Sailing Certifications – Everything You Need To Know!

When it comes to sailing, sailing certifications are a great thing to have. They allow you to charter boats from different companies and help you master your sailing skills. Whether you are just starting or have been sailing for years, certifications from any of the organizations below will help you master the skills of sailing.

There are multiple sailing certifications in the world. The best certification is the one that fits your needs. American Sailing Association (ASA), NauticEd, US Sailing, and International Yacht Training (IYT) are great places to start when looking for the right certification.

Take a look at the list below for the top 4 sailing organizations. They all offer different certifications that will fit your needs.

Intro Video!

Top 4 Sailing Organizations

1. American Sailing Association (ASA)

The ASA was founded in 1983 and has been teaching people to sail for years. They are one of the most recognized schools in the country. I have personally used their books for multiple years. This is a great organization to start your sailing journey.

2. NauticEd

NauticEd was founded in 2008. It is a little younger than most sailing organizations but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. This organization is a great online organization. NauticEd has a great online list of courses that help prepare the sailor with real-life experiences and make sure you have all the knowledge possible before getting on the water.

3. US Sailing

Us Sailing is a fantastic organization. They have been around for decades. This is a great organization if you want to learn to sail or learn to race. You can learn everything from small keelboats to windsurfing with this organization.

4. International Yacht Training (IYT)- Worldwide

This organization certifies more boating courses with more Government approvals through more schools, in more countries, and in more languages than any other boating organization in the world. IYT is a great place to learn more than just sailing.

Any of these organizations is a great place to start sailing. It all depends on what you are looking for. Keep reading to see what certifications each organization has to offer.

Are ASA Sailing Certifications Worth It?

Sailing certifications are a great starting point for people looking to get into sailing. Certifications, also offer those experienced sailors a great opportunity to master specific sailing skills. ASA offers a wide variety of sailing certifications to fit everyone’s needs.

Any sailing certification is a great opportunity in my opinion. It is just like sailing with someone else on their boat. You always learn something new when sailing with someone else.

This is the path I have chosen. I just complete their ASA 101 course and it was fantastic. I will be completing the rest of them this year.

Some of the different courses you can take from an ASA school are listed below.

  • ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing – This is for beginners and will teach you all the basics of sailing and cover 20′-27′ boats.
  • ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising – The next step up from 101, this is a great course to improve your sailing skill. This course will certify you on a 25′-35′ boat. This course will also go into navigation and anchoring.
  • ASA 104 Bareboat Cruising – The size of the boat for this course is 30′-45′. This course is about multi-day travel.
  • ASA 105 Coastal Navigation – This course goes into depth about navigating your vessel. This is a key course for those multi-week trips.

The courses listed above are a great way to learn sailing. They will teach you the necessary skills to captain your boat. Some schools offer all of these courses as a live-aboard class. That means you will stay on the sailboat overnight during the course. The course is usually 5 to 7 days.

ASA is a great organization for sailing certifications and I highly recommend it to all of you.

NauticEd Certifications

NauticEd has a large online training database. You can find courses on everything. If you are not near the water or have a hard time getting out on the water, then taking some online courses is a great way to improve your skills until you can get back out there.

Take a look at the NautiEd courses below.

  • Skipper Small Keelboat – This course will teach you the essentials of manning a small keelboat up to 25′.
  • Skipper – This course will help with your skipper skills on a 25′ or larger boat.
  • Maneuvering Under Power – This course is part of the Skipper Rank bundle. This will prepare you for docking and managing those busy ports.
  • Bareboat Charter – The bareboat charter course offers a wide variety of training from dinghy tips to engine repair.
  • Coastal Navigation – An excellent course for GPS locations and how to navigate with charts and maps.
  • Anchoring A Sailboat – There is more to anchoring than just dropping the anchor. This course will teach you how to anchor correctly.
  • Electronic Navigation – A GPS is not as simple as you may think. There are a lot of different configurations and buttons to use.

NautiEd has a lot of online courses like the ones listed above. After completing those courses online, you will need to find a training facility that provides the actual hands-on training.

If you are serious about sailing around the world check out the Bareboat Charter Master Rank course bundle from NauticEd. This package deal will set you up for the SLC, which is a great thing to have. The courses included are the Skipper, Maneuvering Under Power, Bareboat Charter, Coastal Navigation, Anchoring A Sailboat, and Electronic Navigation.

US Sailing Certifications vs ASA

US Sailing and ASA are great organizations for sailing. They each have great courses that will teach you how to sail. US Sailing has a few more courses and even branches out to some different types of sailing such as windsurfing and competition-level sailing.

Take a look below at the US Sailing certifications list.

