RYA Day Skipper Motor – Who’s it for and what’s involved?

The RYA Day Skipper course not only teaches you how to use your boat, but also how to enjoy it

wideshot of motor-cruising couple

With accommodation and cooking facilities onboard, motor cruising offers a comfortable and convenient way to explore your local waters and further afield. You can also travel greater distances in a much shorter time compared to sail cruising yachts.

Motorboats are much less reliant on the weather or wind, and the electronics on new boats can make navigating seem relatively straightforward.

Sounds good right? Well with a little bit of training you’ll be out cruising in no time.

Do I need a licence to skipper a motor cruiser?

Requirements vary from country to country. However, in the UK there is no legal requirement to hold a licence to skipper a vessel. So why bother doing a training course?

The answer is relatively simple. The more competent you are at handling a boat, the more you’ll enjoy your time on the water. You will also ensure you have the knowledge and skills to keep you, your crew, your boat, and other water users safe.

RYA qualifications are highly respected worldwide and the courses in the Motor Cruising Scheme offer something for all ages, abilities, and experience levels.

Birds eye view of boat and instructor during course

The RYA Day Skipper Motor Qualification

The RYA Day Skipper Motor Qualification enables you to take charge of a 25-60ft motorboat safely and confidently on day trips in familiar waters.

The course also covers using modern electronic aids such as GPS and radar, which are now standard equipment on all modern motor cruisers.

For those wanting to hire a boat for a day, a weekend or holiday, a Day Skipper certificate shows charter or boat share companies that you have enough knowledge and practical experience to take their boats out safely. It will also enable you to apply for an ICC (International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft) allowing you to go cruising abroad.

If you are a boat owner, many insurance companies now require evidence of training to insure your vessel and the Day Skipper certificate can provide this. 

Where do I begin?

The RYA Day Skipper Motor Qualification is not only perfect for new boat owners looking to get to grips with their first boat. It’s also great for more experienced skippers wanting to increase their knowledge, or for powerboaters wanting to move on to larger vessels.

The four-day practical course can even be taken on your own boat, enabling you to practice your boat handling in your local cruising area, all with the help of an experienced instructor.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Woman on boat with instructor on deck

What experience do I need?

Before attending the practical course, you should have a basic knowledge of navigation and theory. You’re encouraged to complete the RYA Day Skipper Shorebased course or have knowledge to that level.

The shorebased course will take around 40 hours to complete and can be taken either in the classroom, online or by distance learning. Many centres offer flexible learning options to fit in around work or other commitments. You’ll cover safety, collision regulations, chartwork, electronic navigation, meteorology, and the basics of seamanship.

Next, provided you have some motor cruising experience (at least five days on a motorboat) you can get out on the water!

The practical course

The RYA Day Skipper Motor practical course takes four days to complete on a motor cruiser. It can be taken in one block or split over two weekends.

An instructor will always be with you to ensure your safety and to guide and encourage you through each manoeuvre. The course can be taken on the school’s boat or your own vessel if you have one.

Boat and crew in the distance

What will I learn?

You’ll learn how to take charge of the boat and crew safely, so you can: 

  • Safely manoeuvre a boat at high and low speeds
  • React to emergency situations
  • Understand the effects of weather conditions and tides
  • Decide where to berth and what time of time of day to arrive
  • Delegate tasks and direct your crew
  • Look after all aspects of safety onboard
  • Understand the rules of the road
  • Undertake some night cruising

Do I have to stay onboard?

No. The RYA Day Skipper Motor course is non-residential and usually day sails from the training centre’s home port. You can arrange overnight accommodation nearby, or if you are local go home every night. You should expect at least one night with a later finish when you do your night cruise.

If you are completing the course on your own vessel, you can of course stay onboard. The training centre may also be able to organise options. For example, not day sailing from your home port but cruising for 4 days with your instructor also staying onboard or locally.

Wide shot of woman on boat deck

Benefits of using your own boat?

If you have your own boat and it is suitable for a Day Skipper course this is the recommended option. The course can be tailored to you and your local cruising area. You’ll also get to know your boat better while practicing all the manoeuvres with the safety net of an instructor.

You will need to bring along a few people to act as crew for the duration of the course. This might be friends or family with some experience, or they might want to gain some experience and do an RYA course at the same time.

The RYA Day Skipper Motor course can be run for more than one person or can be combined with entry-level courses like RYA Start Motor Cruising or RYA Helmsman. Up to five people can attend so it’s a perfect way for family or friends to learn together.

Training on a school boat

If you don’t have your own boat, or it’s not quite big enough or too large to learn on, then using the training centre’s vessel is a great option.

Using a school boat is also a good opportunity to learn with other students that are on the same course. It might even influence the type of cruiser you want to buy in the future as you learn more about what will suit your needs.

Instructor holding map and teaching

What about cost?

If you’re an individual it will be cheaper to do your course on a school boat. However, if there’s more than one of you and you have the option of using your own vessel this is usually more cost effective.

Is it for me?

RYA Chief Instructor of the Motor Cruising scheme, Vaughan Marsh says: “RYA Day Skipper for Motor is a brilliant investment for anyone thinking of chartering, has bought or is thinking of buying a new vessel, especially if you’re moving from a powerboat to something that you can cruise in more comfortably. Not only is it a fun course, it teaches you how to use your boat and enjoy it.”

Find out more

The RYA Day Skipper Handbook Motor (G97) is the official handbook supporting the RYA Day Skipper Motor Cruising course. Ideal for anyone looking for a guide to the practical elements of motor boating.

Discover more about how the RYA Motor Cruising Courses can boost your confidence and skillset or find a training centre near you.