OBJECTIVES. Public policy has treated drinking and boating as though it were analogous to drinking and driving. Accordingly, recent Federal and state laws to prevent drinking and boating have focused solely on alcohol use by the boat operator. This study was designed to determine boaters' knowledge about the epidemiology of boating fatalities and how boaters perceive the risks of drinking and boating. METHODS. In the summer of 1995, the authors conducted a survey by mail of a random sample of 600 owners of boats registered in Massachusetts. RESULTS. Survey results indicated that boaters believe passengers can safely drink more than operators. Respondents also thought that people on boats at rest can safely drink more than people on boats underway. CONCLUSIONS. The results of this study could be helpful in designing future boating safety campaigns by identifying gaps in knowledge about about the risks of drinking and boating for both operators and passengers.