How to Get a Boating License in 5 Simple Steps

how to get a boating license

If you're interested in operating a boat, you'll need to start out by securing a boat license. Each state determines the requirements for operating a powerboat, sailboat , or personal watercraft (PWC) on the waters in its jurisdiction. Most require some boating safety and education certificate, which may be called a boating license. 

In most cases, the boat license course can be completed online and is followed by a boat license test that is also completed online. The boating safety certificate courses are less comprehensive than those for an automobile driver's license; for example, no on-water driver's education is usually required.

Follow these simple steps to get your boating license :

  • Research the boater education requirements for your state
  • Complete an online or in-person boating safety course
  • Successfully pass the boating license test 
  • Submit payment after course completion
  • Keep your boat license or completion certificate when you're on the water.

boating license

What Are the Laws and Boat Licenses by State?

If you buy a new boat and are a first-time boat owner, your marine dealer can give you information on how to get a boating license in your state. A good resource for state-by-state information is the National Association of Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) which has a webpage with the basic training requirements for each state. Each state has its boating education requirements available on a website, usually in areas related to natural resources or transportation.

By visiting resources like  Boat-Ed.com  and  BoaterExam.com , you'll find links to the approved online boating courses available for each state and the boating education requirements for each state.

Only some states offer an online course. For example, Connecticut only offers in-person training hosted at sites across the state, and the classes are at least eight hours long and range between two and four sessions.

getting your boating license

How to Take a Boating License Course

A third party administers the online boating education or license course for most states, and there may be a fee of $29 to $50, usually paid after you've completed the course. The state may also charge an administrative fee. The  BoatUS Foundation  offers free boating license courses for 35 states.

The online course is designed to take about three hours to complete and is set up in sections or chapters. You don't have to complete the entire course in one sitting; you can complete a chapter or two, log off, and then return later to the point you left. The course is structured to prevent you from simply clicking through the study sections to get to the exam. After each section, a review exam must be completed and passed before you can move on to the next section. 

These courses aren't designed to make passing difficult; the point is to raise awareness by presenting information on every aspect of boating. The course will cover boating basics and terminology, navigation rules, state boating regulations, handling boating emergencies, and how to enjoy watersports safely.

After you complete the course, you'll be ready to take the exam. If you pass the exam, you can print your boating license and be prepared to hit the water.

boating license requirements by state

What Are the Boating Education Requirements?

Boating education requirements vary widely by state. In Wisconsin, for example, you are required to carry a Wisconsin Boating Safety Education Certificate if you are at least 16 years old, born on or after Jan. 1, 1989, and will be operating a motorboat or PWC in Wisconsin. 

The rules are very different in Oklahoma; a boating education certificate is only required if you are 12 to 15 years old and will be operating a boat or PWC over ten hp or a sailboat 16 feet or longer. Each state also regulates the boating license age for those under the age of 16 to 18. Some states recognize the boating license issued by another state. 

Still, it is always the boat owner's responsibility to know the boating license requirements for the state where they operate their boat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a boating license to drive a boat?

Each state regulates boating education and licensing requirements. Some states require all boaters to have a license or certificate, while others have age limits for licensing.

Do you need a boating license to rent a boat?

Once again, each state regulates boating education and licensing requirements. Some states require all boaters to have a license or certificate, while others have age limits for licensing.

How much is a boating license?

The  BoatUS Foundation  offers free boating license courses for 35 states. Other providers offer the course and exam for a fee of $29 to $50, and the state may add a registration fee.

Do boating licenses expire?

Each state regulates boating education and licensing requirements. Check with your state for specific licensing information.

Do you need a boating license for a  personal watercraft (PWC) ?

Each state regulates boating education and licensing requirements, and most apply their boating license regulations to personal watercraft. Some states have a separate education program and license for  personal watercraft . Check with your state for specific licensing information.

Searching for more information on boating education and ownership requirements? Read these posts:

  • Register Your Boat Online
  • Insuring Your Boat
  • Safe Boating Tips

Editor’s Note:  This article was updated in January 2023.

How to Get a Boating License in 5 Simple Steps

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Do You Need a License to Drive a Yacht?

Owning a yacht embodies luxury, freedom, and adventure on the open waters. However, amid the allure of yacht ownership, there's a critical aspect often overlooked—the necessity of possessing a valid yacht license. This article delves into why having a license to drive a yacht is indispensable for aspiring owners. But do you need a license to drive a yacht? The team at Yacht Management , a leading provider of yacht maintenance services, provides all the information you need to know here.

What to Know About Yacht Ownership

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What to Know About Yacht Ownership As a leading yacht maintenance company, we understand that yacht ownership represents the epitome of luxury and an unparalleled sense of freedom in the realm of maritime indulgence. It embodies an aspirational lifestyle coveted by many, symbolizing not just a possession but being amid a world of opulence and unparalleled experiences.

The allure of owning a yacht extends beyond mere ownership. It encapsulates the spirit of adventure and the thrill of exploration on the open seas. Picture the sheer liberation of charting your course, unfettered by land-bound constraints, navigating through pristine waters to your chosen destinations. It's a lifestyle that harmonizes luxury with the freedom to explore remote coves, pristine islands, and exotic locales, all within the sanctum of your private vessel.

Yacht ownership is more than a status symbol; it's a gateway to a unique way of life where one can escape the ordinary and immerse oneself in the extraordinary. The sensation of being surrounded by boundless azure horizons, the sun painting the sky in hues of gold during sunset cruises, and the gentle rhythm of waves against the hull—all contribute to an unmatched sense of liberation and tranquility.

Owning a yacht brings unparalleled freedom, allowing one to embrace the spontaneity of travel and the luxury of seafaring without limitations. It's an embodiment of personal expression, where the yacht becomes an extension of one's identity, reflecting individual tastes and desires amidst the vast expanse of the ocean.

Being a yacht owner is not solely about possessing a magnificent vessel; it's an invitation to a lifestyle where luxury, adventure, and the boundless freedom of the seas converge, creating an experience that transcends the ordinary and defines the extraordinary. But do you need a license to drive a yacht and make the lifestyle your everyday experience?

Why Having a License for a Yacht Is So Important

There is more to know beyond answering the question, "Do you need a license to drive a yacht?" Knowing why you want one to be in your possession is important. Below are some of the main points our yacht service experts want you to remember. 

Legal Compliance and Regulations of a Florida Boating License

The operation of a yacht demands meticulous adherence to a myriad of legal frameworks and maritime regulations. These encompass licensing requirements, registration obligations, and adherence to safety standards stipulated by international and regional maritime bodies. Understanding and complying with these legal mandates is not merely a formality. It is the cornerstone of responsible yachting. Moreover, a profound comprehension of maritime laws ensures the safety of all onboard, mitigating risks and fostering a secure environment for crew and passengers alike.

Mastery of Navigation at Sea

Navigating a yacht presents unique challenges that demand a comprehensive grasp of navigation techniques. Unlike land-based travel, yachting requires proficiency in understanding nautical charts, interpreting weather patterns, and employing navigation tools specific to maritime environments. Mastering these skills is imperative for ensuring safe passage, efficient handling of the vessel, and the ability to navigate diverse and often unpredictable waterways.

Handling Emergencies at Sea The vastness of the seas brings with it the potential for unforeseen emergencies. From inclement weather conditions to mechanical failures, being equipped to address these difficulties is non-negotiable. A thorough understanding of emergency protocols, swift decision-making in crisis scenarios, and possessing the skill set to manage emergencies effectively are paramount. Whether it involves first aid proficiency, knowledge of distress signals, or executing evacuation procedures, preparedness is vital to ensuring the safety and well-being of everyone aboard. Do you need a license to drive a yacht and handle these emergencies? The experience comes with the practice that only a license will present to you.

Obtaining a license to drive a yacht extends far beyond a legal requirement. It embodies a commitment to safety, proficiency, and responsible seamanship. Mastery of maritime laws, navigation skills, and preparedness in handling emergencies form the bedrock of a conscientious and adept yacht operator, ensuring not just compliance but also the safety and security of all involved in the yachting experience.

The Process of Obtaining a Florida Yacht License  "Do you need a license to drive a yacht?" This question often marks the outset of one's journey toward navigating the world's waters aboard one's own vessel. Addressing this query initiates a multifaceted process involving stringent prerequisites and comprehensive training to ensure the mastery of essential skills integral to responsible yacht operation. Our yacht care professionals are masters in all things related to navigation. Here, they present things you must know when you are undergoing the process of obtaining your license.

Florida Boat License Requirement and Training Acquiring a yacht license requires fulfilling specific prerequisites that vary depending on the region and the license type sought. Typically, applicants must meet age requirements, undergo a thorough medical examination to ensure physical fitness and complete a specified number of logged sea hours. A fundamental understanding of maritime laws and navigation principles is also essential through formal education or training courses.

Training programs for yacht licensing encompass a comprehensive curriculum covering seamanship, navigation techniques, safety protocols, and emergency procedures. These programs, often conducted by certified maritime institutions or accredited training centers, offer theoretical instruction complemented by practical, hands-on experience aboard vessels. They equip aspiring yacht operators with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate, operate, and manage a yacht proficiently and safely.

Variations of the License for Boating in Florida  Yacht licenses vary in scope and designation, catering to different yacht sizes, navigational zones, and purposes. Common categories include licenses for recreational yachts, commercial vessels, and specific endorsements for operating in coastal or open waters. Licenses may also differ based on propulsion systems, accommodating both sail and motor yachts. The scope ranges from inland waterways to unrestricted navigation in international waters, reflecting varying degrees of competency and experience required for each category.

Beyond the fundamental yacht license, endorsements or supplementary certifications augment an operator's skill set. These endorsements often focus on specialized areas such as offshore sailing, handling specific types of vessels, or certifications in advanced navigation techniques. Additionally, safety and first aid, radio operation, or environmental stewardship certifications further enhance an operator's capabilities and preparedness, ensuring a comprehensive skill set for navigating diverse yachting scenarios.

Obtaining a yacht license involves meeting prerequisites, undergoing rigorous training, and selecting the appropriate license category tailored to one's yachting ambitions. Furthermore, pursuing endorsements and supplementary certifications enriches an operator's proficiency and preparedness, ensuring a well-rounded skill set for navigating the complexities of yachting.

Get in Touch With a Leader Among Yacht Maintenance Companies

Do you need a license to drive a yacht? Yes! It won't only prove essential in legal and regulatory matters. It will also provide the necessary experience and practice to captain a vessel confidently.

But if you're seeking a partner to care for your watercraft, don't settle for just any South Florida yacht maintenance company. Team up with the experts at Yacht Management for unmatched care. If you're interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to our team today or call our team directly to speak with a representative today.

Be sure to also take a look at our yachting blog for a deep dive into several topics our professionals regularly cover. Take your yachting experience to the next level with the help of seasoned experts who call the ocean home and their clients a commitment to excellence that will be met.

Related Readings:

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Boat Navigation
  • The Art of Luxury Yacht Provisioning
  • Reasons to Hire a Boat Captain

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How To Get Your ICC Certification (in 8 Countries)

Understanding how to get the International Certificate of Competence can be complex. Different countries issue them differently. In this article, I'll list the exact process for 8 different countries.

How to get your ICC certification? In most countries you can simply apply for an ICC if you have the correct national boating licenses. However, some countries, like the US, can't issue the ICC. Luckily, there are alternatives available, like the SLC or IPC.

For each country, the process is somewhat different, and the licenses required are named differently. So I've compiled a list with all the different national licenses you can use to get yourself an ICC or an alternative international license.

Sailboat motoring at dawn

On this page:

How to get your international license, united states, united kingdom, switzerland, the netherlands.

The ICC is the International Certificate of Competence for Operator of Pleasure Craft . You'll want to get this if you're planning on sailing international or coastal waters or chartering boats in Europe, for example.

