Life at sea

How to become a certified Yachtmaster in the UK

yachtmaster 30ft boat

Living on a yacht, or any vessel for that matter, has never been more popular.

Cities built on major waterways have a long-established tradition of boat-dwelling and the Thames is in the throes of a quiet revolution in that respect.

Central London moorings have sky-rocketed and some of the converted barges look like an infinitely grander version of even the most expensive apartment.

Life afloat is all about the freedom of exploring rivers, seas and oceans, however, and increasingly, boat owners prefer developing their own seamanship skills rather than being totally dependent on professional skippers all of the time.

Taking a cursory look through the variety of training courses on offer can be confusing, even baffling.

We interviewed Richard Timony of the The Seamanship Centre in Killybegs Harbour, Co. Donegal, Ireland to try and cut through the maze of information out there, and ascertain just what’s needed to become the master and captain of your own ship.

If you want more than to just potter around the river with family and friends, you would go for the international gold standard, the MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency) training and certification.  This would allow you to operate and even charter a boat anywhere in the world because it is recognized as certificate of equivalent competency in most jurisdictions.

So, how do you go about getting this accredited commercial ticket?

The first course you must complete towards your Yachtmaster qualification is the STCW basic safety training course.

You then need to acquire navigation skills, spending a week studying theory first, and then practice covering a mandatory 2500 miles at sea as crew, watchman and skipper in the space of 5 voyages.

Each trip needs to be greater than 60 miles and two of them have to take place at night.

This training is placed in your personal log book.

Taking the exam for your Yachtmaster certificate requires spending 16 continuous hours at sea, including overnight, with 4 other rotating crew.

Having passed your yachtmaster practical certificate, you would send all your documents to the RYA (Royal Yacht Association).

You would be well advised, says Richard Timony, to take the EDH Able Seafarer course, which will teach you proper seamanship, as well as the MCA approved engine course.

Once you’ve accomplished all of the above, in the space of some 2-3 months tops, you would have the prized MCA certification.

Becoming an MCA master requires further training and experience, but the basic certification opens enough avenues for those who are looking to skipper their own vessel and carry passengers.

As a bonus, you would enjoy the beautiful Irish coastline, where all the practical training takes place. The Centre trains would-be yachtmasters from all over the world and from all walks of life.