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Home > Crew Matters > Overcoming The Yachtmaster Catch-22

Overcoming The Yachtmaster Catch-22

Many deck positions now require candidates to hold a Yachtmaster ticket to be able to apply. This is a standard set by owners and management companies, seemingly to weed out the less experienced, and ensuring applicants have the necessary skills to do the job.

It is however a catch-22 situation. Without getting work then how can one build the relevant experience? This is a difficult question to answer. However, there are lots of jobs out there that don’t ask for Yachtmaster. When seeking work for the first time, it’s about perseverance; get dock walking, sign up with the crew agents, keep an eye on the Facebook groups (Palma Yacht Crew etc.) and more than anything, stick at it! Eventually you’ll start to find day work or a job for the summer. Once your foot is in the door, you’ll have some income. With this you can start to think about your route towards Yachtmaster.

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has been around since the late 1800’s. The Yachtmaster scheme first made an appearance in the 1930s and was later developed by the RYA in the 1960s & ‘70s. It has flourished into a world leading set of qualifications, taking people from total beginner all the way to 200 Gross Tons for both Sail and Motor.

So what level should I be at to start my Yachtmaster course?

In short someone signing up for Yachtmaster should be a confident skipper. The preparation week is not designed to teach you to skipper but to polish existing skills. There is little time during the course to show someone how to use a hand bearing compass for the first time or to introduce the concept of mooring, man overboard or other basic skills.

The requirements laid down by the RYA are as follows:

  • 50 Days (24h periods, living aboard)
  • 2500 miles (at least 1250 miles in tidal waters and 1250 on vessels under 24m in length)
  • 5 separate passages over 60 miles, at least 2 acting as skipper and 2 which involve overnight passages. These should be on vessels 7- 24m in length.
  • 5 days as skipper
  • All qualifying sea time must be within the last 10 years and be on relevant vessels (sailing yachts or motor cruisers, dinghies and tenders don’t count unfortunately)

Many yacht crew have thousands of miles under their belts but this does not necessarily mean they are ready to go for Yachtmaster. It’s often small boat handling experience that lacks.

So how can I gain boat handling experience?

Depending on your skill level and the amount of understanding you have, one or more of the following options can teach you what you need to know to become a skipper.

First you need some basic skills. Depending whether you are planning to go down the sail or motor route, one of the following is a good place to start.

RYA Helmsman (Motor): a 2 day course covering basic boat handling, engine checks and safety.

RYA Competent Crew (Sail):  a 5 day residential course teaching the ins and outs of sailing. By the end of the week you should have a good set of skills to enable you to be an effective crew member.

Once you have mastered the basics, it’s time to start navigating and leading a crew.

RYA Day Skipper (Sail or Motor): before attending this course you should have some basic skills and also a good level of theory knowledge. There is a Day Skipper Theory course which can be done in the classroom or online. Although the theory course isn’t a requirement for attending the practical, you should have knowledge up to this level. The practical course is 5 days [residential] for sail and 4 days for motor. This is where you really learn to become a skipper!

I’ve got the skills but not the miles

There are various companies that offer mileage building trips. Choose somewhere in tidal water for the full experience. This is a great way to develop your skills.

What is Yachtmaster Coastal?

There are 3 levels of Yachtmaster:

  • Coastal enables you to skipper a vessel up to 20 miles from safe haven. This is a great option if you still need to build miles and experience but want to hold a Yachtmaster ticket.
  • Offshore is generally what people are referring to when talking about Yachtmaster. This qualification allows you to skipper a vessel up to 200GT, up to 150 miles from safe haven.
  • Ocean teaches you to fix your position using a sextant among others skills and allows you to skipper vessels an unlimited distance from safe haven.

I hope reading this has been helpful to those looking to take the next step. You can find loads of information about the various courses on the Aigua Sea School website bit.ly/AiguaCourses or on the RYA website bit.ly/RYAcourses

I wish you the best of luck if you do embark on this journey. If you would like any advice please feel free to contact me via my facebook page or email.


Nathan Skinner