How to Get a Sailing License that Actually Works in the US?

How can you get a Sailing License as soon as possible? What are the acceptable legal sailing licenses available in the US? And who needs to get one? We have the answers to all these big questions and much more in this article of Sailingyes; read on…

How to Get a Sailing License That Actually Works in the US?

Almost any beginner wants to know how to get a sailing license in the US. However, Sailingyes is here to paint even more wide-ranging topics with a broad brush. In fact, not only will we teach you how to get the most valid certification but also answer some FAQs about this subject.

How to Get a Sailing License That Actually Works in the US

How to Get a Sailing License?

Well, you’ll need to follow these instructions to get one:

  • Gain knowledge of sailing and take some theoric courses to get a proper mindset. Reading is essential for this part. So, use our free online sailing magazines in the USA list to find valuable recourses.
  • Sign up for an online sailing course to set the ball rolling and getting engaged with the important topics. Here’s a guide on how to learn sailing for free that will come in handy at this stage.
  • Now, sign up for an actual course such as ASA 101 to start the hands-on procedures and get a sailing license at the end. US Sailing Captain’s Training is also a great course (available online and in-person) to set the ball rolling for hands-on practices.

Do I Need to Get a Sailing License to Operate a Boat in the USA?

In the USA, you need no qualifications to operate a recreational boat. Some states require (finally) a boating safety course for younger operators and a few require it from all operators.

Most states in the U.S. now require mandatory boater safety training. And you must carry a card/certificate with you. Older folks are grandfathered in, but This is only boating safety and rules—not a test of your ability to operate, dock or navigate a boat. Anyone can legally operate a boat in the United States and most of them manage to do it on holiday weekends!

Bareboat Chartering Outside of the US

Hiring a watercraft in a foreign country requires some basic knowledge about the watercraft rental codes of that region. So, you may or may not be asked to verify your sailing skills via specific documents. However, generally, most of the European regions require the charting companies to ask for some valid sailing licenses before renting the vessel.

The ICC (International Certificate of Competence) is a document that would prove you’re a skilled sailor who’s capable of operating the watercraft. Indeed, the UN created this authorization method to guarantee the safety of people on and off the shore. So, in case you’re willing to rent a watercraft in the European regions, it’s better to get the ICC license.

Note: There’s only one institute in the US that is legally allowed to issue the ICC certification, which makes it hard for most people to get it. So, you better replace it with proper documentation—that we will introduce further.

How Many Sailing Licenses Are Available in the US?

There are 5 main sailing licenses in the USA that are lawful. (the following list contains some information about all of them).

1.     The ICC (International Certificate of Competence)

As discussed earlier, this is a pass that indicates you’re able to operate a watercraft. The UN created this permit to make sure that the tourists and foreigners renting a boat in their territory will not cause any threats. To get a sailing license such as the ICC, you need to be in a country that has signed the UNR40. This is the document that indicates the country you’re living in is a part of the program and its institutions can issue this pass.

However, since the US is not a part of this program, you may find it hard to get it in your area. Indeed, the only facility that may provide you with such certification is the RYA institute located in Florida. So, if getting an ICC license is vital, you’re going to need a ticket to Florida.

How Many Sailing Licenses Are Available in the US?

2.     SLC™ (Sailing License and Credentials)

Since getting the ICC pass is not an easy task in the US, NauticEd has introduced a substitute certification—SLC™. This documentation allows the sailors to rent a watercraft in Mediterranean regions with no need to prove their sailing skills. Indeed, this is a process involving an online Bareboat Charter Master course and a one-day skill assessment.

After you pass the assessment phase, the NauticEd will charge you $95 for the issuance procedure. Immediately after you pay the fee, the SLC™ pass will be available as a PDF file. You can print and then use it as the needed documentation for boat renting in Mediterranean regions.

When the assessment is done, you’ll enter a 50-day period where you should log the on-water statistics. That is, you must use the free Online Logbook of NauticEd to note down your activities abroad for fifty days. Later, you can ask for the license and wait till it’s issued.

Bear in mind that the SLC™ license costs $270—taxes and issuance fees included. Since the whole process is online, you can dismiss the transportation and/or hotel fees. It will take 60 days (at most) to get this pass. Better yet? you’ll not need to commute to a sailing school during this period.

3.     ASA’s International Proficiency Certificate

As an alternative to ICC, the ASA offered its certification called IPC. Those who have this pass can rent a sail or powerboat/yacht in the Mediterranean. In fact, it’s pretty much like SLC—discussed earlier. The only difference is that some prerequisite lessons are required before you qualify for the tests. Simply stated, the ASA requires you to pass the ASA 101, 103, and 104 prior to registering for the IPC.

This may add up to your bills. Since the cheapest courses for those 3 ASA courses cost between $400-700, some sailors prefer the SLC over IPC. However, if you’re interested in getting an ASA-approved pass, here’s what to do. First, sign up for a valid course in your area. And try to find one that combines the 3 prerequisite lessons—101, 103, and 104. Next, get your ASA sailing certification and sign up for the online IPC test. The license will be issued immediately after you pass the test.

These counties accept the IPC as a valid certification for boaters: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Turkey.

ASA Certifications Expiration Date

There is no sort of expiration date on your ASA pass. However, there are some time-related restrictions that may hold you back. Indeed, if a sailor hasn’t overseen skippering a watercraft for more than 1-year, charter companies may refuse to rent a boat to them. So, the certification is valid only if you brush up on your skills constantly.

Sailing a boat once a year (for at least 4 hours) and keeping the logs is the only way to have a lifelong ASA certification. In case you’re not sure about the changes, try skipping larger boats as well. This would automatically qualify you for larger vessels with no need to renewing your certification.

4.     US Sailing International Proficiency Certificate©

US Sailing created an equivalent certification for American boaters that can replace the hard-to-achieve ICC. Getting the International Proficiency Certificate© of this organization enables any sailor to charter boats in the Mediterranean and EU. This pass is valid on the European Union waters as well as the Mediterranean areas. However, the boater should carry the documentation throughout their travel.

To qualify for this documentation, first, you should become a US Sailing member. This would allow you to pass on to the next stage which is becoming US Sailing certified through Bareboat Cruising. If you feel like it’s an unnecessary process, you can skip the course and give a test right away. Passing the tests, however, will qualify for the appliance phase in which you fill out some forms online and wait for the US Sailing response. This is the final step and your license will be issued in several days afterward.

5.     USCG Captain’s License

We have a complete manual on how to get a sailing captain’s license that offers some insights into the USCG Captain’s License. This is documentation that all the non-recreational boaters who make money out of their vessel must-have. In fact, if you have paying-passengers abroad or set on-water tours, this pass is a must-have. Otherwise, your activities will be considered as illegal procedures.

In order to get this license, you have to attend to US Captain Training courses after logging your on-water statistics for at least 180 days (for 33.4 gross tons or larger vessel). Next, you’ll need to give an exam on the Captain’s Training course and try to score the required points on each field. Finally. You should create a file containing all the necessary documentation and mail it to the USCG. They will assess your profile then and issue the license within 14 days.

Note: getting a USCG Captain’s License will cost you $145—the course fees excluded.

Reference (s):

Sailing Fundamentals


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