How Much Experience is Required to Skipper a Yacht on a Sailing Vacation

In 2007, we started NauticEd because we saw a lack of consistent standards in sailing education in North America and a general lack of modern training techniques worldwide. What we saw were some sailing association factories pumping out certifications to people who clearly were not competent to command and skipper a sailboat. Bareboat charter certifications could be gained in 2 weekends and with an additional $35 and no international training or navigation knowledge, an “International License” could be issued. It just was not right on every front. Fortunately the yacht charter companies, despite seeing a credit card on the table, recognized that it was in their interests not to have incompetent skippers chartering their boats – leading to crashes, dings, injuries and potential deaths. Largely, then they just ignored these non-credible certifications and instead asked for a resume detailing the skipper’s experience, and sailing education giving equal credence to both but with an absolute requirement for experience as skipper of the boat – on a boat within 10 feet of the boat they are about to charter.

In one semi-funny example; we were asked by a new student of ours who already held a 101 through 106 “Advanced” sailing certification to organize a yacht charter for him (NauticEd are also yacht charter agents). We asked for his resume whereupon he initially said oh I hold the certifications I don’t need a resume. Eventually, we convinced him whereby we found the reason for the hesitation: 10 days total sailing experience NONE as skipper and had NEVER docked a boat because the instructor was always too scared of his students dinging his boat. Promptly and properly the yacht charter company turned him down. But it gets funnier – the yacht charter company is also a training school for the certification factory that churned out the 101-106 certifiction – oops Freudian slip “certification”. At NauticEd we call these “certifications of attendance” (you show up you get one) rather than a certification of competence. When I presented the dichotomy they were completely embarrassed. Actually, this is not funny. The poor wannabe charterer had paid all the money for the certifications, was told he was ready to go and was turned down.

See this blog post also How a Sailing Resume Trumps a Sailing Certification

Thus was born the NauticEd resume/certification system. You simply can not get a NauticEd Bareboat Certification without being pre-qualified by a yacht charter company; 50 days of sailing history, 25 of which as master of the vessel and 25 of which on a vessel greater than 28 feet was the consistent answer from all yacht charter companies we interviewed. Plus they wanted to see a responsible amount of education. The NauticEd Bareboat Certification then requires significant and acceptable experience along with a responsible amount of education; and, it is all measured and awarded appropriately by hard-coded software rules.

sailing experienceWe say all that to say this (because it is an often asked question): If you don’t have the prerequisite experience, you are probably not going to be accepted by a yacht charter company anyway despite having a certification that says you can. Your resume is simply too light. And even if you can somehow wangle into a boat, it is not responsible and not fair to your friends and family. Things happen! Significant things! How are you going to handle a microburst where the wind goes from 20 knots to 70 in 3 seconds? How are you going to handle when an inversion layer of fog rolls in and you can’t see 100 ft? What if your engine goes out and it is starting to get dark? What if the seas chop up to 15 foot breaking swells? What if your GPS dies? What if you wander into a commercial shipping channel – in fog – at night – and your batteries die? Can you really back a 40 ft boat up to a concrete quay in a 25 knot crosswind between two $10M Arab prince’s boats without the slightest possibility of dinging into them? Do you get the point?

And here is your solution to the above: You might poopoo the idea of hiring a skipper for your sailing vacation, perhaps it will sting your ego a little, but listen up. Hiring a skipper can be the best idea ever.

(1) It takes the responsibility off of you for always making the right decisions for a whole week

(2) A skipper knows all the secret little spots that no one else knows about.

(3) A skipper is usually the best storyteller and will keep you and your crew entertained all week

(4) A skipper is always willing to teach you finer points of managing a boat on a sailing vacation – they don’t hog the helm. Rather their job is to make you want to come back.

(5) The cost of a skipper is minimal when you divide by the number of people on the boat.

(6) The skipper knows the best restaurants to go to – and can lead you away from the tourist trap restaurants to the best little back street bars and cafes.

(7) You’re on VACATION!!! If you’re the only person on the boat who knows hows to do all the stuff, it is a bit stressful managing everything 24/7. A knowlegeable helping hand is worth it.

Our honest and prudent advice then is to hire a skipper this time around, get some valuable knowledge and experience from the skipper. Then spend the next year gaining more experience at your local yacht club and on friends boats etc, THEN you will be truly and responsibly ready to skipper your own boat with friends and family next time.

At NauticEd Vacations, we constantly tell this message and are thankfully very successful at helping people choose the right boat in the right destination with a qualified skipper onboard. Consult with us now. We don’t charge you a fee for booking your vacation – same price as direct but with a heap of good advice.

Start logging your sailing experience in our free NauticEd Sailing logbook. Did we say it is free?

Sign up for a free account now and get two free sailing courses as a bonus.

Search for a topic.
My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.
Grant Headifen
Last updated on July 7th, 2022