Sailing Certification

What is Sailing Certification?

Sailing Certification is the documentation of your training that shows you have successfully completed the knowledge or practical requirements of a course. Certification documents that you've achieved the minimal standards required by the certifying organization.

Generally speaking, certifications are recognized by Charter and Insurance companies to verify your competence and training progress.  Many insurance companies also offer discounts based upon your training and certifications.

Is Certification Required?

It depends on your level of experience and where you're sailing.  Simply, a Charter company isn't going to let you play with a $250,000+ boat unless they're confident in your knowledge, skills AND experience.Read More

What will be required is a Sailing Resume that documents your sailing experience and training.  If you have years of experience and are a Salty sailor, then you don't need certification. If you're developing as a sailor and want to charter, then you should pick a training program that (a) trains you well, (b) certifies you through "Bareboat" chartering, and (c) trains in Navigation.

NauticEd How to Gain a Sailing Certification

For example, the following is from Moorings, an international charter company:

No formal certification is required for most regions. Complete our Sailboat Resume and we will immediately inform you what size yacht you qualify to sail with us and which destinations are appropriate for your experience.

And note, certification on it's own is not enough. You'll need to show that you also have experience sailing. Here's a great presentation explaining why you need certification, what's needed, and what it means: How to Gain Sailing Certification

Your Confidence is Most Important!

When you skipper a boat (doesn't matter if it's yours, a club boat or you're chartering), you're responsible for the preparations, safety, and welfare of the boat and your crew.  You're not only the Skipper, but also the helmsman, engineer, cook and whatever else may be required.Read More

So, it's important that YOU are confident in your knowledge and skills.  Some areas of focus:

  • Character and Skill: You may be surprised to learn that the "Seaworthiness" of a boat includes the character and skill of her Skipper....
  • Basic Seamanship: your overall knowledge and skill in the operation of a sailboat.
  • Boat Handling: the ability to maneuver a sailboat with accuracy and precision - whether under sail or power.
  • Systems & Troubleshooting: you should understand and competently use ALL the systems on the boat you're operating, as well as basic troubleshooting.
  • Navigational Rules: like driving, you need to know the legal rules of the waters in which you operate
  • Navigation: at a minimum, knowing how to read a printed chart, nav tools, planning a trip, avoiding hazards and finding your position. Electronic Aids and smartphones are great, but they're not always accurate and can fail....
  • Humility: relates back to the "character" point. As a sailing company, we can attest to being more comfortable with sailors who ask a lot of questions and seek guidance.  It's a mark of a good sailor and seamanship to leave nothing to chance, ask questions and gain "local knowledge."

ICC, the Certification Exception...

In the United States and in many countries, you're not required to have certification.  However, some countries require an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) to charter a boat.Read More

So, for example, if you plan on sailing in the Mediterranean or Belize, you'll need an ICC certification.  Why?  How?

Why? The ICC was created by the United Nations and is the International Certificate of Confidence for recreational boaters internationally.  Complicating this more is the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) is the United Kingdom sailing system entrusted to issue ICC certifications.

The challenge, however, is that the USA and Canada didn't sign the UN's Resolution 40 (ICC), and so US certification systems such as US Sailing or ASA do not offer it.  Instead, they offer "equivalents" that may or may not be recognized.

How? Island Sailing jumped through a few hoops for you in working with NauticEd and our RYA friends "across the pond" to offer a path to the ICC license.

Read more about the ICC HERE

Certification Systems

Starpath, NauticEd, ASA, US Sailing, RYA - the choices are many.  Suffice it to say that after 35 years of teaching sailing, we're confident in our program. But, if looking at different programs (which we'd recommend), our best advice:Read More

  1. Certification is a Standard, not a Training Program.  By that we mean schools design and develop their programs, which in turn meet standards set by Certifications. Simply, when training look at how well you'll be trained as well as the certification that best fits your needs.  For help, see Choosing a Sailing School
  2. If you have any plans to sail internationally, consider which systems adhere to international standards.  Again, note that many US systems offer "equivalent" certifications that do not adhere to international standards. NauticEd and RYA are systems that allow for international certification.
  3. Finally, consider whether the certification system is "realistic" in terms of incorporating real-world experience into it's program. When chartering, a system that incorporates experience into the standard is much more worthwhile and meaningful than one that just offers "stickers".

That said - there are many great sailing programs out there! We only suggest you look past the brand hype, consider the training program itself and certification in the context of your future sailing/chartering needs.

As for systems, the majors:

Starpath School of Navigation: based out of Seattle, one of our favorites and we offer their courses (as well as include their materials).  In topics such as Navigation or Weather, Starpath exceeds ANY standard in any country!  We recommend Starpath certification for the committed sailor. For more info, see Starpath Certification

NauticEd: NauticEd offers online classes, sailing certification recognized by charterers worldwide, ICC certification and a online resume with high-tech tools.  NauticEd also works with schools to provide practical training and verification within broader certification programs.  Certification is benchmarked on a combination of classes, practical training, and experience - and certification is online as part of one's online resume. Membership is required, but free, and other certification systems can be incorporated. For more info, see NauticEd Certification

American Sailing Association (ASA): ASA offers certification on a progressive training program (101, 103, 104, etc...) and is recognized by US charterers.  ASA doesn't offer the ICC, but "equivalents".  ASA courses are a combination of book knowledge and practical, both requiring physically proctored exams, and certification is presented as a sticker in a logbook.  ASA membership is required with a $39 fee.

US Sailing Association: US Sailing offers certification on a progressive training program (101, 103, 104, etc...) and is recognized by US charterers.  US Sailing doesn't offer the ICC, but "equivalents".  Courses are a combination of book knowledge and practical, both requiring physically proctored exams, and certification is presented as a sticker in a logbook.  Membership is required, but the first year is included with courses.

Royal Yachting Association: The leading certification program in Europe - excellent materials and training.  Note, NauticEd's affiliated with RYA, and again our Seattle friends at Starpath exceed any certification standard.

Others: Canadian Yachting Association (excellent), USCG Auxiliary and US Power Squandrons (more knowledge/navigation focused, affordable, modest costs).

The Sailing Resume?

As noted, a sailing resume will be required by all Yacht Charter Companies, and is a history of your sailing experience and training.  Unless you're in the habit of documenting your own, and regardless of your certification system - we recommend NauticEd's online resume.

It's free, we include it in our courses, and yes - we promote giving away free stuff that's valuable and meaningful.

For more information, read Why a sailing resume trumps a sailing certification