Do I need a license to drive a yacht?
I have often heard the following question,
“Could someone really just buy a large yacht and then drive it without any license or qualification?”
The short answer here in Florida is “Yes”, provided you don’t receive any compensation for your boating.
The laws have recently changed, however, so that if you were born on or after the 1st January 1988, you will require a Florida boating license. This can be done online, and for free, at
Prepare to spend the day on it.
Most other states also require a license if you are under 18 years of age.
The next question is why, for the most part, wouldn’t you need a license to navigate a large, million dollar yacht, especially when in close proximity to other expensive yachts?
The answer, legally, is that you don’t but your insurance provider will do all they can to make sure that there is a qualified person at the helm.
Whenever I’m asked to drive someone’s yacht, it is always accompanied by a request from the insurance company for a copy of my Captain’s license and often involves questions about my experience as a captain as well.
Depending on the owner’s experience and the value of the boat, insurance companies usually have a “Captain’s Sign-off Form” for the owner if he wants to drive. This is an evaluation form whereby a qualified and experienced captain can evaluate an owner’s boating skills and also certify how many hours they have spent running the boat. Depending on the experience of the owner they may require a captain to be onboard for a period of time. Insurance companies like having an experienced person at the helm. The greater the experience, the more likely you are to receive a reasonable insurance rate. Your insurance broker is an important reality check for you as a boat owner. It is equally important that he really knows the business – none more so than Brian Rasmussen ([email protected]), who has spent over a decade traveling the world on various large motor yachts as crew. Numerous times he has pointed out ways to help my clients save money and has been a valuable asset to us in the business.
There are as many types of owners as there are boats, and many boat owners don’t even want a license. Some want to relax and have nothing to do with operating a boat. Some are excited about learning and running the boat. Others may want to alternate anywhere between the two points.
Operating a large boat in close quarters can be intimidating. I completed my captain’s training in a class with multiple students on a boat, and it was stressful. Not only that, but the time you have at the helm is very limited.
I know that for me it was great to learn from a friend who was cool, calm, and enjoyed teaching. One-on-one training is so much better. This is the reason I’m happy to be able to meet what I believe is a genuine need in the industry: To share the joy of boating with those who are new to it and provide a real motor yacht with which to do that – in a relaxed environment.
This is also an important step to take before deciding on a boat purchase, allowing you to be able to make a more informed decision before buying. My goal as a captain, instructor, and consultant is to bring enjoyment to the process, whether it may be driving a boat, choosing a boat, or planning an epic trip.
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