The ICC is an internationally accepted sailing license. Most countries accept the ICC. There are some exceptions, but in practice, even in these countries, most charter companies will accept the ICC as sufficient proof of sailing experience.

In most countries, you can get an ICC by getting the right national boating licenses. After that, you can simply apply for an ICC with the right authorities. OR you automatically get the ICC, if it's integrated with the national license.

For example, in The Netherlands, you simply obtain Boat License I + II. The ICC is integrated with the national licenses.

The Required Licenses for 8 Different Countries

Here's a comprehensive table of the different ways to get an international sailing license in different countries:

I'll discuss each country in detail below.

The U.S. hasn't signed UN Resolution 40 (UNR40), which means they can't issue ICC's.

This makes it difficult for U.S. citizens to get an ICC. In theory, you could get an RYA Day Skipper course and apply for an ICC with the RYA. They have certified U.S. partners. However, it's only in three locations, so not always a practical option.

Luckily, there are some other options.

International Proficiency Certificate (IPC)

Your first alternative is to get an International Proficiency Certificate (IPC) instead.

The IPC is issued by ASA (American Sailing Association). You can apply for one here .

To apply for one, you must be a certified ASA sailor with at least ASA 101, ASA 103 and ASA 104 certifications.

Sailing License and Credentials (SLC)

NauticEd's International Sailing License and Credentials (SLC) is another good option. The SLC is a valid international sailing license. It's probably the easiest and least expensive option for US residents.

It's a great alternative if you already have a lot of practical experience. You do need to do a one-day practical assessment (takes about 6 hours), and have a national (state) boating license.

The cool thing about this license is most of your training is online. You simply take NauticEd's Bareboat Charter Master Course . This bundle of courses will take about 40 hours in total, and goes over all the nitty-gritty of sailing theory. So you'll be sure to be up to date.

And it's pretty affordable too, at $175.

If you need more information before signing up for a $175 course, make sure to read William's in-depth NauticEd review , in which he goes over most of the courses.

  • Read more on the SLC at NauticEd here .
  • If you want to try out NauticEd's course system, you could sign up for two completely free courses first (opens in new tab).

Get Your State Boating License First

Regardless of the course you end up taking, you should probably first get your state boaters license. This is cheap and easy: in most states, you can learn and take the exam online. If you want to learn what State Boaters License you should get for your state, please check out my article on the boating licenses for all 50 states here .

More Detailed Step-By-Step Plan

If you're looking to learn to sail from scratch, but don't know where to start, I have written a detailed e-book that contains actionable step-by-step lesson plans for different budgets and situations. This book will save you hundreds of dollars, hours, and a headache. You can get it here. Please check it out. You will support our work, and more importantly: it will help you get started much quicker and cheaper.

In the United Kingdom, the RYA issues the ICC. You can apply for the ICC if you have an RYA Day Skipper certification .

If you don't, you could also take a special ICC Assessment at an ICC test center.

You can apply for an ICC here (opens in new tab).

Canada can issue ICC's. If you want to be able to apply for one, you'll need to have finished the RYA Day Skipper Theory & Practical course.

If you already have sufficient practical skill and theoretical knowledge (similar to RYA or higher), you could also take a one-day ICC assessment. These typically take about 6 hours and cost about $600.

This is the cheapest way IF you already have the experience that's required.

Australia can't issue ICC licenses, but they are partners with RYA. This means Australians can obtain the ICC by successfully completing the RYA Day Skipper Practical & Theory course. After that, you may apply for an ICC through the RYA.

If you already have sufficient practical skill and theoretical knowledge (level RYA Day Skipper or higher), you could also take a one-day ICC assessment. These typically take about 6 hours and cost about $600.

France issues their own ICC licenses. To apply for an ICC there, you first need the national boating license.

LE PERMIS PLAISANCE - extension Grande plaisance fluviale

This extension translates to Pleasure Craft Great Rivers. It will get you the ICC Coastal waters permit.

Ireland issues their own ICC licenses. You'll have to complete a special training course for Boating Abroad at the Irish Sailing Assocation.

To find training locations and apply for a course, you can check their website here .

Switzerland issues their own ICC licenses. You will get the ICC card after obtaining the national boating license.

The national license you'll need is called:

Hochseeausweis (Swiss Certificate of Competence for Ocean Yachting)

It's issued by the Cruising Club der Schweiz (CCS) in Bern.

To get this permit, you'll need to prove 1000 miles of sailing experience and pass a theory exam. Please note, inland miles are excluded; you have to prove 1000 miles of sea experience.

Alternatives to getting an ICC are:

  • Sportbootfüherschein See (SBF Germany)

The Netherlands issues ICC. Here, the ICC is integrated with the two national boating licenses (I and II). In order to sail coastal waters, you'll need both. After obtaining both licenses, you automatically receive your ICC.

The official name of the licenses are:

Vaarbewijs I - or: Boat license I Vaarbewijs II - or: Boat license II

Hi, I am a Brazilian expat living in the Netherlands. I have sailed for about 30 years back in Brazil and I would like to know if there is a way of getting an ICC license to sail leisure crafts in the Netherlands (and eventually Europe) through an exam in English (in the Netherlands), as I am still beginning to learn Dutch. Thank you very much.

John Morten

Hva med Kroatia ?. Jeg Har D5LA- ICC utstedt i Norge. VHF. IMO Krise å beredskap.

Doug F Schwartzsmith

I am going to redo some training. Is it true that the SLC certification offered by Nauticed is very widely recognized and accepted throughout the world for chartering (along with one’s on-the-water resume of course). It is created in the USA because the ICC and RYA are unavailable in USA (at least this is what I think is true). I’d like to get something that is known in as many locations as possible! Thank you for your time. Aloha, Doug

Marie-Jose van Rie

I am an avid sailor and a professional translator and interpreter of English. I am looking for an English language textbook about the basics of motor boating and sailing( technical details, priority rules etc) that can help me prepare for interpretation services at the Dutch CBR, the institute that issues the Dutch Vaarbewijs I and II (Sailing licenses I and II). who can help out? Thanks in advance.

Jon Bayliss

I have held an RYA Yactmaster Offshore Certificate for many years but I now wish to sail the inland waterways in Europe. I can take the CEVNI on line with no problem if necessary. My boat is registered in France where I live. What is the easiest way to get an ICC? Many thanks for your help.

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How to Gain a Boating and Sailing License in the USA

How can an american gain an international sailing and boating license.

NauticEd issues the internationally accepted sailing license, the SLC. Learn about the SLC here below.

At NauticEd, we help people reach their sailing goals and potential. Not surprisingly, most people would like to go bareboat charting on a sailing vacation. The perceived roadblock for Americans is presenting a recognized government boating license from their home country.  The United States is unique in the world because the federal government mandated that the States themselves regulate and issue recreational boating licenses.

So here is the official way that boating licensing is controlled in the USA:

“The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with individual states, U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia (DC) is recognized by the United States Coast Guard as THE OFFICIAL national entity to approve power and motorized sail boating courses resulting in the issuance of boating education cards or boat operator licenses of individual states, districts, and territories of the United States of America.”

The statement above is seen in the NASBLA International Proclamation here .

In other words, in order to legally go boating in the USA, you must adhere to your individual State’s law. Each state has authorized NASBLA as the SOLE organization to issue a boating license. Thus, if you hold a NASBLA state boating license then you, by default, hold a USA boating license.

Internationally, in general, if you hold a boating license in your home country then it is respected and recognized for short-term boating in another country. But a legal national boating license still does not relinquish the American sailor from establishing their competence to sail a boat. Yacht charter companies still require a legal boating license accompanying  an appropriate sailing resume. Since NauticEd is the master at creating and training bareboat sailing competence, we sought out a master partner who issues the NASBLA state boating license. Combining the legal USA boating license with proof of competence meets all the requirements for international bareboat chartering on a sailing vacation.

Ok, so the legal license aspect is taken care of with NASBLA. What about proof of competence?

NauticEd issues Certificates of Competence by following the American National Standard for on-water sailing assessment. This National Standard program was funded by the United States Coast Guard and approved by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) in May 2017. A student seeking international recognition for competence needs to hold a Certificate of Competence whereupon the American National Standards badge is embossed. This is achieved by having an approved American National Standards Instructor/Assessor assess and pass the student under the guidelines of the standard. The standard does not only require practical demonstration of competence but it also requires an understanding of the theory. So there can not be just practical training on the water. There must be an accompanying theory-based course that teaches the basics of the Standards conforming to practical standards.

This 2017 approach is vastly different from previous practices in the USA. Previously, sailing certificates were handed out by associations more like a “Certificate of Attendance” rather than a true Certificate of Competence. An instructor would run a student through a weekend of instruction and that was it. Now, an Instructor/Assessor is required to do an assessment of the student’s skills under the new American National Standard using a rubric method of assessment. The rubric method flushes out quickly where weakness in demonstrating the skill is exhibited. If weakness is demonstrated in a skill, then either more training is required or the student is assigned a crew level competence award instead of skipper competence.

NauticEd moved quickly to embrace the American National Standards as soon as they were publically released. Built into the NauticEd system now are approved American National Standards instructors and schools as well as seamless integration into the software and theory courses to match. As soon as a student is deemed practically competent under the American National Standard, the badge is embossed onto their real-time cloud-based PDF downloadable Certificate of Competence.

Summary of the Above

  • Legal License: NASBLA State Boating License.
  • Day Sailing Competence – Theory:  Online NauticEd Skipper and Skipper Small Keelboat Courses. The content of which conforms to the American National Standard.
  • Day Sailing Competence – Practical: American National Standards Training and Assessment by a NauticEd National Standards Approved Skipper Rank Instructor/Assessor
  • Bareboat Sailing Competence – Theory: Online Bareboat Charter Master Courses. The content of which conforms to the American National Standard and the requirements of yacht charter companies worldwide.
  • Bareboat Sailing Competence – Practical: American National Standards Training and Assessment PLUS Bareboat Competence Assessment by a NauticEd National Standards Approved Bareboat Charter Master Rank Instructor/Assessor

Who Issues the NASBLA License?

BoatUS is a free provider for the NASBLA boating license.

Here is how to gain a FREE NASBLA approved boating license that works in every State and Territory in the USA.

  • Go to https://www.boatus.org/free/
  • Select the State or territory
  • Complete the requirements to pass the course

You will then be issued a State Boater Licence which meets the USA federal and the individual State’s legal requirements for boating.

Once you have completed the NASBLA course, sign-in to NauticEd and under the International License macro button, upload your Boat US state boater license card to NauticEd

The license from one state or territory is valid in all states and territories, and thus internationally under the International Proclamation above.

Putting it all Together

NauticEd coined this the Sailing License and Credentials (SLC TM ). The SLC, as above, meets the legal and sailing resume requirements. The SLC is available worldwide to anyone who meets the following:

  • hold a valid national government boating endorsed license (NASBLA, for Americans)
  • sufficiently document on-the-water sailing experience, on a properly sized vessel logged in your NauticEd logbook
  • be assessed to the ICC/SLC standard (Bareboat Charter Master Standard) for on-the-water sailing competence by a NauticEd approved SLC Assessor*
  • complete and pass the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master bundle of courses (at least 40 hours of theory study including Coastal and Electronic Navigation)
  • complete a 100 question test on all aspects of skippering, sailing, bareboat chartering, and navigation (The NauticEd SLC Exam, available online)

*these Assessors have been vetted by NauticEd to conform to the American National Standards standards for sailing training and assessment.

Specific Instructions:

  • Signin to NauticEd
  • Go to the International Sailing License marco button
  • Upload your Boat US state boater license card to NauticEd
  • Gain the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master Rank
  • Complete the NauticEd SLC exam
  • Pass the on-the-water assessment for bareboat charter by a NauticEd SLC qualified assessor

NauticEd will then issue you with a digital SLC card with a unique number.

