August 24, 2016 by James Kell

Qualifications You Need To Charter A Boat

Sailing in the Caribbean is a dream vacation for most people.  There are a few ways to do it.  Booking a cabin on a cruise ship is cheap and popular.  However many of us look for a more autonomous, adventurous vacation.  Chartering a boat - moreover self-skippering (“bareboat”) is seen by many as the most fun they can have on a boat with their friends or family.  In this post we cover this adventurous end of the spectrum.  Namely, what you need in order to charter your own boat.  



One fact that most people may not realise is that with sufficient experience, in most parts of the world (outside of Europe) you do not actually require a skipper qualification to charter a boat.

What Experience Do Charter Companies Ask For?

Charter companies want confidence that you will not damage their boats.  Nor do they want you to damage yourselves for that matter.  They look for similar experience.  That is, whether you can demonstrate you have chartered similar sized boats in a similar area.  Can you deal effectively with tidal ranges and currents?  How sound are your reef navigation techniques?  Do you really know how much anchor to put out?  If a squall pops up will you be able to put a reef on quickly?  These are the type of questions they will ask.

The Fast-Track Bareboat Skipper Course

Many sailing schools offer weeklong intensive bareboat skipper courses.  These courses are examinable.  The main certifying associations include the American Sailing Association (ASA), International Yacht Training (IYT) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).  Another blog post compares these three organisations (spoiler alert: they’re all good, it comes down to the quality of your instructor).   A fast-track bareboat skipper course will teach you the techniques to safely navigate your boat around the area.


Skipper your own boat for maximum autonomy in your vacation

Can You Sit An Intensive Skipper Course With Zero Experience?

Technically yes.  However they are intensive courses.  That is they are really designed for people who have at least some sailing experience.  There is a lot of sailing terminology that would need to be digested in a very short period.  Most schools recommend students of fast-track courses to undertake their 101 course (ususally 2-3 days) before doing their fast-track bareboat skipper course.  This method makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

How Much Does A Skipper / Captain Course Cost?

Prices for a weeklong intensive course usually range a few hundred dollars either side of $2,500 per person, depending on the location of the school, reputation and time of year.  This price is all-inclusive.  In other words it includes all food on board, accommodation (it should be a “liveaboard” course), instruction (with a certified instructor) and exams/certification.

When Is The Best Time To Do A Course?

In the Caribbean courses run most of the year, outside of the summer hurricane season.  If you choose a period during the "shoulder season" (October-November and May/June) you may be able to find discounts.

Do You Need Any Additional Qualifications In Europe?

The Europeans require an “International Certificate of Competency” for any persons wishing to charter a vessel.  This is a short course and exam.  It can be appended to the Fast-track Bareboat Skipper course for a small fee.  Worthwhile if you’re considering sailing in the Med at some point!

What Other Qualifications Can You Do?

You can always consider your Yachtmaster certification (“106” in ASA-talk).  The Bareboat Skipper (aka Day Skipper) allows a person to sail during the day in moderate conditions, within sight of land.  The Yachtmaster ramps this up, giving the skills necessary to sail at night, in poor conditions and - for the Offshore Yachtmaster and Ocean Yachtmaster (“107” and “108” in ASA-talk) - out of sight of land.


If you're after a vacation where you are in control of your destiny, consider a bareboat sailing charter.  If you have the experience you may be able to charter one already.  If you don't have the experience, there is an easy way to become a skipper.  Sailing Virgins runs fast-track courses throughout the season.  Click here to read more about our courses and to view a course calendar.

Want to know how to choose the most appropriate boat?  We will cover this in a future post.  Click the button below to stay in touch. 

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