Boat license. You have to do it but it doesn’t teach you how to boat


Give or treat yourself to a subscription to the print + digital Journal of Sailing and for only 69 euros a year you get the magazine at home plus read it on your PC, smartphone and tablet. With a sea of advantages.

Boating license: has it changed for the better or for the worse?

As of a little over a year ago, the boating license has changed. For the better or for the worse? An authoritative voice, Peter Calvelli, president of the Yacht Club Romagna (Nautical Education Center and Nautical School, Federal Deep Sea Sailing School, World Sailing Approved Training Center) and long-time sailor, argues that today the boat license, even more than before, is unable to certify actual nautical and seafaring skills. And he explains it in detail, starting with the fact that having theoretical notions does not mean knowing how to go to sea and revealing the bureaucratic background. Read his article and let us know what you think with a comment.

Boat license: business, prevarication, inefficiency

In many countries there is no requirement for a boating license, for example Great Britain and in France only for motor units. In fact, if you rent a boat in France or Martinique, they ask you for a credit card, but no license. In Holland they began to deliver it ex officio to their own citizens, who were asked if they sailed into Germany.

Years ago in Italy this was issued by the Sports Clubs or the FIV card was enough. In 1978, with a remarkable sailing sports record and after obtaining my license, I also obtained permission to prepare people to take the same exam in the Harbor Master’s Office. Today, a 30-year-old could not do the same, unless he or she has had a driver’s license for 10 years and the funds for a 60,000-euro surety bond. It just so happens to be the same surety bond that every driving school must have already made in order to practice the trade. In addition to the usual registered and insured boats also carry.

Boat license, a matter of money?

Essentially, the boating license is no longer the demonstration of boating skills and, with the latest decree of October 2021, is permanently reduced to a business of almost exclusive relevance to driving schools. In fact, this process has now been completed with the expulsion of the Naval League and Federvela from this activity. The only hope is that these national organizations will be able to react appropriately to reclaim their role.

The process of involution took place in short but significant successive steps, all of which were contrary to the right of free enterprise and promoted by a well-known lobby.

Once upon a time, the authorization to operate the boating license school service was given by the Coast Guard to a person. Transferring this task to the provinces, (moreover, now operating in “abolished” status), was the first step in transferring the business to the driving schools.

In 1999 I organized the first free, experimental online course. The 9 people who took it obtained their licenses and subsequent courses became contingent on an enrollment fee. It just so happens that this type of course was formally banned in a short time, forcing students into classroom attendance. All under the control of the provincial organization, except to make them practically mandatory only many years later because of covid.

Then, at the end of the last century, due to the lack of a sufficient number of competent and willing examiners, some Captaincies decided to organize theory examinations exclusively by means of written assignments, quizzes and papers.

Until new quizzes were devised by the Genoa Harbor Master’s Office and imposed on other harbor master’s offices around the country.

Among them was a hilarious one that claimed that if the bow pulls to starboard 10°, the stern pulls to port 20°. Then corrected, like so many other pearls, in a different quiz, similar but equally incorrect. Having pointed out several similar errors did not make me popular with the operators employed by the Captaincies, despite the fact that these remarks were made in a purely cooperative and constructive spirit.

Of course, as a result of the passive and silent obedience of the entire country, in October 2021, it was decided that in order to sit for a boating license exam, the candidate must certify that he or she has performed at least 5 hours of practical exercises with a “boating school”, even if he had been the helmsman of Azzurra before.. Paying the fee, of course.

Thus, paradoxically, the state certifies that it is unable to assess a candidate’s abilities without ignoring the clearance issued by a driving school that has also become a boating school. In addition, a free citizen can no longer appear for an examination as a “private student” but is required to be presented by a “School” recognized as such.

The demise of the private driver

Like many peers, motorcycle, car and boat licenses, I have always obtained them through my own practice and presentation as a private citizen. The fact that the free citizen today can no longer do this I consider to be a serious vulnus liberty of all, and I consider it to be the granting to the Schools of the monopoly of an activity and the right to collect a tax made compulsory for all, without this increasing the revenue of the State.

What is the value of a document certifying the ability to sail in any ocean to someone who has answered correctly what “varea” is, but has never sailed an hour at night? Today, the newly licensed person is sometimes in worse shape than an unlicensed person when it comes to mooring aft at the dock between other boats at anchor. Or face a summer storm.

Taxes, bureaucracy, costs

I have seen firsthand how taxes, bureaucracy and costs have increased over the years, without benefiting the citizen, the state and the actual capabilities of recreational boaters.

The new regulations, just to make the examination more difficult, oblige the Captaincies to a new procedure, that is, to summon the candidate a first time on a date to undergo the theoretical test, totally ignoring the date of the practical test, which may be a week or two later. Always on weekdays, Tuesday through Friday, much to the delight of those who reside far away and hold jobs.

Hand in hand with the diminishing autonomy of every citizen and the increased inability of the state to cope with a significant sector of the national economy.

For example, let’s talk about the payment of the “printout release fee” (€1.36), which has to be paid in the mail and put on file by the captain’s office. Wouldn’t it be easier for everyone to pay €80 or €90 once instead of 3 payments of €20, €45 and €1.35? Still to be filed individually on paper … much to the delight of capitol employees and the cost involved in the triple operation.

It should then be clarified that the length of any operation related to boating licenses cannot be blamed on the individual employees of the capitancies, but rather to the inefficiency of the state, which does not want to take note that its citizens require its services especially at certain times of the year, but is unable to organize… Its inefficiency obviously reflects on the entire commercial boating industry, and I would like to testify here to the negative development I have witnessed from 1978 to the present.

It is no consolation to realize that this negative setback in efficiency, rights and services affects not only this narrow field, but also the entire rest of the country’s bureaucracy.

Peter Calvelli



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Check out the latest issue

Are you already a subscriber?

Ultimi annunci
Our social

Sign up for our Newsletter

We give you a gift

Sailing, its stories, all boats, accessories. Sign up now for our free newsletter and receive the best news selected by the Sailing Newspaper editorial staff each week. Plus we give you one month of GdV digitally on PC, Tablet, Smartphone. Enter your email below, agree to the Privacy Policy and click the “sign me up” button. You will receive a code to activate your month of GdV for free!

Once you click on the button below check your mailbox



You may also be interested in.

USED BOATS Sell 5 good boats from 8.99 to 15.60 m

We keep going to discover the best used boat bargains on our classifieds marketplace. Here you can sell and buy used boats (even historic Classic Boats by Giornale della Vela!), accessories, berths, find the right idea for your vacation, and


Sign in