The number is entered on this page www.nauticed.org/SLC  which shows to anyone inquiring about your Sailing License and Credentials.

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What Size Yacht Requires a Captain’s License? Find Out Here

yacht boat license

Have you ever dreamed of captaining your own yacht? Whether you’re a professional skipper or an amateur enthusiast, owning a yacht requires a unique set of skills and qualifications.

In this article, we’ll discuss what size yacht requires a captain’s license, the process for obtaining one, the benefits, and the penalties for operating a yacht without a license.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about captain’s licenses.

Table of Contents

Short Answer

In the United States, a captain’s license is required to operate any vessel of more than 25 gross tons, or any vessel that carries passengers for hire.

This includes larger yachts, as well as commercial vessels.

Depending on the size and the intended use, a captain may need to obtain a Master’s license or a higher level of certification.

Additionally, some states may require captains to have a specific license for vessels operating in their waters.

What is a Captain’s License?

A captain’s license is a qualification required in the United States for individuals wishing to operate a yacht larger than 25 gross tons.

This license is granted by the U.

Coast Guard and allows the holder to be in compliance with all federal laws and regulations governing the operation of large vessels.

This license is also necessary for commercial purposes, such as chartering a yacht for business purposes.

To obtain a captain’s license, the applicant must pass a series of tests administered by the U.

Coast Guard.

These tests include a physical examination, a written exam, and a practical exam.

Those who pass these tests are awarded a captain’s license and are legally authorized to safely and legally operate a yacht of any size.

The captain’s license is an important qualification for yacht owners, as it ensures that they are operating their vessels in compliance with all laws and regulations.

It also serves as a demonstration of the holder’s expertise in the field of boating and maritime operations.

It is important to note that the captain’s license is a prerequisite for many commercial activities involving the operation of a yacht, such as chartering and other business activities.

A captain’s license is an important qualification for any yacht owner, as it ensures that they are in compliance with all laws and regulations.

Those who wish to obtain a captain’s license should understand the steps necessary to do so, as well as the importance of the license for operating a yacht.

What is the Minimum Size of a Yacht Requiring a Captain’s License?

yacht boat license

When it comes to the operation of a yacht, safety should always be paramount.

In the United States, if you wish to operate a yacht larger than 25 gross tons, you will be required to have a valid captain’s license from the U.

This license is necessary to be in compliance with the federal laws and regulations governing the operation of large vessels.

The license is also required if the yacht is to be utilized for commercial purposes.

So, what size yacht requires a captain’s license? Generally speaking, if the yacht is larger than 25 gross tons, then a captain’s license is required.

The exact size of the vessel will depend on several factors, such as the type of vessel, its gross tonnage, and its intended use.

Coast Guard has a detailed set of regulations that outlines the requirements for licensing, and it is recommended that prospective captains familiarize themselves with these regulations before attempting to operate a yacht.

Additionally, the size of the yacht’s crew can also be taken into consideration.

Generally speaking, if the vessel requires more than four crew members, then a captain’s license may be necessary.

Additionally, some states may have different requirements for licensing, so it is important to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations for the state in which you will be operating the vessel.

A captain’s license is necessary to safely and legally operate a yacht of any size.

It is important to note that the captain’s license is not the same as a recreational boating license, and it is important to understand the difference between the two.

In conclusion, the minimum size of a yacht requiring a captain’s license is 25 gross tons.

It is important to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations pertaining to the operation of large vessels and to obtain the necessary licensing before attempting to operate a yacht.

What is the Process for Obtaining a Captain’s License?

Obtaining a captain’s license is not a simple process.

It requires dedication, preparation and commitment.

In the United States, the U.

Coast Guard is responsible for issuing captain’s licenses.

To become licensed, an applicant must first pass a series of tests administered by the U.

This includes a physical examination, a written exam and a practical exam.

The physical examination is conducted to ensure that the applicant is healthy enough to operate a vessel.

This exam includes measuring the applicant’s vision, hearing, and physical strength.

The written exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of nautical rules, regulations, and practices.

This exam is designed to ensure the applicant has a comprehensive understanding of the procedures and laws related to operating a yacht.

The practical exam is designed to test the applicant’s ability to safely and effectively operate a vessel.

This exam is conducted on the water, and the applicant must demonstrate their ability to maneuver the vessel in a variety of conditions.

In addition to passing these tests, the applicant must also possess a valid state-issued driver’s license, and must be at least 18 years of age.

The applicant must also provide proof of U.

citizenship, or a valid alien resident card.

The process of obtaining a captain’s license can be long and challenging.

However, those who successfully obtain a license will be able to legally and safely operate any yacht larger than 25 gross tons.

What Are the Requirements for Obtaining a Captain’s License?

yacht boat license

Obtaining a captain’s license is an important and mandatory step for anyone who wishes to operate a yacht larger than 25 gross tons in the United States.

This license is necessary in order to be in compliance with federal laws and regulations governing the operation of large vessels, as well as if the yacht is to be used for commercial purposes.

The process of obtaining a captain’s license requires applicants to pass a series of tests administered by the U.

Coast Guard, including a physical examination, a written exam, and a practical exam.

The physical examination is to ensure that the applicant is physically fit to be the captain of a large vessel.

This will involve a vision and hearing test, as well as a general physical exam to make sure the applicant is healthy enough to handle the duties of a captain.

The written exam is a series of multiple-choice questions that cover topics such as navigation, marine safety, and boating laws.

This exam is designed to test the applicant’s knowledge of the applicable laws, regulations, and procedures for operating a large vessel.

The practical exam is a hands-on examination of the applicant’s ability to safely and securely operate a vessel.

This will involve tasks such as docking and anchoring, emergency procedures, and navigational skills.

This exam is designed to ensure that the applicant is capable of safely navigating a yacht in any environment.

It is important to note that once a captain’s license is obtained, it is valid for five years.

After five years, the license must be renewed in order to remain valid.

Renewing a captain’s license requires the applicant to complete a recertification course, as well as pass an oral exam.

By obtaining a captain’s license, the applicant is demonstrating their commitment to safety, as well as their knowledge of the applicable laws and regulations governing the operation of large vessels.

This license is necessary to safely and legally operate a yacht of any size, and is a vital part of the process of becoming a responsible and capable captain.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Captain’s License?

When it comes to operating a yacht, having a valid captain’s license is essential.

Not only is it a requirement by the U.

Coast Guard, but it also provides a number of benefits to the captain and passengers.

By obtaining a captain’s license, the vessel operator will have the knowledge and skills necessary to safely and legally operate a vessel of any size.

Having a captain’s license demonstrates to other boat operators and passengers that the captain is knowledgeable and capable of safely navigating and operating the boat.

This can help to build trust and confidence among all those on board, and make for a more enjoyable experience.

The captain’s license also provides a sense of responsibility to the captain and passengers, as the license holder is held to a higher standard when it comes to safety and navigation.

A captain’s license can also be beneficial for those wishing to pursue commercial opportunities with their yacht.

Having a valid license can increase the chances of qualifying for charter boat services, as most companies require captains to have a valid license.

Additionally, having a captain’s license may make it easier to obtain insurance and other services, such as financing, for the yacht.

Finally, having a captain’s license can provide a sense of accomplishment to the individual who has earned it.

Captains who have earned their license have demonstrated their knowledge and skill in operating a vessel, which is something that should be celebrated.

In summary, having a captain’s license can provide a number of benefits to the captain and passengers of a yacht.

Coast Guard, but it also provides a sense of trust and responsibility, as well as commercial opportunities and a sense of accomplishment.

What Are the Penalties for Operating a Yacht Without a Captain’s License?

yacht boat license

Operating a yacht without a valid captain’s license is a serious offense, and it can result in significant penalties.

Depending on the size of the yacht, the operator may be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and suspension or revocation of the vessel’s registration.

The penalties for operating a yacht without a captain’s license can vary greatly depending on the size and purpose of the vessel.

For example, operating a large, commercial vessel without a captain’s license can result in fines of up to $50,000, and the vessel may be confiscated and the operator may face up to 10 years in prison.

Operating a recreational vessel without a captain’s license can result in fines of up to $5,000 and the vessel may be seized and the operator may face up to six months in prison.

In addition to the legal penalties, operating a yacht without a captain’s license can also put people’s lives and property at risk.

A captain’s license demonstrates a working knowledge of the federal laws and regulations governing the operation of large vessels, and it also ensures that the operator is familiar with the safe and proper operation of their vessel.

Operating a yacht without a captain’s license is a serious offense and can result in significant penalties.

It is important to remember that a captain’s license is necessary to safely and legally operate a yacht of any size in the United States.

If you wish to operate a yacht larger than 25 gross tons, make sure to obtain a valid captain’s license from the U.

What Are the Different Types of Captain’s Licenses?

When it comes to operating a yacht larger than 25 gross tons, having a valid captain’s license is absolutely essential.

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) issues several different types of captain’s licenses depending on the size of the vessel and its intended purpose.

The most basic license is the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) license, which allows a captain to operate a vessel of up to 6 passengers for hire within a certain geographic area.

This license is commonly referred to as a “six-pack license.

” Next up is the Master of Near Coastal Waters license, which allows a captain to operate a vessel of up to 100 gross tons within a certain geographic area.

This license is commonly referred to as a “100-ton license.

” If a captain wishes to operate a vessel larger than 100 gross tons, then he or she will need to obtain a Master of Oceans license.

This allows a captain to operate any size vessel, anywhere in the world.

Finally, there is the Master of Assistance Towing license, which allows a captain to operate a vessel of any size for towing purposes.

This license is commonly referred to as a “towing license.

” No matter which type of captain’s license you need, it is important to note that all of them require the applicant to pass a series of tests administered by the USCG, including a physical examination, a written exam, and a practical exam.

By obtaining any of the above captain’s licenses, you will be in compliance with the federal laws and regulations governing the operation of large vessels, as well as be able to safely and legally operate a yacht of any size.

Final Thoughts

It is important to understand the requirements for obtaining a captains license if you plan on operating a yacht over 25 gross tons.

Not only will it make your voyage safer and more enjoyable, but it is also a requirement for commercial operations.

With the right knowledge and preparation, obtaining a captains license can be an achievable goal.

To learn more about the process, requirements, and benefits of having a captains license, be sure to visit the U.

Coast Guard website.

James Frami

At the age of 15, he and four other friends from his neighborhood constructed their first boat. He has been sailing for almost 30 years and has a wealth of knowledge that he wants to share with others.

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How To Get A Boating License (Essential Guide)

Boating is a great way to spend time outdoors and explore the world around you. But before you can do that, many US states and Canada require you to pass a boating education course and receive a boating license (especially if you’re under the age of 16). In this article, I will describe what a boating license is and how you can obtain one.

Related article: How Long Does It Take To Get A Boating License?

Table of Contents

What is a boating license and how does it work?

A boating license is a legal document that allows you to operate a boat safely and legally. It also ensures that you understand the rules of the water and are aware of your responsibilities as a boat operator. Although most adults don’t remember much from their boating safety course, it’s still required to obtain in most states.

Most states also require you to have a valid boater safety certificate on board whenever you are captaining a boat. So make sure to keep it in your wallet at all times. Most people I know don’t carry theirs around, but if the coast guard feels like giving you a rough time they’ll ticket you for not having it.

Step-by-step guide on How to get your boating license

Step 1: determine if you even need to get a boating license.

In the United States, boating license requirements vary by state, but most states require boaters to have a boating safety certificate or license if they were born after a specific date (usually in the 1980s or 1990s). Each state also has different age requirements, and many don’t require people who are over the age of 16 to get a boating license.

