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In Washington, it’s illegal to consume alcohol while operating a boat.

Similar to driver laws, a person operating a vessel is considered under the influence of alcohol if his or her blood-alcohol level is 0.08, Seattle Police Department spokesman Drew Fowler said. Unlike laws banning open containers in motor vehicles, however, consuming alcohol is legal on boats, as long as the person is 21 or older and not operating the boat.

When it comes to pot, it’s also illegal to have 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood within two hours of operating a vessel, according to the Seattle Municipal Code. The same limit applies to driving a car.

Under state law, boating under the influence is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The change in the state law, which made the penalty harsher, went into effect last year.

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The Seattle Police Harbor Patrol and other local marine law-enforcement agencies actively enforce the law, the city says. In the harbor-patrol boating regulations, the city cautions against consuming any alcohol while driving a boat:

“Alcohol promotes a false sense of ability and causes boaters to attempt surprising acts. Your ability to judge speed and distance, and recognize danger and act appropriately, is greatly reduced by alcohol.”

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or

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