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Monday, 29 January 2007

Boats and Alcohol

I don't drink when passage-making. I don't even drink before I set off. The sea is full of hazards, from half-hidden lobster pots to semi submerged containers to other vessels and of course the ever present risk from wind, waves and tide. I need all my critical faculties unimpaired. Raedwald is kitted out with liferaft, flares, lifejackets, lifebuoys, DCS VHF and other bits of self-preservational kit. As are the vast majority of other British passage-making small vessels. And I've never met a drunk skipper on passage. All this of course is voluntary; boaters are a remarkably self-regulating set of folk who tend to believe we should be responsible for our own actions. British boats are not compulsorily licenced and nor are leisure skippers. And we have an enviable safety record.

Steven Meyer, the boss of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), would dearly love to change all this. What is it with the foetid mediocre self-important little flatuses that the Civil Service tends to attract to its senior posts that they can't bear to leave anything unregulated by the dead hand of the State? Many boaters believe he's motivated by simple empire building. Personally I think it's the sort of dreary bureaucratic compulsion that drives the sort of joyless numpties that drift into the Civil Service as an alternative to making something of their own lives. They devote their energies instead to making everyone else's life as empty, purposeless and colourless as their own.

Meyer has a problem, though. Boaters have no licences to lose, so what penalties can be imposed for anyone 'over the limit'? And what of that favourite activity, mooring up or anchoring for the night and taking the tender ashore for dinner and a few pints? Or what even of anchoring for the night, enjoying dinner and a botle of wine on board and adjusting the anchor before retiring? And as there's no age limit or licence for boating, your 12 year-old can be soberly in charge of the vessel when mum and dad are tippling the vino. And who on earth is going to enforce this nonsense?

More on this to come.

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