See the whole list of requirements by state by clicking here . The states that don’t require a boating license include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Main, and South Dakota. Plus there are many more who don’t require boating licenses for people over the age of 16.

However, if you plan on moving or visiting a state or Canadian province that requires a boating license, you will need to get one. Most states offer temporary licenses that last one year and can be completed in 10-30 minutes.

Step 2: Find and complete a state-verified boaters safety course

If you have determined that you need to get a boating safety course, you’ll need to find a reputable boaters education program. The course I took a few years ago was from boattests101.com , it’s affordable, and I had no problems with it. They offer many different US states and a program for Canadians as well.

If your state is not available on that website, any option that is NASBLA certified course will be fine. There are also in-person safety courses available if that is what you prefer. Any NASBLA boaters certificate will work in all US states as long as you are old enough to operate a boat in that state.

Step 3: Pass the boating safety exam

After completing a boating safety course (this will take 3-5 hours on average), you will need to pass a boating safety exam. The exam will cover topics such as boating laws, navigation, and safety procedures which you will learn from the course.

Once you have passed the exam (most programs give you unlimited tries), you will receive your boating license in the mail. Boattests101 also gives you a valid printable temporary license you can use while waiting for your permanent license to be shipped.

Apply the rules and regulations you’ve learned when boating

One of the most frustrating things as a boater is another boater who doesn’t know what they are doing. A lot of the time this may be because of a skill issue (docking, trailering, etc.) but sometimes it’s due to a boater not knowing the rules.

Some of the most important rules are understanding right-of-way rules such as which way to pass when heading straight onto another boat (always veer to the right).

Another important rule is understanding and following signs on the water. For example, producing a wake in a no-wake zone may not seem like a big deal to an uneducated boater, but it could cause severe damage to boats docked along the shore.

Tips for taking the boaters education course and the official boat licensing exam

If we’re being honest, most people who take the online exam don’t do so very honestly. However, you should still at least understand some of the primary principles of boating and the safety equipment you need on board. Here are a few tips that I would recommend:

  • Study the material provided in the boater education course thoroughly.
  • Take practice tests to become familiar with the types of questions that will be on the official exam.
  • Make sure you understand the laws and regulations related to boating in your state or province.
  • Understand the proper use and maintenance of safety equipment on board the vessel.
  • Be familiar with the navigation rules for your area.
  • Understand the impact of weather and water conditions on boating safety.
  • Get familiarized with the boating hand signals.
  • Take a break if you feel overwhelmed and come back to study later.
  • Seek assistance if you have any doubts or questions.
  • Arrive at the exam location early and be well-rested.

If you have finished your education course and are confused by any of the tips above, I would re-study a few of the topics. I can promise you that the test is not all common sense and even after taking the boating exam a few years ago, I tried retaking it for fun and got a whopping 35 out of 60 questions correct.

FAQ (frequently asked questions)

As long as your boaters safety certificate is NASBLA certified, it can be used in every US state that requires a boaters license. You can also use it in Canada.

No, you don’t need to renew your boating license. All it takes is 3-5 painful hours of studying and test-taking, and you are a legal boater for life.

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Why Obtaining Your Captain‘s License Is Essential

How to get your captain's license and pilot your own yacht.

If your boat is longer than 9 metres, without a skipper’s or captain’s license, you cannot legally take it out to sea.

That kind of defeats the purpose of owning a boat, right?

Earning a captain’s license and being able to confidently pilot your own yacht will be your passport to traversing our planet’s beautiful oceans. You will have the freedom to explore the seas to your heart’s content without a care in the world.

Getting the right certification for your requirements, be it a Day Skipper , Coastal Skipper , Local Waters Skipper or Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence , will allow you and your sailing companions to get the most out of your yacht and enjoy it to the maximum.

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Become a yacht captain by acquiring your captain's license

If you already have significant sailing experience, you may want to go the self-study route and simply take your exams at an accredited sailing school.

If you are new to the world of sailing, you’ll want to choose a reputable sailing school. They should provide you with the necessary practical and theoretical training to confidently captain your yacht.

Here are the various Certificates of Competency (COCs) or 'Captains Licenses'

  • Inland Waters Skipper

If you hold this license, you will be qualified to skipper a sailboat inland during day and night.

  • Day Skipper

This skipper’s license will qualify you to captain a sailboat at sea in local waters from sunrise to sunset. Local waters are defined as 15 nautical miles, or 25 miles, from your home port, given that they are no more than 15 nautical miles from an approved safe haven.

  • Local Waters Skipper

Holding this license, you will be qualified to skipper a sailboat at sea by day or by night in local waters, as defined for the Day Skipper’s license set out above.

  • Coastal Skipper

A Coastal Skipper‘s license will qualify you to skipper a sailboat on any coastal passage, as long as it is within 40 nautical miles of the coast, day or night.

  • Yachtmaster Offshore

A Yachtmaster Offshore skipper’s license will qualify you to captain a sailboat on any extended or ocean passage.

  • Yachtmaster Ocean

A Yachtmaster Ocean certificate is a badge of honour, indicating that you have mastered celestial navigation.

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To sail around the world, you will need a captains license!

You will need your international accreditation through the Royal Yacht Association or International Yacht Training if you wish to skipper a yacht or superyacht as a career.

International Certificate of Competence

If you plan to sail your yacht around the world, you’ll have to obtain an International Certificate of Competence (ICC) . The ICC has been likened to an international driver’s license for boats.

If you have your sights set on the waters of Europe and the Mediterranean, you will need an ICC to do so legally. However, it is essential to note that the US and Canada have different international captain license requirements and do not recognise the International Certificate of Competence.

You will have to contact a Royal Yachting Association affiliate to obtain an ICC in North America.

COCs - start your captain's license from the beginning

The various Certificates of Competence are progressive, so it makes sense to start with your Day Skipper’s license , and progress to your Yacht master Offshore captain’s license from thereon.

An important consideration to keep in mind is that the Certificate of Competence you select will very much depend on your individual needs and circumstances.

For example, the requirements for a Recreational Sailing Certificate of Competence differ from a Commercial Sailing Certificate of Competence . So, your motivation (recreational, commercial or professional international sailing) will determine which skipper training course you select.

There are also some necessary prerequisites that have to be met before any sailor can apply for skipper’s license training. They are:

  •   All candidates must be at least 16 years of age
  •   For ocean sailing, candidates need a radio operator’s certificate valid for operating a marine VHF radio in South Africa
  •   All candidates will have to pass a basic eye test. If you are colour blind, you will not be able to proceed past the Day Skipper Certificate of Competence
  •   Candidates for the Coastal Skipper Certificate of Competence and above must have a current and valid Level 1 First Aid Certificate
  •   All candidates will have to produce a logbook of experience to get their qualification. The required expertise to be logged varies depending on the certification course.

Here you will find lots of information on the various sailing Certificates of Competence (or skipper tickets, as they are also known) available to you.  

Just keep in mind that such certificates (and what they will legally qualify you for) vary from country to country.

If you are a non-SA citizen, you will have to research your country’s legal requirements for the various sailing Certificates of Competence.

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How long does it take to become a yacht captain?

This will depend on the skipper’s course you decide on. To obtain certification in basic sailing skills is quite affordable and could take as little as three weekends to complete.

Courses like the Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence are much more comprehensive, intensive and costly. This course takes about 17 weeks to complete.

Why getting your skipper’s or captain’s license will be worth every cent

Unless you have a sailing crew (including a qualified skipper) at the ready, it will be absolutely worth your while to obtain the necessary credentials to skipper your yacht yourself.

South Africa has many reputable, accredited sailing schools. They can provide you with all the information and training you need to obtain the captain’s or skipper’s license that is right for your requirements.

Undergoing the necessary practical and theoretical training will give you all the knowledge and experience to sail your boat with confidence.

What’s more, your skipper’s license training is likely to be an exhilarating adventure in itself.

 It is also an excellent way to meet other sailing enthusiasts who might just become friends for life.

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How to Get Your Captain’s License –A Step-by-Step Guide

From captain requirements to the coast guard application process – how to navigate the process of becoming an official boat captain.

Like all other areas of professional endeavor, getting a Captain’s license is an essential and non-trivial process. Despite the years between my earliest thoughts on having one and actually applying…or perhaps because of that time…I am quite proud to call myself Captain !

From the time I was Quartermaster aboard the Chesapeake Lightship back when she was berthed in Washington, DC, I had wanted to get my Captain’s license. We in her crew had plenty of sea time. The late Capt. Joe Murray, John Hart, and particularly Chris Krusa saw to it that each of us developed our skills and knowledge beyond the minimum that we needed for our jobs.  We met collectively with a Coast Guard officer to explore the options for us all getting licensed; however, the wind was taken out of our sails so to speak when he told us that since most of us were not 18, we were not entitled to take the written exam.

I left that session crestfallen but I put it all behind me as I moved on with a career in research physics. Later, I learned that what the officer SHOULD have said is that if we had just waited (a few months) until we turned 18, we could have taken the exams. Years later, my problem was that I could not meet the requirement to have 90 days of sea time in the last 3 years. My employer would have more than frowned on my having been gone so often. And all of us had not even bothered to ask for sea service forms or letters to document our time on the Chesapeake.

Fast forward 34 years and serendipitous events led to my being able to get signed sea service forms for my time on the Lightship. Shortly thereafter, I became a boat owner WITH vacation time afforded to a very senior engineer in the company.

Long story short, I am Capt. Rob Chichester –  200 Ton Master with Auxiliary Sail and Assistance Towing Endorsements.

Navigating the path to a Captain’s license can be full of the brambles of regulations, forms, and oddly worded requirements. In this article, I will try to clarify the process and help interested skippers decide what type of license, scope, and tonnage they should pursue. Then I will discuss the application process and all the elements needed to assemble a successful license application package.

More Resources: If you would like a one-on-one consultation to have your specific questions answered on this topic or others related to boating, please sign up for 30 minute video consultation with me!

The Basics of a Captain’s License

A first time applicant will need to decide while type of license to pursue. There are two types available to one applying for a new license.

  • You may apply for a license to be an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) or the more familiar “Six Pack” license. It is so called because the holder of this license is limited to carrying no more than 6 paying passengers on any vessel within his tonnage rating regardless of the maximum capacity rating for the vessel.
  • The other option is a Master’s license which allows you to carry up to the maximum number of passengers indicated for the vessel in question. Whereas a Master’s license requires US Citizenship, an OUPV license holder can be non-US citizen. Clearly holding a Master’s license offers more opportunities; however as I will explain later, the knowledge requirements are appropriately greater.

The scope or route for one’s license is the waters in which you are authorized to function in your licensed capacity.

There are effectively three such areas defined:

  • The first is Inland which covers all inland rivers and bays not otherwise outside the demarcation line for the high seas. This may also include portions of the Great Lakes up to the International boundary line. (I will not explicitly discuss the Great Lakes or Western Rivers in this article but those waters are also covered by an Inland scope with a specific endorsement for each.)
  • The second route is near-coastal which means ocean waters not more than 200 miles offshore. By extension, a near-coastal route endorsement includes inland waters as well.
  • Lastly,  Oceans refers to all waters seaward of the Boundary Lines as described in 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 7.

Tonnage rating is determined by the size vessels upon which an applicant has served. The tonnage is not simply the weight or displacement of a given vessel. It is not how much stuff you had loaded on a boat. It is a calculation of theoretical displacement if the complete available interior volume of a ship were filled with material of density 1 (i.e., water).

There are formulas available to estimate that based on the dimensions and type of boat. The calculations are necessarily different for a sailboat and a power boat. On a very rough order of magnitude, a 100 Ton powerboat would be about 80 feet long and a 100 Ton sailboat would be about 100 feet long. The tonnage rating is a not to exceed limitation.

