It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere . . .

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2013 • all rights reserved

Do you have an alcohol policy on your boat? Here's what Dave and I decided.

Our first several months cruising, we pretty much had the “vacation” and “it’s five o’clock somewhere” mentality when it came to alcohol.  Both Dave and I like beer, and so if someone stopped by after lunch, we’d offer one . . . and have one ourselves.  Or maybe have one as we were figuring out some maintenance project.  And so on.  Of course, the first one would taste good and so we’d have a second . . .

But as the “vacation” aspect wore off, we realized that we needed to set some rules for ourselves.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not anti-drinking.  And I’m not saying anyone else has to have a policy — or if they do, what it should be.  I just thought I’d share what we did.

What we found was that we’d get lazy and maybe even sleepy if we had a beer with lunch.  We discovered that we weren’t getting many of our projects done and we were only doing a fraction of the “fun stuff” we’d wanted to do while cruising, such as snorkeling, hiking, exploring towns and so on.  It was just so easy to sit in the cockpit with a beer in one hand, book in the other, and maybe decide to take a nap.

And, frankly, we were getting a little bored with the lifestyle.  And we were probably boring to others.

One evening (yeah, over beers), Dave and I talked about it.  We knew ourselves well enough to realize that just saying “we need to cut back” wasn’t going to work.  So we set three basic rules (the first two we’d already followed but had never really stated):

  1. We would never drink underway or before we were both completely satisfied with how and where we were anchored.
  2. We would never drink if bad weather seemed possible or likely (squalls, katabatic winds, tropical storms/hurricanes, etc.).
  3. No drinking before 5 o’clock and no more than 3 drinks.

The first two stayed the same over the years, and were rigidly observed as safety rules.

The last one gradually became 6 o’clock and 2 drinks (generally a beer before dinner and a glass of wine later) . . . and even just one for a while as we were dealing with some medical issues.  Yes, we’d be better off if we stuck to one all the time but it’s unlikely to happen.

And, admittedly, the last one is the one that we do break sometimes — say when we’re invited to a friend’s birthday lunch or celebrating the completion of a really nasty 3-day repair job and it’s only 4:30.  And occasionally, we’ve been known to have a few extra drinks.

When I’ve told some would-be cruisers about our policy, they wondered if it cut down on the fun of cruising.  The answer is a resounding NO — it increased it.  We got out and did a lot more.  We got up early and sailed to a new anchorage more often.  We snorkeled a lot more.  We hiked and explored.  I wrote and Dave fished and worked on his own projects.  And we still had fun socializing.  We rarely “just sat around” in the middle of the day any more.

Instead of saying “it’s five o’clock somewhere,” having to say “it’s five o’clock here” did wonders to cure our inertia.  We also saved some money, had less heavy stuff to schlepp from the store to the dinghy to the boat and less trash.  Win-win-win-win!

How about you?  Anyone else have formal or informal rules about alcohol consumption?  For safety or lifestyle in general?  Please leave a comment!

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Comments

  1. Relinda Ted Broom on Facebook says:

    We have always had an alcohol policy on board our sailboat. No alcohol by crew or passengers until we are on a secure anchor. You did just make me think of how do you handle passengers who have a tendency to overdrink? It hasn’t happened to us but you never know.

  2. Relinda Ted Broom on Facebook says:

    And yes, our policy of no alcohol until at anchor has caused problems with passengers. But our feeling is we have to take care of us and the boat and if they are drinking they may not react when a situation arises or they could be the situation.

  3. Andy Gallup says:

    Our “policy” is much the same as yours including the occassional cheating and changes with age. In addition the calorie count is added and this mitigates the consumption. I do not forbid passengers drinking in moderation, a level which would not make them a liability in an emergency. If they are acting as crew they abstain. As we are close to Canada and Canadian rules are far more strict, nothing gets opened until docked or anchored if we are north of the border.

  4. We also never drink while on the move and until we are completely and firmly settled somewhere. A few months ago – after a night of being VERY sick after having way too much to drink – I also set a two drink/day limit for myself. I am too old to party hard anymore. 🙂 And being sick and miserable in the middle of the night negates the fun I had drinking. Like you, Carolyn, I’ve found I don’t miss the extra alcohol. It’s a treat now, and I find myself thinking how I best want to “spend” my two drinks – two at happy hour? One with happy hour and one for dinner? Or a dessert drink later? I also get so sleepy after a drink, so we usually hold off on a beverage until we are already winding down for the evening. Of course, like you said, we occasionally make exceptions, but it’s nice to have the rules in place!

  5. I can’t disagree with anything that’s been said to this point, even if I don’t necessarily follow it! I’ve yet to wake up feeling really sick after a night of libations… I think I metabolize it quickly and sleep through the hangover? Even though we haven’t set off yet, Wendy and I can tell that “Happy Hour” might become a problem one day, so at least we’re aware of it!

