April 2022 - Velos

Do You Need a Sailing License for A Sailboat? (Qualifications & Certifications)

Given just how big even a small pleasure craft can be and how dangerous it can be to sail anywhere, one would expect that there must be some kind of boater education card or at least a mandatory safety course as minimum requirements for sailing.

However, is there a need for a sailing license for a sailboat – or can you just take to the waves?

Legally, no, you do not need a sailing license to use a sailboat for recreational purposes in most countries. However, getting qualified might still be worth your while.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the sailing qualifications you should consider, and why you might need them. 

What Sailing Qualifications Do You Need? 

From a quick Google search, you will be able to deduce that nowhere does it say that you absolutely have to have a boating licence of any kind in order to sail a boat. Great news!

That being said, that does not mean that you should not get a license at all – as it can be beneficial for you for multiple reasons. 

First of all, of course, it is a great way to learn basic sailing techniques which will help you to sail easier, and much safer. That goes for not only you but also everyone on your boat and those around you.

As simple as sailing may look to some of us, it can be hazardous – even smaller sailing boats can quickly get into turmoil if they are mishandled.

Therefore, for your own safety and that of others, it is definitely best to have at least a few sailing lessons, even just from your local sailing club, to help you to understand the basics of control.

If that leads to a qualification, that can at least show you know what you’re doing!

However, having a sailing education will not only help to ensure your safety, it can also help to save you money.

Whether you have local competence certificates or an actual license, any proof that you have experience and an education in sailing a boat will help to lower your insurance rates.

As you can imagine, most insurance companies are not keen on covering boats that inexperienced people are sailing. These users are far more likely to get into accidents, get injured, or injure others.

Therefore, they are considered high risk, and some insurance carriers may not cover at all.

However, by being able to prove that you actually can control your boat, you are far more likely to get your sail boat insurance approved – and pay less, too.

Ever wondered if you need a boat survey to get insurance? Or what kind of boat insurance do you need? < Find out in our guides here.

Do You Need a Sailing License for A Sailboat blog post image

Do You Need a License to Sail Around the World? 

Generally speaking, no, you do not need a license to sail around the world. While there is no doubt that there are some countries in which boating licenses are a legal requirement, it’s not a given.

Even on sailing boats, these rules generally only apply to those living in that country, and not to those visiting. 

That being said, many charter companies require proof of a boating license before you can actually take helm of the boat.

Understandably, this ensures that the boats they loan out are in relatively good hands and, therefore, less likely to run into trouble.

So, if you plan on travelling around the world and renting boats in different areas, then chances are that you will need appropriate licences for each territory.

However, there are some countries in which the necessity for a boating license is a bit unclear.

While you may not be asked for one, it is best to check with the country and even the specific state or region that you plan on visiting in order to better prepare for your journey. 

When it comes to the legal definition of international waters, you have no need for a boat license.

However, again, taking at least a boat safety course is a good idea, especially if you plan on taking your boat around the world.

The Different Sailing Certifications and Licenses

Just because there are no sailing qualifications required to sail your own personal watercraft, having basic knowledge will be extremely beneficial for you.

For that, you could stick to entry-level lessons or learn more about maritime rules, first aid, and professional level sailing. 

Thankfully, there are a few different courses available, depending on what kind of level of recreational sailing you want to learn. If you’re in the UK, it’s worth getting in touch with the RYA, or Royal Yachting Association.

The RYA offers multiple tiers for budding sailors – even for those getting into commercial sailing, too.

First of all, there is RYA’s Tier One, beginner level sailing course.

During this course, you will learn how the boat moves, your basic navigation techniques, boating safety, and of course, some basic sailing lessons.

This kind of course should only take a few hours in one sitting, or can be spread across a few days. You will be with your instructor the entire time, and some will even come to teach you on your own boat if you have one

It’s also worth considering a certificate of competence from the RYA, or the American Sailing Association (in the US).

During the course in the UK, you will learn advanced navigation, safety procedures, night cruising techniques, maintenance, repairs, how to work the deck, emergency procedures and more.

This course can take up to five days to complete – however, it is not for everyone.

In the UK, you have to be at least sixteen years old, have basic knowledge about sailing, and have spent at least five days and four-nights on a sailboat. If you can prove all of this – go right ahead!

Finally, consider an international certificate of competence, too – if you plan on renting a boat or even sailing around the world on your own.

As the name suggests, it is recognised internationally, so you will not have to worry about potentially needing to provide a license when you port somewhere.

You will have to go through both a practical assessment and an ICC theory assessment (if applicable). During the practical assessment, you will go through engine checks, mooring, fires, first aid, confined handling, and man overboard procedures.

Then, during the theoretical assessment, you will work on buoyage, sound signals, international boating regulations, VHF radio and more. It can take between three to four weeks to complete the course and the ICC exam. 


If you are interested in using your sailboat for recreational use, then whether you plan on charting foreign waters or enjoying local boating, it is best to go through at least some sail training.

Ideally, it is best to work your way through all of the suggested courses above – including the internationally recognised ICC course – to gain the best sailing experience, ensuring that you are equipped for whatever you may come across. This should especially be the case if you are carrying passengers!

It is important to note that exam fees will vary depending on the country in which you are taking the course. ASA courses can even vary slightly depending on the state, too.

In any case – regardless of legal requirements, a boating safety course might be just the ticket to get you out into the wide blue yonder. Happy sailing!


RYA Training (UK)

ASA Training (US)



Categories: Blog

The Difference Between a Boat and Ship (Compared)

While most of us tend to use the terms boat and ship very loosely, the truth is that the two do not necessarily refer to the same things.