One need not necessarily serve on a 50 ton or 100 ton vessel to earn the equivalent tonnage rating (see the table below for specifics on that). One cannot be granted more than a 100 Ton rating on an initial license because higher tonnage requires that one has served in a licensed capacity before applying for the higher tonnage. When I renewed my license in November, I applied for a 200 Ton rating which was granted conditional to my successfully passing the mandated written test. By the time you read this, I expect to have taken that exam.

Tonnage and route are determined by one’s documented experience. While you may apply for a 100 ton rating, you may only be granted 50 tons (or less) if your experience does not justify the higher rating. Additionally, the greater the scope, the more sea time is required to qualify for the rating.

For example, while an Inland scope needs 360 days of total sea time with 90 days in the last 3 years, a near-coastal scope requires 720 days and again the 90-day recency requirement. The take-away here is that experience is a big determinant and should NOT be discounted in any way. Note that there is no path to being granted an Ocean scope except by being a licensed mate or master for at least 2 years with documented service on those waters. That is, it is impossible to apply for an Oceans scope on a first application.

It should be noted that an OUPV license is automatically issued with a 100 Ton rating. As coarse as this may sound, the reason is that it is assumed that with an OUPV license, the most damage one can do is to 6 people. Therefore, there is no particular benefit to issuing OUPV with varying tonnage ratings. New Master’s licenses are issued with ratings of 25, 50, or 100 tons. Discussions of ratings over 100 tons or Ocean routes are beyond the scope of this article. You may contact the author if you wish more information on those specific topics.

The table below is a guide to determining for what rating one may qualify.

Your Sea Time Experience

For a Near Coastal route, ideally, all of your time will be on Near-Coastal waters; however, you are allowed to substitute up to half of the 720 days required minimum with Inland route service. For the purposes of documenting sea time for a Near Coastal route, any time served beyond the 3-mile limit counts for that purpose. So if you charter in the Caribbean or crew on an offshore fishing trip, that time counts.

Just to be clear, sea time is not counted unless you are a working member of the crew of the vessel named on the sea service form. That is to say, just being a passenger is not sufficient.

To keep things on the up and up, the applicant is required to get the signature of the owner, manager, or master of the vessel on the sea service form. If the applicant owns the identified vessel, proof of ownership must accompany the form. Proof might be a Bill of Sale, vessel document, or a state registration.

Sea time is not counted unless you spend at least 4 hours of a given day underway . Being onboard the boat at the dock swabbing the decks does not count. Time underway is counted whether it is in route or adrift. Being anchored or moored also does not count. It can be tedious to collect and collate all of your sea service forms, especially after the fact. My best advice is even if you are only thinking about getting a license, keep blank sea service forms with you for the vessel operator to sign at the end of a trip. Note that the forms are not per trip but per vessel. There is room to document up to 5 years of sea time on any given vessel. There is room for five years of data because your license will be up for renewal every 5 years .

Technically, vessels over 200 gross tons now require a Service Letter from the employer or vessel manager. However at the time I applied for my original license, I submitted my time on the Chesapeake Lightship on a Sea Service form (CG-719S). That form was accepted for that as well as again when I renewed and requested an upgrade to 200 Tons. I may have been grandfathered so new applicants should verify their individual situations with the National Maritime Center .

Health and Medical

To be a Captain, one must be in good health and of reasonable physical ability. The Medical form ( CG-719K ) is the most extensive form one will need to complete. It also requires the signature of a licensed physician. Unlike an FAA pilot’s license, the physician need not be approved by the US Coast Guard. Your family doctor is acceptable.

For my part, I completed as much of the form as was reasonable. I then FAXed the form ahead of my annual physical so that the doctor could review what was needed and to be prepared to sign off on it. The only extra thing the doctor had to do was conduct color vision and standard wall chart vision test. Your vision need not be perfect without glasses but if that is the case, you should expect a requirement to be written on your license requiring corrective lenses to be used and a spare pair to be available when on duty. If your medical form is accepted, you will be issued a separate medical form which is to be kept with your Merchant Mariner Credential. There is a pocket on the back cover to hold it and the required Transport Worker’s Identification Card ( TWIC ). The TWIC will be addressed below.

Another form to be completed, this time by an authorized physician, is the DOT five-panel drug test . An applicant must submit proof of drug testing with no findings as determined by an authorized physician. Also be aware that to work aboard any vessel in any compensated capacity, you must have proof of participation in a drug test program, whether it be one in which you elect to participate as an individual or one required by your marine employer. Such proof is to be carried with you at all times just as your license and medical certificate must be. It is generally in the form of a letter attesting to your compliance and passing a test within 12 months of the date of the letter.

Criminal and National Security Background

One has always been required to agree to a criminal background and driving record check . As you can well imagine, adverse findings in either of these areas will negatively affect one’s application.

With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a requirement was added that licensed mariners have a TWIC card . In fact, anyone working in the transportation sector (air, rail, marine, trucking, etc.) is required to have a TWIC card. You will be investigated for any evidence of threat potential to national security. This is because as a licensed Captain, you may have access to vital and strategic marine facilities.

The TWIC card is issued by DHS through a federal contractor. There is an application to complete and a fee to pay. Furthermore, you must appear in person so that your photo and fingerprints can be taken. This bio-metric data is stored on the TWIC card and protected by a pass code. You must submit a copy of your TWIC with your license application; therefore, one must start the TWIC process at least four to six weeks or more before submitting one’s license application.

Separately, a photograph of the applicant must accompany the application. This can be a driver’s license or passport photo . It should be a state or federal government issued document. Others may be accepted but the applicant should verify this with the NMC before submitting the application to avoid processing delays.

  • Coastal Navigation
  • Deck General Knowledge
  • Rules of the Road

Deck General includes a wide variety of topics including fire and safety, terminology, and laws and procedures. Rules of the Road covers exactly what it says. Bear in mind that even if you are applying for an Inland or Near Coastal license, the Rules of the Road test will include elements of International Rules. So when you are studying, do not neglect to familiarize yourself with those details. There are some variations in vessel precedence, sound signals, and lights and shapes displayed by vessels.

If you are applying for a Master’s license, there are additional areas of test. The same is true if you are additionally requesting an endorsement for Sail, Auxiliary Sail, or Commercial Assistance Towing. The net effect is more questions overall.

You must score at least 70% in all areas except Rules of the Road for which you must have a minimum score of 90% to pass . Generally, that means you may miss no more than 3 questions to pass with a 90% grade. The Navigation questions will require you to work with a chart to plot position, routes, and so forth.

You may either pay an examination fee to take the exams administered by the Coast Guard or you may enroll in any number of approved Captains’ courses. You will receive a certificate of completion from the school to submit with your application in lieu of the Coast Guard exams; however, you will still take exams which include questions from the same list of questions that the Coast Guard uses. In the latter case, you will not need to pay an examination fee but obviously, you will have to pay a tuition for the course.

Completing your Application

The license application is not unlike many others. It is actually shorter than the medical form discussed earlier. There are two things to note on the application:

  • Item 1 of Section IV describes how one may be asked to serve on behalf of the country in times of national emergency. An example of this was the massive sealift conducted in support of the first Gulf war in the 1980’s, Operation Desert Storm. This is a voluntary action. However it should be noted that during the call up for Desert Storm, more mariners were needed than responded. It is a possibility, particularly in these times, that another such national emergency could arise.
  • Secondly, Item 5 of Section IV contains an oath to which an applicant must swear. If you present yourself in person you will be sworn in by Coast Guard personnel. If you choose to submit your application by mail or electronic means, you must provide proof that you appropriately took the oath as written. This generally means being sworn by a Notary or a local government official such as a county clerk.

Payment of all required application and examination fees is made online prior to submitting the application. You will receive a receipt which you should include with your application package. Pay close attention to the various fees and be sure you select all that apply but ONLY those that apply. An error either way will delay processing of your application.

Submitting your Application

When you apply for an original license and especially if you plan to take the Coast Guard exams , you will need to present yourself in person with your complete application package at a USCG Regional Examination Center (REC). Photo ID will be necessary as well.

One thing that happens if you appear in person is that you will raise your right hand and take the oath on the application. That was a very moving moment for me. Delivering your application package in person also allows you to interact with the personnel directly which could be very valuable if there are errors or omissions in your application package.

If you are not taking the Coast Guard exams and if you have been sworn by an authorized official, you may wish to submit your application by mail or electronically. Be aware that electronic submission has a limit on the size of the email attachment. My applications have always been larger than what is accepted by the Coast Guard mail servers.

Waiting for Your License

The Coast Guard has implemented a very good system of tracking your application and providing feedback at every step of the way. You will receive emails as the application moves through the system. It may take up to a week for the REC to review and forward your application to the National Maritime Center (NMC) in West Virginia. That was my experience with the New York City REC. It may be less in smaller, less congested venues.

By the way, you are not required to use the REC nearest to you. If you wanted to fly to Hawaii or Alaska instead of driving into Baltimore, you may do so. A good friend of mine drove from New Jersey to Boston to submit his application there because he heard the processing times were less than for New York.

Once the NMC has your package, the process usually will not take long at all. It is very likely you will receive 2 or 3 emails a day, often within minutes, as the application moves through the various approvals. Nothing beats the feeling you will have when you get the final email saying that you have been approved and your credential is being printed!

My original license took slightly more than two weeks from dropping off my application at Battery Park in New York to finding my MMC in my mailbox.

Once you get your license, look it over thoroughly. You may not necessarily have been granted the scope and rating you requested. Sometimes that reduction will be legitimate. Other times, it may be due to an honest mistake. Both my original and renewals had honest omissions. I was only granted a 50 ton rating on my original license when I had applied for 100 tons. I submitted the sea service form supporting the request for 100 tons after the fact and I received an endorsement sticker for the 100 ton rating a week later. Similarly with my renewal, I asked for an upgrade to 200 tons. My renewal was approved at 100 tons. When I contacted the NMC, they amended the approval and showed that I was then approved to take the required test for the 200 ton upgrade. So my message here is to not necessarily accept the delivered MMC as if it were carved in stone.

More Resources from Captain Rob

Being a licensed Captain is a great source of pride to me. I have enjoyed working with my clients as well as pursuing other commercial opportunities like relief captain jobs on various schooners, water taxi and tow boat jobs, and tour boat and ferry captain work. I look forward to many years of working on and enjoying the water.

If you would like a one-on-one consultation to have your specific questions answered on this topic or others related to boating, please sign up for 30 minute video consultation with me!

ask Captain Rob

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24 Comments

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Hi, I am hoping you can help me out. I am a USCG vet that was stationed at a small boat station in NJ from 1983-1989. I am trying to get my sea time documented but I am having a very hard time finding out how to do that since the station records were not computerized at that time. I have contacted the NMC and they told me to call the station to get an Abstract of Operations report. They just laughed at me when I called the station. I have requested info from vetrecs.archives.gov but I am sure that will take some time just to get an answer as to wether they can do that or not. I was wondering if you knew how to go about getting the information that I need. I am sure I am not the only person with this issue and I can’t seem to find anyone that knows exactly how to go about documenting that time.

Thanks Jeff

capt rob

Thanks for your question. I don’t have a lot of advice for you regarding USCG internal procedures. Perhaps you can contact the Office of Personnel and try to get a copy of your service record. Alternatively, is there anyone at that small boat station who knew you? Would the OIC be willing to write a letter? The last and least likely option would be to fill out your own sea service form and see if anyone there would sign off on it for you. Now the regulations speak of a Certificate of Discharge being acceptable. See for example 46 CFR 10.232 ( https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/46/10.232 ). If you already have that, you might be good to go!

So…start with your Certificate of Discharge and if you don’t have that, then contact the Office of Personnel to see if you can get the requisite documents. Let me know how you make out!

