Sailing - Licence & Courses

Getting a licence & sailing courses (Germany & UK)

In a formal country like Germany (and I guess some other countries are as strict as ours) you need to have a licence for almost everything, including recreational windsurfing or sailing.

OK that is not quite true in itself as you may practice these sports even without obtaining a licence in certain parts of the country and many other places outside Germany. However, if you want to rent out a board or a dinghy and would like to be properly insured while doing so, you will most likely need to proof that you know what you are doing. Although I was a bit annoyed about the confusing system of all those licences, which seemed to be developed by the sailing schools to make lots of money, I have to admit, that without such a licence (especially for sailing) and the knowledge learned during the courses one could easily risk its own and other persons health.


You will learn the basic knowledge about the physical aspects of sailing, the most basic manoeuvres and the right of way. This is mainly suitable for short trips on the nearby lake.

Sportbootfuehrerschein Binnen (Segeln and/or Motor) (SBS-Binnen) (mandatory)
Gives you further insight into the more advanced manoeuvres in sailing (e.g. Halsen (gybing), ‘top & takel’), more details about the applicable laws and (if chosen) the ability to use a sailing boat up to 15m length and an engine powered boat with more than 3,68 kw (5PS) on the inner waters (‘Binnenschifffahrtsstrassen’) and some lakes in Berlin. You will learn how to operate an dinghy.

Sportbootfuehrerschein See (only Motor) (SBF-See) (mandatory)
Gives you the knowledge about how to steer and operate an engine powered boat, the basic navigation tools for the sea, lighting rules and applicable laws for the 3-miles zone off the German coast. This course does not include any knowledge about sailing and you will most likely practice on a lake or channel.

Sportkuestenschifferschein (SKS) (voluntary)
This course is aimed at the more ambitious sailor, who would like to operate a yacht on the open sea (rather than a dinghy on a lake). Usually the SKS is offered together with the SBF-See as the theoretical modules are based on each other and both skills are needed to operate a yacht, which usually has an engine of more than 3,68kw (5PS). This course includes a trip of about 300 sm on the sea with a yacht provided by your sailing school. Although voluntary, charter firms and insurance companies may request this licence or an equivalent as proof of your sailing skills. It is recommend for sailors, who wish to sail on the sea up to 12 sm away from the coast.

Sportseeschifferschein (SSS)  &  Sporthochseesschifferschein (SHS) (voluntary)

Even more advanced licences, which train you in more detail and prepare you ultimately to sail outside the coastal area (SSS up to 30 sm) and further on. These licences are compulsory for certain commercial or educational purposes and recommended for sailors, who would like to sail outside the 12 sm zone.

  1. BulletOverview of the official licences on ELWIS / Uebersicht der amtlichen Fuehrerscheine (german)

  2. BulletOfficial byelaw for the licences and questions and answers for the theoretical part
    of the exam / Fuehrerscheinverordnung und Fragen- und Antwortkataloge fuer die Pruefungen von SBF-Binnen, SBF-See und SKS (

In Germany the licences will be issued by

  1. BulletDeutscher Motoryachtverband e.V. (DMYV) and

  2. BulletDeutscher Segler Verband e.V. (DSV).


In principle you need no formal licence to steer a boat in the coastal waters or the open sea, but it is advisable to learn the basics for your own safety. However, if you wish to travel on the inland waterways you would need to have a boating licence or register with the relevant authority.

Three authorities are responsible for the waterways in Britain:

  1. BulletThe British Waterways (rivers and canals) (english-general)  (english-leisure)

  2. BulletBroads Authority (Norfolk & Suffolk Broads) (english) (incl. byelaws)

  3. BulletEnvironment Agency (Thames, Medway, rivers in East Anglia) (english) (incl. byelaws)

In the United Kingdom the RYA
(Royal Yachting Association) is the leading body for education in sailing.
The RYA describes itself to be: ‘Britain's national body for all forms of boating, including dinghy and yacht racing and sailing, motor and sail cruising, RIBs and sports boats, powerboat racing, windsurfing, inland cruising, narrowboats and personal watercraft. Administers the internationally recognised RYA training program for leisure boaters

RYA approved training centers offer a a similar training concept as their German counterparts. You can find the following courses:

  1. BulletStart Yachting

  2. BulletCompetent Crew

  3. BulletDay Skipper

  4. BulletCoastal Skipper

  5. BulletYachtmaster

whereby the latter is aimed at the more ambitious sailor, comparable with the SKS, SSS and SHS courses. The Yachtmaster exams comprise:

  1. BulletAdvanced powerboat

  2. BulletYachtmaster Coastal

  3. BulletYachtmaster Offshore

  4. BulletYachtmaster Ocean

For more information visit the RYA homepage.




  1. BulletGetting a licence & sailing courses

  2. BulletSeamanship / Seemanschaft

  3. BulletNavigation & maps

  4. BulletOrganisations & laws

  5. BulletTechnical information

  6. BulletOther links resources



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