Captain's License and Skipper License

If you have enough of those crewed charters and wish to sail the seas under your own steam, a skipper license (or captain’s license) is what you need. It is like the driver’s license for a yacht and comes with all the knowledge and skills needed for a safe and secure sailing experience.

Depending on where you are in the world, the crew refers to either the captain, the skipper, the yachtmaster or even the seamaster. In Greece and other Mediterranean sailing destinations, skipper is the term that is mostly used. Yachtmaster refers to a title obtained through a specific sailing qualification. Captain and Seamasters are mostly heard in US waters.

We use those terms here interchangeably as synonyms. Please note that we refer mostly to recreational sailing, additional qualifications might be needed for commercial sailing.

How to become a Skipper

The route to becoming a skipper is open for anybody interested in sailing who is at least 18 years old. It starts with sailing experience and ends with an assessment or your skills and knowledge. For the experience, you should keep a logbook where you keep track of the time you spent sailing and the miles. This will be the proof of your sailing experience. Once the assessment has been passed, you obtain a document proving that you are qualified to skipper a yacht. 

The training in between experience and assessment is entirely in your hands – most candidates undergo sailing courses with accredited sailing schools, for example the ASA or RYA. By attending a course, you can be sure to gain the knowledge you need to pass the assessment. 

Apart from the technical aspects of sailing, a skipper is expected to know how to steer a boat into a harbor, how wind and environmental conditions affect the sailing and security on board including first aid. 

During your training period, your sailing instructor or sailing school will not only test your knowledge about securely and accurately sailing a boat, but you will also be tested on anything else a mariner should know. For example, you need to know:

  1. Proper positioning of the boat and environmental awareness
  2. Speed awareness
  3. Mooring 
  4. Sailing terminology
  5. Berthing
  6. Knowledge of properly tying knots

Along with this, navigation also plays a significant role in sailing any boat or yacht. A lack of this knowledge might lead you and your entire team into hazardous situations. You will have to prove the following knowledge:

  1. Piloting your boat safely at night
  2. Usage of admiralty charts
  3. Tide and current calculations
  4. Blind Navigation

Skipper & Captain Licenses & Certifications Infographic

Classes of Skipper's license

Skipper or Captain’s licenses are like vehicle licenses — there are different levels of training that will allow you to steer vessels of different sizes and into different waters. Your skipper license will state clearly what type of vessel you can steer under which conditions and the distance from shore.

Day Skipper/Inshore Captain

The Bareboat Skipper (IYT)/Inshore Skipper (ISSA)/Day Skipper (RYA) license might be sufficient to charter a boat in Europe. This is the early classification that gives you the option to sail 20 miles seaward in the daytime in an acceptable climate and vessels of up to 15m length.
However, some countries have applied some restrictions, including Greece. The Greek port authorities do not accept this type of skipper license. You can however take an assessment for an ICC license which is an internationally recognized skipper license. When you charter a boat, the skipper license you hold should be written in English (it can be a translation).

Coastal Skipper/Offshore Captain

The next category of skipper license is the Coastal Skipper/Offshore Skipper. You can sail around evening time 60 miles seaward through this classification, also in delicate conditions. 


The highest category is the Yachtmaster/Master of Yacht. Having a license of this class, you can sail bigger vessels and further away from shore, you could even cross the Atlantic. 

You need to know that even charter companies will now and then look at the miles in your logbook, showing your experience. Along these lines, start your record when you genuinely consider yachting. 

Please refer to our page about sailing qualifications for further information on the different levels and qualifications offered by different associations around the world.

Types of Captain’s Licenses

A Captain’s License is mostly relevant for the US and is the equivalent of the license to be an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV). It is also called the Six-pack license and handed out by the US Coast Guard. The Six-pack Captain's License permits the holder to convey up to six paying travelers besides the team on uninspected vessels up to 100 gross tons, hence the term six-pack. These are typically vessels ordinarily occupied with sanction fishing, scuba diving or visits for travelers. 

The next level of qualification for commercial yachting in the US is the Master’s license which requires US citizenship. The 25, 50, or 100-Ton Master License permits the holder to work on inspected passenger vessels with 7 or more passengers. This can be harbor visit boats, whale watching and water taxis for example.

What you can do with a Captain’s or Skipper License

Holding a skipper license gives you the opportunity to charter a yacht as a bareboat charter. You are allowed to sail on your own and have full control over your itinerary and route. You can do anything you desire, at whatever point you need to, and explore azure lagoons or purplish-blue tidal ponds or island-hop archipelagos. You have the chance to make memories with loved ones on a sailing get-away and explore islands like Corfu, Paros, Preveza or Milos.
You will be asked to show your skipper license when you charter a yacht in Greece. 

With a captain’s license or a commercial skipper license you could also make a living while sailing. All crewed and skippered charters require experienced skippers and there are plenty of opportunities every season.


How long does a skipper license last?
The ICC and Skipper license is valid for five years and should be renewed through the association that issued it.

What can you do with a skipper license?
A skipper license entitles you to charter a yacht as a bareboat charter. If you don’t have a skipper license you have the option for skippered charters.

Differences between a skipper license and a captain’s license.
A captain’s license is a US-term and focuses mostly on commercial sailing. The term skipper license is mostly used in Europe and refers to both recreational and commercial sailing.