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Hi Captain Rob, My name is Elton the 66 year old owner of a small 35 ft. Kingscraft houseboat. I spend a lot of time on one large lake. It is an older wonderful all aluminum vessel but weighs only about 8000 lbs. In the chart the lowest weight rating is 17 tons. I would love to educate myself and become a Captain. Is that possible at some level? I would also have to document my own time as pilot.

Sir, you have open to you both options that I describe in my article. You could pursue either a Master’s license OR an Operator of an Uninspected Vessels license. From what you have written, I see no inherent obstacles. You must be able to document your seatime, get a medical evaluation, and pass the 4 or the 3 parts of the written exam depending on which license you choose to pursue. In any event, you would qualify for an Inland license. Your tonnage rating would also depend on which license you pursue. Solely based on what you have said above, you would qualify for a 50 ton Master’s license. If you pursue an OUPV, that comes with a tonnage rating of 100 tons. For most people, the biggest challenge is acceptably documenting seatime. (It needs all be as captain. You can include time served as master, mate, or crew but NOT as a paying passenger.) If your concern is your age, I know a few captain’s in the 60s and 70s. I am one of the former myself. Good luck!

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Capt.Rob I am US Army Veteran And I was wondering if their was a school i could attend to obtain a licence, I ask this because i have to decide what i want to go to school for and this job would be a top pick for me. Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated thanks

There are MANY captain schools that can help you with the written tests but there are NO schools that can help you with the sea time requirements unless you are considering enrolling in a maritime college like Kings Point or Fort Schuyler in the New York State university system. I used Mariners Learning System for my written tests only because it was more convenient than going to the USCG REC to take the exams.

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Where would I get sea service forms . I have owned and operated my own boats for over 30 years and am now being asked to get a captains liscence

There is a link in the article for the National Maritime Center. All the forms you needs can be found on their website. Alternatively, you can search for USCG National Maritime Center with your favorite search engine.

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Couple questions. Would working as a divemaster on a dive boat in the Gulf of Mexico count for near coastal sea time? And if you were to have 8 hours of sea time in one day, could you potentially count that as two days at sea? Or would it still be just one day? Thanks for all the info this has been a huge help!

Any time spent aboard a vessel underway counts as long as the owner, manager, or master of the vessel will attest to that. When submitting Sea Service forms, your option for your role aboard the vessel are things like crew, mate, master, engineer, etc. You will need to determine what your position was. Divemaster is not recognized and does not speak to maritime skills necessarily. (For example, you can dive from shore never having been in a boat.) Regarding the near coastal time, you just need to verify that the vessel upon which you served was indeed in near-coastal or ocean waters. The form has spaces for days spent within the specified boundaries and outside those boundaries. I once saw an interactive chart online for finding the boundary lines in a given area. For your purposes, you cannot count 8 hours as two days underway. You need a MINIMUM of 4 hours underway to count that day. Being at anchor or otherwise moored or secured does not count. Good luck!

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Capt. Lots of good and helpful info. I boated the Chesapeake for 10+yrs, from the Delaware bay to Virginia in a 27′ cruiser. i’ve not been on the water since 2012. So to be clear, I need to acquire some time on a charter vessel to even attempt the basic “6-pack”. I have my CG boating skills and seamanship certificates,and will work on the CG719S. Living in Florida, lots of opportunity, should have done this sooner !! Thanks

Thank you for your feedback. I am glad you found the article helpful. Apart from documenting your sea time, I found the most labor intensive aspect was verifying that a) I had all the documents that I needed and b) I had correctly completely all of the USCG forms. A lesser challenge may be in determining what correct application fees are. If you are not sure, contact USCG NMC by phone, email, or online chat to get clarification on what fees you have to pay. Good luck!

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This is great info..

I am starting out (hopefully) as a plan is due to new lifestyle i desire to get an two oceans open ocean 800 expedition catamaran (again very expensive so fingers crossed) but the plan is while the vessel is being built, i can take several classes and get a few certifications prior to launch, then as life you see everywhere on youtube for example have the vessel at dock, then day trips, then a week trip and just push it a little further until you are ready for the maiden voyage, really looking to live off anchorage in around the philippines / guam area mostly philippines or south pacific area, mostly friends and family but my question is any licence for that type of boat, and also if you have heard of any schools in the philippines? I know they have a few courses that are completely certified like any american school but a fraction of the cost, just curious if any particular licence i need to get or have?

You did not say whether you intended to take passengers for hire. Generally, one only needs to be licensed if you are getting paid to carry passengers OR if you working in more advanced maritime fields like tug boats and large cargo vessels. If you are only operating your private vessel for your own personal or recreational purposes, you usually do not need any kind of license other than possibly taking a multiple choice test on local safety rules and rules of the road. I am not familiar with the licensing requirements in foreign venues like the Philippines. Each nation has its own requirements. I was able to find information at this link: http://www.marina.gov.ph/policies/MCs/mc170.pdf . You may find some useful information in that document.

Good luck! And safe sailing…

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Your information was helpful, thank you. I have decided to pursue getting my License but I am starting from scratch. Should I take classes before looking to get sea time? And how does one go about getting sea time with no experience?

Any course work you take will typically culminate in a certificate of completion. However that certificate will only be valid for 1 year. Therefore, do NOT take any exams more than about 6 months prior to submitting your original license application. As for sea time, you can look for marine work that does not require a license like deck crew on water taxis or excursion boats. Time spent on a friend’s boat counts. Have that friend complete and sign a sea service form. Sea time never expires and can be counted from the age of 15. Learn your rules of the road and learn to feel your vessel. Driving a boat is a lot different from driving a car. As a licensed captain, you are expected to step up to the helm and handle the ship with relatively little training time. Good luck!

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Great article, thanks for writing it! Does time spent aboard a recreational boat that I own, when I am the only person aboard, count towards sea time? If so how do I document that – there’s no one to sign for the time. Thanks again.

Time spent on your own boat absolutely counts. You would sign the CG-719S Sea Service form yourself where it says Applicant AND where it says Person Attesting to Experience. However, you will have to provide proof of ownership for the vessel. The Bill of Sale is usually what is used but the vessel’s CG document or state registration card should also be sufficient. Remember that seatime is counted only from the age of 15 and it is underway time of at least 4 hours per day. Time on the anchor or alongside do NOT count. The presence of others is irrelevant.

Hi Shane. Sea time is defined as time working aboard in any capacity relevant to the rating you are pursuing. For instance, if you are a bos’n or deck crew, that time it unlikely to count towards a engineer’s license and conversely, time in the engine department or work on mechanical systems would be difficult to apply towards a deck officer’s license. The highest rating one can get on an original (i.e., first) license is 100 Ton Master. It is likely that your Navy time would count; however, your challenge is getting an appropriate service letter from the Navy. You cannot submit a CG-719S for your Navy service as that form is for SMALL VESSEL service. Consult the USCG site at http://www.uscg.mil/nmc for more information. Also note that you may use any valid sea time accrued from the age of 15. Good luck!

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Hi Capt. Rob, I have one question rather just some clarification regarding the time at sea, for the tonnage rating. Does “time at sea” mean just that or does it mean operating the vessel. I was in the Navy for several years as an operations specialist and I am not sure what level I would qualify for if I were to pursue getting a Captains license. Also I was wondering how much the entire process would cost.

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Hey Rob, Thanks so much for taking the time to write this, it was really very useful to read. This has been on my mind for some considerable time, but I am now finally starting on the road to getting my licence and taking a nautical shift in my career. I have been a sailor all my life, was sailing single handed as soon as I could walk and now own a 38 foot Irwin racer/crusier.

My one big question is online study vs going somewhere to do the required course? I wonder how you gained your licence and what you might recommend?

My issue was primarily NOT wanting to have to take the tests at the NYC REC and to NOT attend intense 8-10 hour weekend classes. I was comfortable with the Rules of the Road and chart navigation issues as well the Deck General material. Since I got a Master’s license (versus the OUPV), there was more legal stuff to know in the category they call Ship’s Business. I did an online course through Mariner’s School in Princeton, NJ. The price was good and the location was convenient for when I did go to take the test.

The bottom line is do what works best for you given what you need to learn or refresh, how much time you have to do it, and where you will need to go to take the final tests.

(Please note that you can submit your application and/or take your tests at ANY REC anywhere. It is not a function of where you live or where you will sail.)

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Great article Rob. Thanks for sharing your experience

Thank you for the feedback. Do please let me know if you have any further questions or if I may be of service in some other regard!

Comments are closed.

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the US Coast Guard practices with a helicopter

Registration Requirements

Know the law, boarding preparations.

You've been stopped by the local marine patrol for a routine equipment check. According to your recent Courtesy Marine Exam, you are carrying all required and recommended equipment. But do you know what else marine officers are likely to check?

Numbering and Registration

a chart showing a typical registration and where it should be placed on the boat, which is on the bow

Just as you wouldn't drive your car without a license plate, current sticker, and registration, your boat must be properly numbered, must have a current state use sticker, and your registration, or "certificate of number", must be aboard. This is a requirement for all mechanically powered vessels, all vessels that travel on federal waters that are navigable, and for vessels that travel on the high seas--virtually every vessel on the water. Boat numbers must be affixed on the forward portion of both the port and starboard side.

Boat numbers must be affixed on the forward portion of both the port and starboard side.

  • Numbers should be block letters instead of script
  • Numbers need to be at least three inch in height
  • The color needs to contrast with the hull color
  • The number needs spaces or hyphens between numerals and letters, as: MD 1234 AB or MD-1234-AB

Also, most states require a current sticker immediately after or before the boat numbers on the port side, generally within 6 inches. While most vessels must be registered, some--like canoes and kayaks, may not have to be registered in your state. Also, fees and the length of registration vary from state to state. Many boaters like to carry their boat papers on a floating key ring handle so they will always have them close at hand.

Finally, if you register your boat in your state of residence, but store it or use in another state, you might have to register your boat in that state, or face a fine. Most states have "reciprocity" laws that allow visitation without having to pay a new registration fee for a few weeks or even a few months, but if your boat essentially resides in another state, you should expect to have to register it in that state. For instance, if you live in Pennsylvania, but keep your boat in Maryland and boat on the Chesapeake Bay, you can expect to pay a Maryland registration fee. Check with your state, and the state your boat resides in for specific laws. This reference is included in the state law section of this course.

Hull Identification Number (HIN)

a chart showing an example HIN, also showing that it is located on the transom, or back of the boat

Your vessel will also have (if manufactured since 1972) a Hull Identification Number which is the 12 digit serial number of your vessel. This number is usually located on the upper right portion of the vessels' transom. This number indicates the boat manufacturer, its serial number, and the month and year of production. This number is used to register the boat, and to identify an individual boat.

You may not legally:

  • Alter the 12 digit number so that it appears to be a different boat
  • Paint over the number
  • Obscure the number
  • Otherwise destroy, deface or remove the number

Documentation

Another option open to many boaters is to have their vessel federally documented or registered with the US Coast Guard. Documentation has several advantages, but its primary uses are to provide a "paper trail" that establishes ownership of a vessel, and documentation is often necessary to travel overseas.

Some things to remember:

  • While federally documented vessels are not required to display state registration numbers, you may still be required to register the vessel with the state, and be required to pay any sales taxes. Federally documented vessels are prohibited from using state boat numbering on the hull, though they can display registration stickers.
  • Ships are documented according to use-commercial, recreational, etc. While you may use a commercial vessel for recreational purposes, you may not use a recreational boat for commercial purposes. Doing so will result in the loss of documentation, and fines/penalties.
  • Documentation numbers need to be permanently attached to a structural portion of the hull, and the vessels' name and home port need to be listed on the hull--usually the transom. Recreational vessels must have the name and hailing port listed in 4 inch letters. Commercial vessels must do the same, but they must also have the name on both sides of the bow.

