Senate votes to ban drunken sailing

The Maryland Senate gave its answer to the old question of "what do you with a drunken sailor" by voting to bring people who operate sailboats while intoxicated under the same law as power boat operators.

Senators voted 37-8 to add sail-only vessels to the list of watercraft it is illegal to operate while under the influence of alcohol. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.

The voted came after Sen. Richard F. Colburn, an Eastern Shore Republican, quizzed floor leader Sen. James Brochin at length about the details of the bill. Colburn asked which of the many persons who might make up a sailing crew would be affected by the prohibition.

Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said the sailor legally defined as the operator would be the person at the tiller.  He said the bill had been requested by the Department of Natural Resources after an intoxicated sailor capsized in a storm and put first responders at risk. Brochin said the bill would not affect the sailor who had one or two beers but only those who meet the legal limit of .08 percent blood alcohol

Colburn joined the opponents of the bill.

"I don't really believe this bill is necessary. I think the Department of Natural Resources officers have enough to handle," he said.