  • Basic Keelboat – After completion of this course you will be able to responsibly sail and captain an 18 to 27-foot keelboat in moderate winds.
  • Basic Cruising – This course will help develop your skills and allow you to sail an auxiliary powered sailboat during daylight hours, within sight of land.
  • Bareboat Cruising – The bareboat cruising course will be conducted on a boat ranging from 30 to 45 feet. There will also be a requirement of 15 knots of wind during the training.
  • Celestial Navigation – Celestial Navigation graduates will have mastered the techniques of open ocean position fixing using sextant and timepieces. This is a very specific course that is not needed to sail. It is a very interesting course though.

This is just a small handful of the courses that US Sailing offers. Check out their website for the rest of them. I definitely recommend this organization for all of your sailing needs.

Do You Need A License To Sail Around The World?

When it comes to sailing around the world as long as you have your own sailboat you do not need to have a license. If you plan on chartering a boat, certain countries may have regulations in place that you must follow. Be sure to check local regulations first.

Certain countries do have certain rules when it comes to sailing. Depending on where you are sailing or chartering a boat, be sure to check the local governance on sailing. For more information check out the next section and a couple of licenses that are recognized globally.

What Certification Do You Need To Sail? Multiple Options

There are 2 main licenses to sail around the world, the International Certificate of Competency (ICC), which was created by the United Nations, and the Sailing License and Credentials (SLC) which is accepted by all Mediterranean countries and yacht charter companies.

You only need one of these licenses to sail around the world, but only some are valid in certain areas. The ICC is not available to Canadians or Americans, but the SLC is available to Americans and Canadians.

The Mediterranean countries (and some others) find these two items as an acceptable sailing licenses to rent a sailboat in their country. There are very few organizations that can legitimately issue a sailing license to comply with Mediterranean requirements; one of those is NauticEd. See below for more information.

Can You Just Sail To Another Country?

As a general rule, you are allowed to sail to another country. Upon arrival in that country, you will need to check in with customs. Make sure you have all of your boat registration information, passport, and any other documentation that you would normally use to travel to another country.

Sailing to another country is a great experience if you ever have the opportunity. Sailing is a cheaper mode of travel if you have the time. When sailing to other countries the process to check-in is usually a lot like customs from a flight, except usually no wait.

Upon arrival at the docks, be sure to locate the nearest customs office. Sometimes a customs agent will come out to your vessel and check you in. It just depends on where you are at.

If you did possess an ICC or SLC as mentioned earlier in this article, you could have those with your paperwork as well.

10 Tips For Sailing Around The World

When it comes to sailing around the world, technically all you need is a boat that floats. There are some other things to keep in mind though.

1. Make sure you have the necessary skills to sail in the open sea.

Sailing around the world will be very difficult at some points. You need to make sure you have the necessary skills to avoid any danger. Check out some sailing courses listed earlier in this article.

2. Check local laws for the country you are sailing to.

Every country is different and may have different rules when sailing in. Do a little research about the country you are sailing to and see what they require from you upon check-in.

3. If possible, have an International Certificate of Competency (ICC).

This is not required but definitely a plus if you have it. It will just make your life easier when sailing into large ports in foreign countries.

4. Fly the appropriate flags when you can.

An ensign is the national flag of your origin country, to indicate your nationality to other vessels. This flag should be flown at the stern at all times. A “Q” flag can be flown on the starboard side when you are entering another country and you need to reach customs.

5. Have the appropriate travel and boat insurance.

Insurance is a great thing to have, we all know that. Anything can happen at any time and insurance will help you keep your peace of mind.

6. Acquire an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)

This device is will help the coast guard or rescue agency find you when you are in trouble. Make sure you are able to get to it quickly in an emergency.

7. Pack the right provisions for the time frame.

If you plan on being at sea for two weeks, make sure you have enough food and water to last that long. I recommend having an extra few days in case something comes up.

8. Have tools and some spare parts available.

Things will break and you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the ocean without a spare screw or screwdriver. Think about what might break and make sure you have a spare.

9. First Aid kits are a necessary item to have.

You will get injured at some point on your boat. No matter how hard you try, something will happen and you need to be prepared with first aid care.

10. Consult other sailors

If you know anyone who is circumnavigating the planet, ask them for advice. Anyone that has previously done it knows more than anyone who hasn’t.

This list is just a few of the things to consider when you are about to sail around the world. Be sure to do as much research as possible and stay safe out there.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to learning to sail the most important thing is to get out there on the water. It doesn’t have to be an official course. It can just be with someone that has a sailboat and is willing to teach you about it. Once you are sure you love sailing as I do, then you can start your certification process. I just started mine and I have been sailing for years. Cheers!


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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