  6. Great article Carolyn, thanks for posting.

  7. Thanks, Wendy!

  8. Thanks, Carolyn! I, too, appreciated this article. We have noticed people drinking quite a bit, and we usually don’t drink that much. It could become a habit though. As you mentioned, in the beginning stages of sailing, it was nice to have the sundowner, and then another, and it’s good to set the limitations so you’d have something to keep the drinking reined in. We could easily get into the 4-5 glasses of booze a night head-set, and want to watch that. I enjoy a glass of wine in the evenings, and Paul likes an occassional screwdriver. We try to not do it everynight though. And we’re both adamant about not drinking while under way, as you mentioned.

  9. Penn Boyle says:

    Hi, we will be live boards again in May and will be following the same rules as before. Pretty much as you have all commented here. No drinking until anchored and that also applies to any onboard guests. We have never had a problem with guests, I guess you really only invite people onboard that you trust. As for sundowners well we sail in some pretty isolated areas (West Coast and Northern Austrealia) so sundowners with other boats is a rare treat.

  10. We went even further. No alcohol at all. If someone wants a beer – sure, why not, but we don’t drink any more. You can’t imagine the difference it makes for a clarity of thought after some time, and how much even a small drink can clog your brain, for DAYS after! We value our mind clarity too much to spoil it with alcohol. So, we enjoy life with freshly squeezed juices and plain water. Nothing tastes better than water! 🙂

  11. Yes, only when anchor is dropped.

  12. Never drink on passage. Only at anchor and not even then if weather is iffy in case we need to react.

  13. Linda Nagle says:

    We have lived aboard for 8 years and have always had the same three rules. The rules have never been a problem and we also let the rules be known to guest if they travel with us.

  14. Well, darn! I was hoping you’d send us a link for dehydrated beer!

  15. Great post!

  16. Great rules to live by and we follow them as well. The last rule is more flexible as there may be days ( weeks) that no alcohol is consumed. Great articles and tips thank you for sharing.

    Cheers
    Ray

  17. Good policy. We have pretty much the same rules.

  18. We follow the same rules, more or less. I am new to the boat, but we both had these rules for the motorcycles first. Made it an easy transition once we bought the boat – and yes, we still the motorcycles. Have to have some fun when there is no wind! ☺️

  19. We generally have one drink around 5. If we have friends over, maybe two. A.beer with lunch, maybe, if we are exploring. And never underway!

  20. David Grimm says:

    We have a great alcohol policy. If you feel the need to drink bring your own when visiting. There is no alcohol on our boat. Never found the need to change my brains way of working. The wife likes a Margarita from time to time when out for dinner.

  21. Never underway!

  22. Hi, great article and even better advice. All 3 rules are what we have evolved to do, giving ourselves permission to have more than a couple if there is a special occasion. But not so many we are not capable of dealing with an emergency if it happens. We also make sure we have a few alcohol free days in each week.

  23. Certainly a good practice, given the need to be able to handle any and all emergency situations on the boat with only the crew you have on the boat, being fit to respond at any time is tops in my books.

  24. I live alone aboard my boat here in the Keys. I have followed the same rules while cruising. No cocktails while underway & safely anchored. I rarely indulge before 4:30-5:00pm. However over the years I found 2 glasses of wine became 3 or 4 & a good share of next day was wasted on being tired. I have developed the policy to keep it at 2 glasses of wine. On occasion I have more but my awareness of how that makes me feel is so obvious to me now. I still have fun and like you I am more productive.

  25. We haven’t any formal rules, other than your first two…We, like you drank every day for the first few months, although you didn’t mention the POUNDS that put on!!! That had to stop! Now, while Bruce has a beer almost every day, I’ll go three or four days without any alcoholic beverage at all. Usually because I’m trying to just keep hydrated and water or water derivative drink is the only thing I want at the end of the day… It’s sure different when its your life… and not a “trip”.

  26. We also set the 2 drink rule if you have to return to your boat. That can be dangerous with a few too many. Even if you are on a dock, climbing off of someone else’s boat can be tricky.

  27. Improves your health as well, especially for women. Cancer risk increases markedly with alcohol intake .

  28. Rum was our drink of choice, mixed with fruit punch! We would usually have one for happy hour while in port. We did drink wine with dinner while in the French Caribbean Islands.

  29. Those are good rules for being responsible out on the water.

  30. I don’t drink when we’re on our cabin cruiser. Even in the marina. Someone has to be sober at all times. You never know what may happen. We have a 1967 Chris Craft Cavalier 32′. Twin 350’s with all kinds of fuel. Systems that run full time. Children and guests. I like cold beer. I also consider myself a reasonably good risk manager.

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