Documentation is only available for boats that admeasure 5 gross tons, which works out to be about 30 feet in length. "Admeasurement" is a unit of volume — not weight. A boat that weighs 10,000 pounds might not qualify for documentation.

For more information on documentation, visit the USCG's website for documentation . You can call them at 1-800-799-8362 .

U.S. flag

An official website of the Washington state government

The .gov means it’s official. A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Register a boat

Learn how to register your boat in Washington state.

Before you get started

Unless specifically exempt (see below), you must meet all Washington state registration requirements when using a documented boat on Washington waters. This means:

  • You have 60 days to register your boat after you move to Washington
  • You have 15 days to register your boat in Washington if you buy it in another state

If your boat is documented with the U.S. Coast Guard

If your boat is registered with the U.S. Coast Guard , you must meet special registration requirements. Learn more about the requirements for documented boats .

Commercial fishing boats

If you use your boat exclusively for commercial fishing, you must register it with the Washington State Department of Revenue.

How to register your boat

To title and register your boat in Washington:

1. Gather all the required documentation

Gather all of the following:

Vessel Title Application

Complete the Vessel Title Application on white paper. If you bought the boat at a dealership, they'll complete this form for you.

Your current out-of-state registration

If your boat isn't currently registered in another jurisdiction, please contact a vehicle and boat licensing office for instructions.

The out-of-state title

  • If there is a lienholder, bring a photocopy of the out-of-state title
  • If you don't have your out-of-state title, contact a vehicle and boat licensing office for instructions

Proof you paid sales tax on the boat

If you don't have proof that you paid sales tax when you purchased it, you may need to pay use tax when titling/registering your boat.

Proof of insurance (if necessary)

If your boat is more than 35 feet long and more than 40 years old, you must present proof of marine insurance when you transfer the title into your name or register it for the first time. You only have to do this once.

You may provide more than one policy to meet all of the following requirements. The insurance policy (or policies) must:

  • Be for at least a 12 month term from the time the boat changed ownership
  • Include $300,000 or more basic coverage
  • Include a provision for removing the boat if it sinks or causes pollution

Contact a vehicle and boat licensing office if you have questions about whether your policy meets the requirements.

The payment/fee

Bring a check or money order payable to the Department of Licensing. Some vehicle licensing offices may take card payments, but many do not. Check with your local  vehicle licensing office for details.   Calculate your boat registration fees .

2. Submit your paperwork

You can submit your paperwork and the required fees in person at a vehicle and boat licensing office or by mail.

3. Properly display your decals and registration

When you've registered your boat, you'll get your registration and a set of decals with the assigned registration number (WN#). You'll also get Vessel Registration Number Instructions showing how to properly display the registration number and decals on your boat.

If you register by mail, you'll get them in the mail. If you register at an office, the licensing agent will give them to you before you leave.

Exempt boats

  • Canoes, kayaks, or boats that don't have a motor or sail (strictly human-powered)
  • Boats held for sale by a licensed dealer
  • Military boats
  • Public boats of the United States or the American Red Cross
  • State-, county-, or city-owned boats which are used for government purposes
  • Tugs with a marine document as a boat of the United States that are primarily engaged in commerce
  • Barges with a marine document as a boat of the United States that are primarily engaged in commerce
  • Bare boat charters or timeshare boats with a marine document as a boat of the United States that are primarily engaged in commerce
  • Boats with propulsion machinery that draw 250 watts or less, propel the boat no faster than 10 miles per hour and are not used on waters subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or the high seas beyond the territorial seas for boats owned in the United States.
  • Boats less than 16 feet long with a motor of 10 horsepower or less which are only used on non-federal waters
  • Tenders 10 HP or less used for direct transportation between a registered boat and the shore and for no other purpose. The tender must display the number of the registered boat followed by the suffix "1".
  • Boats 30 ft. or longer purchased by a nonresident that has purchased a use permit
  • Boats primarily engaged in commerce that is owned by a resident of a country other than the United States

Boats registered in another state

If your boat is registered in another state, you are exempt for the first 60 days you are on Washington waters. On or before the 61st day of use on Washington state waters, you (or the owner) must obtain a nonresident boat temporary license plate as required by law.

If the boat's primary place of use changes to Washington, you must register it in Washington.

Boats issued a United States Customs Service Cruising License or registered in another country

If you have a US Customs Service Cruising License or if your boat is registered in another country, you are exempt for the first 60 days you are on Washington waters.

On or before the 61st day of use on Washington waters, you (or the owner) must obtain a boat visitor temporary license plate.

Boats in Washington exclusively for repairs, alteration, or reconstruction

If you live out of state and your boat  is on Washington waters for repairs, alterations, or reconstruction:

  • You must file an affidavit with the Department of Revenue by the 61st day to verify the boat is being serviced
  • You must file a new affidavit every 60 days as long as the boat is located on Washington waters

Note: An employee of the repair facility providing these services must be on board the boat during any testing.

Long-term moorage (over 30 days)

If you moor your boat over 30 days, you must give your moorage provider one of the following:

  • Proof of boat registration, and
  • A written statement of intent to register your boat

A completed Vessel Registration Exemption form .

Clean your boat before you float

To prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species, you must properly decontaminate your boat, trailer, and gear before entering Washington. Learn more about aquatic invasive species (Department of Fish and Wildlife).

Related laws

  • Exemptions—Vessels sold to nonresidents (RCW 82.08.700)
  • Exemptions—Vessels sold to nonresidents (RCW 82.12.700)
  • Nonresident vessel permit (RCW 88.02.620)
  • Vessel visitor permit (RCW 88.02.610)

Need additional help? Here's how to contact us:

Related information, report the sale of a boat.

New yacht with for sale sign marked as sold.

Learn when, why, and how to report the sale of a boat.

Change your address on a vehicle or boat

Luxury sailboat at sea.

Learn how to update your address on a vehicle or boat registration or title.

Change your name on a vehicle or boat

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Learn how to update your name on a vehicle or boat.

Aoki Yacht School

Learn to sail and power boat license at tokyo, okinawa and osaka in japan, earn japanese boat license with in-house exam, want to have a japanese boating license , good news for english speaking boaters in japan, no longer you won’t to take government exams both on the water and written exam.

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Yes, you can take our boat license classes in English language as well. You’ll have in-house written exams and on the water test. You don’t have to take Government exams any more. Because Aoki school is a Japanese government approved boating license school.

You can join Aoki sailing club after taking an ASA certification course and with your Japanese boating license. Aoki offers rental sail boat service at Yokosuka, Tokyo and Osaka. Enjoy unique Japanese water with Aoki!

Aoki sailing school here in Japanese language. Aoki boating school here in Japanese language.

Learn to Sail classes

You can take ASA (American Sailing Association) sailing classes in Japan and earn the ASA certifications. Both on the water lessons and written exams are in English. We offer ASA basic classes, navigation classes and advanced classes at Tokyo, Yokosuka, Osaka,  Aichi and Wakayama.

Aoki is known as an ASA affiliate school in Japan. All of us at Aoki Schools share a basic commitment, “to do everything possible to make your boating experiences safe, fun and affordable”.

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Aoki school News

青木ヨットnews 青木ヨットスクールは、世界スタンダードのasaヨット教育法に準拠.

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海猿の実演! ヨットスクールの一番初級のコースは、SBD(Safe Boating & Do続きを読む The post 5/5, 6 SBD  東京校で開催しました。 first appeared on 青木ヨットNews.

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Taking Your Yacht Abroad For The First Time

By: Sue Richards Editor, Noonsite.com Cruising Tips , Destinations , Inside Sailing , Partners , Sailing Tips

If only sailing to a foreign country was as easy as taking a flight. Forms to fill in on the aircraft, passport control and customs all in the airport on arrival and nothing to pay. Unfortunately, the process for foreign recreational craft and their crew arriving in a foreign port is way more complex, so understandably, the thought of casting off the dock lines and venturing abroad can feel a little daunting. Not only does it mean you have to check out of your own country and familiarise yourself with the various processes involved, but you also need to fully understand what the authorities in the country you plan to sail to will expect (likely quite different to that of your home country).

CONTENTS OF THIS ARTICLE

  • EVERY COUNTRY IS DIFFERENT
  • GETTING ORGANISED
  • WHERE TO GO FOR RESEARCH
  • CLEARANCE SUMMARY CHECKLIST

Every Country Is Different

The USA has an efficient clearance system for recreational craft that in most cases is straightforward, can be done electronically and doesn’t require any “leg-work”. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the majority of other countries.

While the authorities that deal with yacht clearance are pretty standard, no two countries have the same exit and entry procedures. Even in the Caribbean, where a number of the island nations use the same advance online clearance system ( SailClear.com ), some countries are resistant to going digital and prefer to stick to the old school of form-filling.

There are countries that operate small craft clearance strictly by the book and want yachts to clear in as soon as they arrive and follow the rules or face severe fines ( Australia for example). Other places are happy for yachts to wait until the next working day to clear in (or if arriving on a Saturday – wait until the Monday).

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While it’s true there are still some countries that permit yachts to turn up from abroad unannounced (the Dominican Republic and the Azores for example), more and more countries are introducing advance registration systems with some form of pre-arrival notification. For example, Bermuda now has a pre-arrival questionnaire which needs to be completed online and mainland Ecuador requires a sailing permit ( Autografo ) to be applied for 30 days in advance of arrival.

Getting Organised

There are many things you can do in advance to prepare yourself for cruising abroad. Getting all your paperwork in order (for both the boat and the crew) is a good start. Make hard copies of your precious documents (like boat registration and insurance), even though they may be digital, so officials have something to see. Have extra copies for them to handle and keep if necessary. Organise everything in a suitable wallet or document holder that can cope with being dragged ashore in the dinghy countless times.

Research what other documents you might need for your boat, plus those you need for your crew from passports and visas to vaccinations, health insurance and licenses. Your countries’ foreign office will have useful Immigration information for the country you want to sail to, but it’s important to bear in mind that these rules often differ for crew on visiting yachts, as do rules for crew arriving by plane and departing by yacht (or vice versa).

Find out what the authorities want you to do in advance (if anything) and what procedures they will follow on arrival. Some countries want visiting yachts to obtain a cruising permit, and many require these to be applied for and obtained in advance. This can take time, so start researching early just to be on the safe side. Other countries (like some of the Caribbean islands as previously mentioned) have online forms that you can complete prior to arrival to speed up the clearance process once you get there. A few countries want pre-application before they will grant you permission to enter, which can also be denied, so be meticulous and find out and record everything that’s required.

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Where To Go For Research

Noonsite.com   is the only place on the web dedicated to cruising sailors who are planning a foreign voyage and need to find out what formalities to expect in the various countries en-route. Noonsite has been supporting cruising sailors around the world for over 20 years and it is the best place to start researching the next country you plan to visit. Simply select the country you wish to research and icons guide you to the procedures and requirements of customs, immigration and other authorities – clearly laid out and regularly updated with useful links to official websites. Using Noonsite saves you hours of trawling the web looking for information (much of which is not readily published online by the country authorities).

Other sources for finding out the latest information are cruiser Facebook pages and simply talking to cruisers in your departure port who may well have visited your intended destination and can give hard-earned advice.

Cruising guides are very useful for getting a quick overview of a place and detailed pilotage, however the entry procedures quickly date. Always check Noonsite for the latest details and ask their editorial team if you want confirmation.

