Wednesday, September 27, 2023

What Size Yacht Requires A Captain’s License?

If you have been considering joining the world of yachting, you have probably thought about how big of a boat you should get. Many people fantasize about owning a yacht and sailing around the world, enjoying luxury amenities and the open sea. However, before you plunge into this maritime lifestyle, it is essential to know the regulations when it comes to yachting and licensing. More specifically, you may wonder: What size yacht requires a captain’s license?

When it comes to yacht ownership, there is more than just size that affects whether or not you need a captain’s license. This article will explore the factors to consider, including size, operational purpose, and regional legislation, to determine if a captain’s license is required for your yacht.

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Factors to Consider

1. Size

The requirement for a captain’s license by the size of the yacht varies from country to country. In the United States, there is no strict size threshold that requires a captain’s license. Instead, the U.S. Coast Guard requires a license for those operating a vessel for commercial purposes or carrying passengers for hire. However, they recommend that any boat over 65 feet have a licensed captain onboard due to the complexity of operating such a large vessel.

In Europe, the regulations differ significantly, and you might need a license for your yacht depending on its size. For example, in Croatia, any yacht longer than 45 feet necessitates a captain’s license. In Spain, you need a captain’s license for yachts longer than 49 feet and engine power above 75 kilowatts. It’s essential to research the specific regulations for the country or region you plan to operate your yacht in.

2. Operational Purpose

As mentioned earlier, in the United States, the requirement for a captain’s license depends primarily on the use of the yacht. If you plan to use your yacht for commercial activities or carry passengers for hire, you will need a captain’s license. U.S Coast Guard regulations state that any person acting as a captain of a vessel carrying paying passengers must have a U.S. Coast Guard-issued license. The type of license depends on the vessel’s size and the number of passengers.

In the recreational arena, it is common for yacht owners to obtain captain’s licenses voluntarily for personal benefit and safety. A captain’s license can provide peace of mind, practical knowledge, and become a valuable asset if you decide to operate your yacht in waters outside of the United States.

3. Regional Legislation

Understanding and adhering to local boating regulations are essential when operating a yacht. License requirements may change from country to country, and sometimes, even regions within the same country have different regulations. For example, within the European Union, individual member states have varying qualifications and licensing practices. Additionally, some countries might recognize foreign licenses, while others require you to obtain a domestic license.

Yacht owners must familiarize themselves with the regulations in their home country and any waters they plan to sail in, including neighboring nations. International waters and customs regulations will also dictate requirements for your yacht and your captain’s license, if needed.


The size threshold for a captain’s license can vary depending on the region you operate your yacht and its intended purpose. It is crucial to research and adhere to the local regulations and licensing requirements wherever you plan to navigate your yacht. Consult with maritime authorities or organizations and consider professional guidance to ensure your yacht adventure is nothing but smooth sailing.

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