Should Sailors Be Certified?

Published on June 24th, 2019

by George Day, Cruising Compass
Other than attending a summer sailing program when I was 10 and 11, I have never been to a sailing school or taken courses for any sort of official certification. I think that’s true of a lot of skippers of a certain age, many of whom are excellent sailors, competent skippers and safe boat owners.

They, like me, learned from others while sailing as much as possible. But if we want to charter in European waters, many charter companies require an official certificate stating that we have passed a required course from a recognized sailing school and are therefore deemed competent to skipper a charter boat.

Charter and insurance companies in the US, Canada, and the Caribbean do not require such an official certificate of competence. But many sailors who do charter and do buy insurance also have taken courses from sailing school certified by US Sailing and ASA. And, 42 states have some sort of mandatory boater education requirements and one, Alabama, requires boaters to obtain a license.

Should these certificate holders get a break on insurance as young drivers do after taking a drivers education course? Should charter companies encourage or even insist that bareboat skippers hold a certificate of competence as commercial boat captains do whenever they run a boat for hire or carry passengers?

Boating safety and seamanship courses are great. But should they be required for those who want to skipper their own boats or take a bareboat out on charter? What do you think? Send your ideas and opinions to me at

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