, riding lawnmowers, probably even roller skates and 'pogo sticks' .... anything that can be construed as a 'vehicle'.

So, if youre above the 0.08% and inside the boat, on the boat and are 'the operator' even if the boat (car/horse/lawnmower/truck,etc) isnt 'moving' ... in most venues you're DUI/BUI.

Hint: if youre above 0.08% and dont want the DUI hassle, get the hell out of or off of the 'vehicle' .... and then clearly 'dont remember' if you were the operator nor allow 'anyone' else who was in/on that vehicle to 'remember' either.

Last edited by RichH; 06-26-2013 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Well, maritime law doesn't necessarily supplant state law, particularly on the criminal side of things.

And I know the Coast Guard takes the position with commercial vessels that being made fast to a dock, or sitting at an anchorage doesn't exempt the master from federal charges for being drunk while "in charge of a vessel". The theory here is that one might have to get underway at any time if there's a change of circumstances or an emergency.
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Under my state's law, you may not "operate" a vessel while under the influence, and operate "means to navigate or otherwise use a motorboat or vessel."

I would say that being at anchor is not "navigating" but it could be construed as "using" a vessel (the definition of vessel includes sailboats). It would take a court to ultimately determine that issue, and it doesn't appear to have been resolved in our courts.

Can't you get a DUI if you're sitting in your car, drunk, with the keys in the ignition? Or is that only if it's apparent that you had been or were about to drive?
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nolatom View Post
Well, maritime law doesn't necessarily supplant state law, particularly on the criminal side of things.

And I know the Coast Guard takes the position with commercial vessels that being made fast to a dock, or sitting at an anchorage doesn't exempt the master from federal charges for being drunk while "in charge of a vessel". The theory here is that one might have to get underway at any time if there's a change of circumstances or an emergency.
I don't know the law or have any first hand experience with precedent in this area...but if cited for BUI when at anchor I would get a lawyer and fight the charges.

It doesn't pass the commons sense test to me that one can be cited for BUI while anchored when - while anchored - one could have easily taken the dinghy to the beach and not been on board when the LEO arrived at the boat and - I guess - not be cited for BUI.

It also doesn't pass the common sense test to be cited for BUI while anchored but not be cited when alongside in a marina...or tied to a mooring ball. Could I be cited for being drunk in the cockpit while tied in my slip but perhaps not be in violation if I am standing on the finger pier next to the boat?

I have never seen LEOs surround the holiday weekend raft ups with citation pad in hand although surely they know - like the rest of living and breathing society - that the majority of the of-age crews are likely a bit deep into their cups.

nola: Re CG "takes the position" - by what authority? CG can't simply take a position independent of law or regulation. What regulation is cited in taking the position that a master of a commercial vessel must exercise sobriety at all times?

What if the ship is in dry dock? Steam powered and in cold iron conditions? Not ready for sea due to crew leave? Is at anchor but has a system fault that prevents getting underway safely?

When I consider all the irrational actions by persons of authority in schools and LE agencies that have been highlighted in the media in the past couple of years I shouldn't be surprised that the CG and marine police have gone off the deep end regarding BUI.

All it takes is a Little Napoleon or Mayor Bloomberg ego on the LE vessel to make a wonderful day on the water become frustrating.
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Hello,

In New York State a vessel at anchor is not being operated.

This is taken directly from the law:

§ 49-a. Operation of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or
drugs. 1. Definitions. As used in this section, unless the context
clearly indicates otherwise:
(a) The term "vessel" shall be every description of watercraft or
other artificial contrivance propelled in whole or in part by mechanical
power and, which is used or capable of being used as a means of
transportation over water, and which is underway and not at anchor or
made fast to the shore or ground.

Barry
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BarryL View Post
(a) The term "vessel" shall be every description of watercraft or
other artificial contrivance propelled in whole or in part by mechanical
power and, which is used or capable of being used as a means of
transportation over water, and which is underway and not at anchor or
made fast to the shore or ground.
I think you can sail $hit-faced in NY.
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Old 06-26-2013
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Re: Am I an 'operator' at anchor?

Washington State BUI laws apply to vessels underway. You're underway if you're not anchored or tied to a dock.
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