These are all questions that we receive regularly: do I have enough boating experience to qualify as a bareboat skipper? What is actually required to skipper my own bareboat? Will I need an official certification to qualify as a bareboat skipper?
Some of the answers we give can be summarized as follows
1. Size matters: bareboat operating companies usually look at your experience as the skipper of a boat of similar size and type to the one you are chartering.
2. Mono-hull vs. Catamaran: You may have considerable experience as the skipper of a mono-hull but if you don’t have catamaran experience you will need to have a professional skipper from the bareboat company go along with you for a half-day, or a complete day to check you out on a cat. Equally, even if you’re an experienced power-boat person, you’ll need to have some experience with a sailing vessel to qualify.
3. Official Certifications: An ASA certification or similar set of courses are always a plus and are highly recommended but not an absolute requirement in the Caribbean. Similarly, a USCG captain’s license is not required but if you have one, it will be a “shoe-in” to get approved. Exceptions: many Mediterranean countries, including Greece, DO require official certifications from your home country.
Brazil also requires these official certifications. Yacht club membership can be useful, ASA courses and RYA/MCA yachtmaster and USCG certifications are usually accepted. Other selected qualifications from other institutions or organizations can also be accepted; call or email us for details.
4. Experience as a Skipper: This is important, you may have crewed or been on a bareboat with another person as the skipper but this does not automatically qualify you to skipper your own bareboat.
5. Experience in the area where you’ll be sailing: this is an important qualification in some areas where considerable local knowledge is required. Especially where there are very shallow waters or where there are strong changing currents, i.e. the Bahamas.
6. Docking and picking up Mooring balls: docking may sound simple, but in the Med, for example where it is common practice to dock stern-to with an anchor out, can be tricky if you have not done it before. Picking up a mooring ball, may sound simple but requires considerable coordination with your crew, especially on a catamaran.
There are plenty of other considerations but these are the most obvious requirements. You must remember that safety comes first and that the well-being and the lives of your crew members are your responsibility when you are the skipper. The boat is insured. It’s you and your guests that we should be thinking about.
If you have any doubts as to your ability, DON’T DO IT until you have completed all the requirements and feel comfortable with the responsibility. After all it’s YOUR VACATION, don’t spoil it!