Over the next few months, as the experts for country formalities worldwide, Noonsite will be bringing you a detailed step-by-step guide to venturing abroad in your boat and how best to deal with foreign formalities. All the points in this introductory article will be covered in detail plus additional topics such as planning and paperwork, boat equipment, the mechanics of the arrival and departure process, cruising to the EU, top 5 destinations from the US and how to research country information on Noonsite .

yacht boat license

Clearance Summary Checklist

Here is a quick summary of how to prepare for and carry out foreign clearance (all of which will be discussed in depth in subsequent articles):

✓ Make sure your boat registration is up to date and will be in date for the duration of your time abroad. If you need to renew it, be sure to do this early so there is no lapse in coverage. Boat registration renewal can mostly be done online. If you boat registration has expired you will be denied entry into a foreign country and risk legal consequences. See further information on the US Vessel Registrar website .

✓ Plan ahead well in advance , particularly for visas and/or cruising permits if needed, some can take many weeks to obtain.

✓ Always make sure you get an exit zarpe showing the date and port of departure when you clear out of your home country and any subsequent countries. The authorities in the next country you visit will want to see this.

✓ Do careful research to make sure there aren’t any pre-arrival notifications or paperwork you need to complete prior to arrival.

✓ Does the country you want to visit demand you use an agent? If not, do you feel you need one? This will have to be arranged in advance.

✓ Know the ports of entry in the country you want to visit and determine the best one for you.

✓ Have some foreign currency for paying for clearance – there may not be banks near the port of entry or arrival officials may not permit you to visit an ATM to get money.

yacht boat license

Fly the Q flag when entering the territorial waters of the foreign country and don’t take this down until you have completed Customs clearance.

✓ Fly the Q flag when entering the territorial waters of the foreign country and don’t take this down until you have completed Customs clearance. It should then be replaced with the country courtesy flag. ( Purchase Courtesy Flags Here ).

✓ Prepare to visit Customs, Immigration, Port Authority and in some ports Quarantine/Biosecurity. You may be lucky and all the authorities will be housed in one building, or you may have to travel all over town by foot or taxi to visit all the offices.

✓ Enquire about fees and what you are expected to pay on arrival, and any on departure, and be sure to get a receipt. You may find you can clear in and out at the same time, depending on how long you intend to stay.

✓ Dress smartly for clearance and be courteous and patient. Clearance can take anything from half an hour to all day or even several days – depending on the country.

✓ Get a boat stamp – with your boat name/logo and your registration number/homeport etc. This can speed up signing documents and officials love a boat stamp.

✓ Keep all the clearance paperwork and receipts carefully filed away, you may be stopped by the local Coast Guard or marine police once cruising in foreign waters who will want to inspect your entry clearance and boat documents.

✓ Remember all foreign countries have a time limit as to how long you can stay – both for your crew and your boat. Know how long you and your boat have and plan your cruising accordingly. Research the options to extend your stay prior to arrival.

✓ Do your homework and give yourself plenty of time to get organised.

Our next Noonsite article for ASA will look in detail at Destination Planning (including visas, cruising permits, advance notification, ports of entry, security, agents and tips on getting organised). Stay Tuned!

yacht boat license

About The Author: Noonsite provides a wealth of knowledge and information for cruisers sailing beyond the horizon. For over 20 years Noonsite has been the trusted source for country entry and exit formalities and ports of entry for private yachts cruising the globe. Led by their experienced editorial team, their worldwide network of cruising experts and marine authorities verify all essential information. As well as formalities, Noonsite has information on all major sea ports for cruising boats worldwide and their marine facilities, plus cruising reports and news.

Noonsite’s cruising resources section has articles and links on a wide range of cruising-related topics, from cruising with kids, to insurance, to piracy and security. The feature sections include “cruising off the beaten path”, “cruising insights” and “portraits of a cruiser”, to name a few. Noonsite is a free resource, however there are various ways to get more out of the site. Free registered members can post comments and feedback on the website and receive notifications of new features, plus see the latest information as and when it’s published. Non-paying members are, however, limited to viewing just 3 country formalities a month. If you are planning a long-distance cruise and want to have unlimited access to all country formalities then taking Noonsite’s Basic Membership option at just $2.99 a month will enable unlimited viewing of the site, plus access to the Noonsite map, which is a great tool for viewing ports of entry, marinas, boatyards and anchorages posted by our users. Noonsite also has a Premium membership option which gives members the ability to download Noonsite information for use offline. Noonsite’s monthly newsletter is packed full of cruising news and reports from around the world and registration is free .

Additional information ab out Noonsite’s history and content can be found here by clicking here >>

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  • 125212, Moscow, Leningradskoye Highway, 39 p. 6 Royal Yacht Club
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Moscow Boat Show 2023 - The 16th International Exhibition of boats and Yachts

IMAGES

  1. International Yacht Master License

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  2. International Boating License Spain

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  3. Do you NEED a boating license?

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  4. Do You Need a License to Drive a Yacht?

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  5. How to Get a Boating License

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  6. How to Get Your Boating License: 10 Steps (with Pictures)

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  2. Brig N610 for sale by YACHTS.CO

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  6. Benefits of Boatability

COMMENTS

  1. How to Get a Boating License

    The BoatUS Foundation offers free boating license courses for 35 states. The online course is designed to take about three hours to complete and is set up in sections or chapters. You don't have to complete the entire course in one sitting; you can complete a chapter or two, log off, and then return later to the point you left.

  2. Do You Need a License to Drive a Yacht?

    Variations of the License for Boating in Florida Yacht licenses vary in scope and designation, catering to different yacht sizes, navigational zones, and purposes. Common categories include licenses for recreational yachts, commercial vessels, and specific endorsements for operating in coastal or open waters. Licenses may also differ based on ...

  3. How To Get Your ICC Certification (in 8 Countries)

    The Netherlands issues ICC. Here, the ICC is integrated with the two national boating licenses (I and II). In order to sail coastal waters, you'll need both. After obtaining both licenses, you automatically receive your ICC. The official name of the licenses are: Vaarbewijs I - or: Boat license I; Vaarbewijs II - or: Boat license II

  4. How to Gain a Boating and Sailing License in the USA

    Upload your Boat US state boater license card to NauticEd. Gain the NauticEd Bareboat Charter Master Rank. Complete the NauticEd SLC exam. Pass the on-the-water assessment for bareboat charter by a NauticEd SLC qualified assessor. NauticEd will then issue you with a digital SLC card with a unique number.

  5. What Size Yacht Requires a Captain's License? Find Out Here

    A captain's license is necessary to safely and legally operate a yacht of any size. It is important to note that the captain's license is not the same as a recreational boating license, and it is important to understand the difference between the two. In conclusion, the minimum size of a yacht requiring a captain's license is 25 gross tons.

  6. Navigating Boat Registration: A Captain's Guide

    California. Dept. of Motor Vehicles. 916-657-8013. In person/by mail. You can renew registration in person or by mail if change of title. If bringing a boat in from out of state, you'll need to bring the boat to your local DMV. Visit here for a listing of DMV offices by city. No.

  7. How To Get A Boating License (Essential Guide)

    Step 3: Pass the boating safety exam. After completing a boating safety course (this will take 3-5 hours on average), you will need to pass a boating safety exam. The exam will cover topics such as boating laws, navigation, and safety procedures which you will learn from the course. Once you have passed the exam (most programs give you ...

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  9. Florida Boating Safety Course: BoatUS Foundation

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  10. Boating License Basics: A Quick Guide

    What is a boating license? Although most people may call it a license, states and educators usually reference the legal document as a boating certificate or card. Once obtained, certification never expires and you don't need to renew it like a driver's license. If you lose the card, each state or certifying body has a procedure for ...

  11. How to Get Your Captain's License and Pilot Your Own Yacht

    Day Skipper. This skipper's license will qualify you to captain a sailboat at sea in local waters from sunrise to sunset. Local waters are defined as 15 nautical miles, or 25 miles, from your home port, given that they are no more than 15 nautical miles from an approved safe haven. Local Waters Skipper.

  12. How to Get Your Captain's License -A Step-by-Step Guide

    To be a Captain, one must be in good health and of reasonable physical ability. The Medical form ( CG-719K) is the most extensive form one will need to complete. It also requires the signature of a licensed physician. Unlike an FAA pilot's license, the physician need not be approved by the US Coast Guard.

  13. Registration Requirements: BoatUS Foundation

    Numbers need to be at least three inch in height. The color needs to contrast with the hull color. The number needs spaces or hyphens between numerals and letters, as: MD 1234 AB or MD-1234-AB. Also, most states require a current sticker immediately after or before the boat numbers on the port side, generally within 6 inches.

  14. Yacht Registration Basics

    The disadvantages to foreign registration are as follows: •It is more costly to obtain and maintain than documenting in the U.S. and/or registering with Florida. •In most jurisdictions, only one name can be used on a yacht per hailing port. •When cruising within the U.S., the yacht must either clear in and out of each Customs port or ...

  15. PDF A Boater's Guide to the Federal Requirements for Recreational Boats

    Report of casualty or accident (33 CFR 173.55) The operator or owner of any recreational boat is required to file a Boating Accident Report if the boat is involved in an incident that results in any of the following: Loss of life. A person disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate death or injury.

  16. Boat Captain's License Guide

    With this type of license, you can operate commercial vessels of 25, 50 or 100 tonnages — the maximum — and take more than six paying people on board as long as you meet the requirements. A Near Coastal license allows you to operate inspected and uninspected vessels on inland waters and up to 200 miles off the U.S. coast.

  17. How To Become A Yacht Broker

    The yacht brokerage process typically begins when a boat seller lists the yacht with a broker. Generally, the seller will agree to pay a commission to the yacht broker when the vessel sells (usually 10 percent of the boat's purchase price). This commission will be paid to the selling broker at the closing.

  18. Register a boat

    2. Submit your paperwork. You can submit your paperwork and the required fees in person at a vehicle and boat licensing office or by mail. 3. Properly display your decals and registration. When you've registered your boat, you'll get your registration and a set of decals with the assigned registration number (WN#).

  19. Earn Japanese boat license with in-house exam

    Aoki Yacht School Jp Boat license classes Class 1 license course Class 2 license course VIP Private lesson Requirements for Japanese boating license class. Aoki Yacht School. Tuesday & Wedenesday are closed except national holiday. Tel:072-465-8192. Fax:072-465-8194. Rinku-port Kita1, Sennan-gun, Tajiri-tyo,

  20. Taking Your Yacht Abroad For The First Time

    Getting Organised. There are many things you can do in advance to prepare yourself for cruising abroad. Getting all your paperwork in order (for both the boat and the crew) is a good start. Make hard copies of your precious documents (like boat registration and insurance), even though they may be digital, so officials have something to see.

  21. Yachts for Sale

    YachtWorld contains the largest photo and video database of boats and yachts for sale. With a wide range of new boats and used boats, power boats and sailboats, YachtWorld has the largest selection of boats and yachts in the world.Boat listings on YachtWorld are provided by subscribing member yacht brokers and new boat dealers from North America and the rest of the world.

  22. Moscow Yacht Show

    Moscow Yacht Show. Moscow Yacht Show (MYS) is the annual summer exposition of yachts, boats and motor vehicles produced for outdoor activities. Arranged by Motor Boat & Yachting Russia magazine and the Royal Yacht Club it takes place in one of the most beautiful marinas of Moscow. There will be yachts up to 25 m on display including such well ...

  23. Contacts MindYachts

    Royal Yacht Club ; Miami +1 786 233 7721. London +44 203 807 94 54. Moscow +7 ... New yachts; Charter; News; Contacts; Service. Buy boat; Sell boat; Evaluation boat; Registration boat; Logistics; Charter; Team matching; Service maintenance; Signup to our Newsletter ... No licenses or other rights in or to such logos and/or trademarks are ...

  24. Moscow Boat Show 2023

    Moscow Boat Show 2023 - The 16th International Exhibition of boats and Yachts. On the eve of the next water recreation season, Crocus Expo invites fans of water-powered equipment, fans of active and water sports to visit the 16th international exhibition of boats and yachts "Moscow Boat Show", which will be held from March 2 to 5, 2023.