In Germany boats with engines of less than 15 hp may generally be driven without a boating licence - however, certain waterways such as the Rhine or Lake Constance are excluded. Houseboats in defined areas with little professional navigation may also be driven without an official boating licence - boats without a licence may not be faster than 12 kilometres per hour and the only thing you require is a brief introductory course by your charter company. In addition, the houseboats have already been generously fitted with skirting boards and fenders by the shipyard so that they forgive the occassional gentel push.
The Easy Way: A Charter Licence
For houseboats, the charter licence issued by your charter company following a brief introductory course is usually sufficient. The crew first receives theoretical instruction explaining regulations, traffic rules and the area. This is followed by a practical introduction on board, explaining the boat and how to steer it. The briefing takes at least three hours and a good charter company will practice with your crew as long as everyone feels safe. Afterwards you receive your limited charter licence. It will state that the skipper has been instructed and the boat has been rented. This certificate must be on board for police checks, for example.
For Sailors: Proof of Experience
Much more important for bareboat charter of a sailing yacht than a formal boating licence is that you have sufficient experience to operate and navigate a sailing yacht. In many countries no official boating licence is required, but your charter company will want some proof of your sailing experience.
A boating licence is expected by the authorities in Mediterranean countries and in other European destinations, including the Canary Islands. For German sailors this is the "Sportbootführerschein See". All other boating licenses are voluntary additional qualifications, although insurance companies will take a close look at your qualifications if you sail out to the open sea or even across an ocean.
Licence Requirements in Various Destinations
Sailing on the Baltic Sea requires at least the Sportbootführerschein See (SBF-See). In addition, on yachts equipped with a radio according to German regulations you need to have a radio certificate (SRC or LRC) as well as a certificate to use pyrotechnic signals.
In the Netherlands a boating licence is mandatory (SBF-See/SBF-Binnen) for boats longer than 15 meters and for motorboats which can go faster than 20 km/h.
In France and Spain a boating licence (SBF-See) is required.
In Greece a boating licence (SBF-See) is required. In addition, a second crew member is required to have at least a sailing certificate. Sometimes a certificate that gives proof of your sailing experience is enough.
In Turkey a boating licence (SBF-See) is required, many charter companies even insist on the coastal boating licence (SKS / Sportküstenschifferschein).
In Croatia a boating licence (SBF-See) and a SRC readio certificate is required.
Sailing Charter Without a Licence
There are still many ways to enjoy a charter holiday even though you have no boating licence yet. Here is a breif choice o options:
Charter with skipper: You can book an experience skipper with your yacht. He will take responsibility of the yacht and its navigation. Usually the skipper will be well acquainted with the destination and can also show you the most beautiful places around.
Cabin Charter Cruises: These are sailing cruises where you simply book a cabin or a berth on a yacht. Together with a crew of like-minded sailors you will have a great time sailing under the guidance of the yachts skipper.
Charter of a yacht with complete crew: The ultimate charter holiday! You do not need to take care of anything as you have your skipper and crew on board who keep you comfortable in all possible ways, from sailing to dining on board.
Charter Flotillas: Some charter companies offer cruises in a group of yachts, a so-called flotilla. A group of yachts sails together in loose connection. A professional skipper is responsible for the general course planning and is always available to assist you on your own boat if required. It is a great possibility for sailors who lack just that bit of sailing experience to go all on their own. And it is also a great option for families as the kids will find easy company. A licence is usually not required as long as you can proove sufficient sailing experience.