As a broker I am often asked by clients whether they need any qualifications to handle their newly acquired boat. The rather surprising answer is “No”! For British flagged vessels operating privately it is absolutely true that no formal RYA or other qualifications are required. However I am fond of telling my purchasers that “it’s better to be here wishing to be out there, than being out there wishing to be here”. I believe that taking a few days out to take an RYA qualification course better prepares you you to understand when to stay ashore and more importantly when to stay at sea and not attempt an entry into port in wild conditions. My continental friends find it rather surprising because most EU countries require formal qualifications for private use.

It’s another story altogether if you plan to hire your boat or yourself for profit. In this case the boat must comply with rigorous coding standards set out by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in their Small Commercial Vessels (SCV) standards. These coding standards specify the minimum safety criteria that need to be met in terms of the vessel’s suitability and the crew’s competence.

Whether you plan sailing for pleasure or profit your starting point has to be an RYA Approved sailing school. All of the qualifications that you can acquire with a sailing school can be “commercially endorsed”. Commercial endorsement involves taking additional safety related courses such as Sea Survival, First Aid and Customer care courses. These are simple enough and give you a path to a career as a crew member on a charter yacht or commercial operation.

In Gibraltar we work with Trafalgar Sailing School about whom we get excellent feedback from those new owners who took out advice: Don’t put to sea if you haven’t developed some seamanship skills from professionals.