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Master of the Vessel Question

Who’s Master of the Vessel?

Here is a great question from a student regarding gaining Master of the vessel time for our logbook purposes.


How can a student log sailing experience as ‘master’ of the vessel as outlined in your sailing certification requirements in regards to the following technicality – By definition “the master” is in legal charge of the vessel and must be certified with an accredited licence to undertake such responsibility.

Specifically, here in South African waters, heavy penalties are imposed by the authorities upon anyone caught venturing out to sea without the proscribed qualifications. One gets the qualification here by passing extensive examinations and by having a registered instructor onboard the vessel

How, therefore, can a ‘student’ be expected to claim ‘master’ authority in terms of his past sailing experience on your website ? It’s catch 22 I need the master time but can’t get master time with out a license.

Surely the best he can ever log, until such time as he gets his skipper’s ticket, is previous hours/days/nautical miles etc as crew

These days you don’t get far without a ticket and that is why I signed up for your course in order to aid the study process with my sailing academy here in Cape Town.

But for the purposes of completing my profile of sailing experience, post 1999 as per your historical logging requirements, it seems the best that I can honourably claim are ‘crew’ hours.

Am I correct ?

Kind regards.

Michael D
South Africa


Michael – Say hi to Robbie at Ocean Sailing Academy for me.

For NauticEd, you can treat “Master” like when you are getting your drivers license. You are driving the car and sort of in charge but you have your mum sitting next to you. In this case you’re the designated Master of the car. If your mum was driving and showing you how to drive then you’re crew. On a boat it’s not meant to mean helm time however – it’s responsibility.

I understand that South Africa has strict license  laws in place so you will have to honestly answer for us in terms of did you “feel” like you were the one in charge and responsible for operations of the boat – even if there were others on board the vessel perhaps being the overseeing “Admiral”. IE your mum was admiral of the car – yet you were responsible. When you have an instructor on board during the test out phases – you could claim that as master -as long as the instructor gave you responsibility and acted as the overseer. IE the Instructor is Admiral. If you are new to boating then your first days out with an instructor would need to be as crew.

Overall – you can see what we are striving for here. If someone was crew all the time and never had the responsibilities  of the boat then why should the and how could the Yacht Charter Company justify chartering a boat to that person. They’ve never been responsible for the operations of the boat.

Yacht Charter Companies like to see fairly extensive knowledge of practical boat operations and even it’s possible that they would not automatically give someone with the extensive South African license automatic acceptance. They want extensive operational responsibility (Master)  of a yacht close to the size that you will be chartering. For example they would not give a boat to some one automatically who has a United States Coast Guard 6 Pax Commercial Captain’s license – that captain would still need to have documented large sailboat experience as Master of the sailboat to be able to charter.

Most parts of the world do not have a boating license requirement – some states in the USA do but it is more of a test of knowing how many PFD’s are required on the boat – ie the tests are weak and don’t cover sailing at all and certainly again don’t qualify for charter.

NauticEd has built it’s Sailing Certification around pure logic of the ocean. IE General and specific sailing and boating theory knowledge with documentation of practical experience on sailboats with a minimum required amount of Master time plus optional verified practical test out by a registered instrutor.

This certification gives the perfect snapshot of someone’s abilities to handle themselves on the ocean.

Finally and specifically – for South Africa – you will need to get your South African boat operators license through Ocean Sailing Academy. You can log your time on NauticEd as you honestly deem your responsibility on the boats for any boating experience from 1999 and onwards. Once your time qualifies you as Bareboat Charter Master Rank with NauticEd then almost every yacht charter company in the world will accept you. There may be a few strange exceptions to that with regards to other countries like South Africa who demand a specific local boating license. However even many of those countries still accept certifications from other countries – for example Croatia require a certification that is equivalent to US Sailing or RYA day skipper – that’s where the NauticEd certification fits right in as long as the Verified Proficiency stamp is attached.

I hope that helps



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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 March 29th, 2023