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Want to operate a boat? Find out if you need to pass a theory test

For every road vehicle, accept bicycles, you need to pass a theory test in order to take a practical exam. However, does the same apply for operating a boat? Book Theory Test Today has the answer. The Book Theory Test Today blogger says: “I want to captain a ship when I grow up, daddy. These are the words of my eldest son and his statement set my mind to thinking, would he need to pass a theory test and a practical exam to get a boatmaster’s licence? We’re leaving the land behind and setting sail to discover the requirements for obtaining a boatmaster’s licence. Raise the anchor!”

Do I need to pass a theory test for a boatman’s licence?

Yes, you are required to pass a theory test in order to obtain a boatman’s licence. The theory test is an oral exam relating to navigation and sea safety. A boatmaster’s licence is required if you’re the master of certain types of vessels, which are operated on:
  • An inland waterway, for example a canal, lake, river and certain estuaries
  • Limited coastal region operations, no further than five miles from land and 15 miles from a vessel’s start and endpoint
If you do not have the correct boatman’s licence, you face a fine or prosecution. Since 1993, anyone operating a vessel carrying 12 or more passengers, is required to hold a boatmaster’s licence. A basic licence starts at grade 3, with grade 1 being the highest level licence attainable.

Are there cases where I don’t need to pass a theory test to operate a boat?

Yes, you’re not required to pass a theory test or have a boatman’s licence to operate a pleasure vessel. This includes hire boats that are used for pleasure sailing purposes. You’re also not required to pass a theory test or have a licence for fishing vessels.

How long does a boatman’s licence last?

A boatman’s licence lasts for five years after which time it will need to be renewed at a cost of £28. However, you will not be required to take another theory test in order to renew your licence. If you’re aged 65 or over, you are required to renew your licence every 12 months.

I have a yachtmaster’s certificate can this be used as an equivalent?

No, a yachtmaster’s licence is not equivalent to a boatmaster’s licence, however, you could be exempt from certain elements of the boatman’s exam provided you can produce a yachtmaster’s certificate.

Other information

As well as having navigational and sea safety knowledge, you should also have knowledge of the local area in which you’re applying for your boatman’s licence. Questions concerning the local area will be raised during your oral theory test and the knowledge will also come in handy for navigational purposes.   

Contact Book Theory Test Today 

Book Theory Test Today offers an intermediary service assisting clients with booking a UK theory test, or practical test, at test centres across the nation. The service also supplies resources to help you prepare for your theory test – Ready to take your theory test? Book your theory test online today…


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