We were working on a story about Minnesota officials' crackdown this weekend on drunken boating, when we saw something on the U.S. Coast Guard's website that caught our attention.
The Coast Guard says being on a boat "accelerates a drinker's impairment." So you actually feel drunker if you drink on a boat than if you drink on land.
Huh. News to us. So we looked into it.
Is that actually the case?
Lisa Dugan with the Minnesota DNR agrees.
She told GoMN the "stressors" that are common while boating – the sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion – can "intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications."
To be clear, drinking on a boat doesn't actually raise your BAC (blood-alcohol content) more than drinking on land.
But it can make you feel drunker, which can affect your judgement and reaction time.
Plus, the Coast Guard says alcohol can be more dangerous to boaters than car drivers. That's because boat operators are "often less experienced and less confident on the water than on the highway." Recreational boaters don't have the benefit of driving a boat daily, like drivers do with a car.
More importantly – be smart this weekend
It's the weekend heading into 4th of July and you're probably planning to go out on the lake, bringing a few beers on the boat with you.
But state officials want to remind people that if you plan on drinking, have someone sober as the captain. That's because drinking while boating can be just – if not more – dangerous than driving while drunk, as we explained above.
They're cracking down on drunken boating
Since this year has already been the most deadly year for boating since 2005 (nine boating fatalities have been reported), state officials are hoping it doesn't get worse.
That's why they're increasing patrols on Minnesota waters for the holiday weekend, especially Lake Minnetonka, which sees the most BWI arrests every year, the DNR says. Last year, there were 109 BWIs in Minnesota – 60 were in Hennepin County, where Lake Minnetonka is located. That was up from 2015, when there were 81 BWIs statewide.
This weekend's crackdown, which runs from June 30-July 2, is part of Operation Dry Water, a national campaign that aims to deter drinking and boating.
The legal alcohol limit for boating is the same as for driving a car – 0.08 – and if you're caught boating while drunk, you could face a hefty fee, possible jail time, or lose your boating license for 90 days, according to the DNR.
Alcohol is a main factor in many boating deaths
Booze is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boating deaths and is one of the most common factors in boating accidents nationally, U.S. Coast Guard statistics show.
"When an operator is boating under the influence, it's often not the impaired operator, but their loved ones, passengers and other waterway users who suffer," Michael Baron, recreational boating and water safety specialist for the Ninth Coast Guard District, says in a statement.
Last year, the boat driver being drunk led to 282 boating accidents, 87 deaths and 264 injuries nationwide, the Coast Guard says.
In Minnesota, alcohol was a factor in nine of the 17 fatal boating accidents (that's 53 percent) in 2016, the according to the DNR. In 2015, there were 78 BWI arrests made in Minnesota, the DNR said last year.