Of course, they both have the same concept of being vessels that float on water, there are, in fact, very big differences between different water vessels, differences which enable us to define them as either being boats or ships.

So, what are these differences? 

It’s all down to the size of a vessel and what it’s used for. For example, fishing boats are much more different in terms of size and scope compared to sailing ships!

So, let’s take a closer look at these differences and see what makes a boat a boat, and a ship a ship. This will also help you understand what kind of boat insurance you need.

A Ship Vs a Boat: What’s the Difference?

You’ll know if your ship is not a boat depending on size, areas of travel, cargo held, available crew, and equipment involved. Let’s go a little deeper.


The biggest difference between a ship and a boat that people tend to note is their size. An easy way to remember their difference is that ships can carry boats – but boats can’t carry ships.

While a boat can technically be a very large vessel, and most can carry other boats (such as kayaks, canoes, lifeboats, etc.), ships are in part built to carry other boats as well as heavy machinery, complicated equipment, a captain and crew, and more. 

To get technical, most seafarers refer to ships when they are at least 550 tons in weight.

Cargo capacity on a ship, of course, is therefore likely to be much larger than a boat’s.

Area of travel

Operational areas for boats and ships tend to vary. While some boats do travel across oceans, it is not common for them to do so. They tend to stick closer to their home coastlines, traversing small passages of water.

Ships, meanwhile, are built to take on the high seas, travel across deeper waters, and reach various countries around the world. 

They are commonly used by organizations such as the Royal Navy, or for delivering international cargo.

Ships are also built to traverse deep water – a boat sinks easily if you take it too far off the coastline. That’s why when a ship sinks, it’s normally got a very good reason!

Boats will take to inland waters – and while not all boats stay on shore, it’s rare you’ll see them taking to the sea.


While some boats can technically carry cargo, ships tend to carry a lot more and a lot farther. Boats generally aren’t built to carry extensive cargo – meaning large transfers and sea trading normally takes place on ships.

cargo boat - Difference Between Boat and Ship

Crew and demand

While some boats do indeed carry a small crew, especially if they are being used for commercial purposes, they vary wildly from ship crewing standards.

Naval ships, fishing vessels, and commercial vessels tend to have far bigger crews that are trained for different circumstances.

A ship spends months at sea at a time and has to face different kinds of challenges to those of boats, with crews that can spend up to a few weeks away from land.

Although both certainly have their challenges, ships tend to have bigger and more trained operatives on board.

Ships also demand their own ship’s captain in order to keep the crew in line and organised, whereas boats can be less strict. 

A boat’s captain, for example, may sometimes be the only crewman on board.


While boats can be used for different purposes, including for commercial reasons (such as fishing boats, tourism, etc.) and even rescue (lifeboats), boats are also commonly used for recreational purposes.

On the other hand, no one buys a ship for recreational purposes. They are largely used for commercial, military, trade and research purposes. 

The exception to the rule here is, of course, cruise ships – but these are large-scale commercial vessels.

How they work

This point is a little more complicated to define. While it isn’t the case for all boats, there are some smaller vessels that can move without engines at all, such as sailboats, canoes, kayaks, etc.

On the other hand, ships have a different propulsion system and need to be moved forward by very powerful engines.

Although one could argue that motorboats are not considered to be ships and yet have engines, this is a slight distinction between the two that is worth noting. 

When Is a Boat a Ship?

Again – there are no real set rules! Some suggest that a boat is a ship when it has three, square rigged masts, or when it’s over a weight of 550 tons, as mentioned above.

Generally, however, many people refer to any small vessel as a boat – regardless of purpose or intention.

If it has less complicated equipment, and fewer demands than your larger sailing vessel, it is likely to be a boat.

Types of Boats and Ships

Just when things couldn’t get more complicated(!), there are of course a variety of different boats and ships out there with specific roles and names.

Here are just a few of the more commonly used boats and ships you’re likely to have come across over time.



  • Cruise ships
  • Naval ships
  • Tankers
  • Carriers
  • Container ships
  • Offshore vessels
  • Other passenger ships
cruise ship standing - Difference Between Boat and Ship


So – what is the difference between a boat and a ship? It turns out there are plenty of distinctions – and it might not always be so easy to tell between the two definitions.

On the whole, you can expect a ship to be larger, to cover more distance, and to sail almost exclusively offland or offshore.

Boats, meanwhile, are much smaller and are likely to be recreational – and will usually stick to waterways onland (though bigger bluewater boats do make trips offshore).

We found this discussion on The Guardian interesting where people and boaters added their own definitions of what a boat and a ship is.

However, if you happen to mix up the two terms, then don’t worry – we can help you define your ship or boat, especially where boat insurance or commercial ship insurance implications are concerned.

As it happens, most people have no real idea that there is any difference between the two – but if you run a commercial vessel of any kind, it’s worth keeping aware of the key differences.

Need more information about boat or yacht insurance? Have a look below:





Categories: Blog

Contact Us

Tel: +44 (0)20 7929 4058
Fax: +44 (0)20 7933 9350
Click here to email us

Registered Office
Velos Insurance Services Limited
Notcutt House,
36 Southwark Bridge Road,
View map

Connect with us

Latest News

How Much Is a Boat or Yacht Survey? (Costs & How to Prepare)

Boat and yacht surveys have become commonplace in the nautical world, both for people buying boats (wanting to check the conditions) and for insurance companies. Both insurance surveys and pre-purchase surveys are led by

June 6, 2022 read more