I'm new to sailing but I'd like to take a 27-foot boat down the Intracoastal Waterway from Virginia to Miami. What kind of certification (by law) do I need to operate a boat? Is there such thing as a boat-operating license? Do I need insurance? If so, what kind?
Jon Shattuck responds:
Sailors are not legally required to be licensed or certified in any way unless they are carrying passengers for hire. If you do intend to carry passengers for hire, you should get the appropriate license from the US Coast Guard. This branch of government offers a variety of licenses depending upon the number of passengers, the size of the boat, and where you'll be sailing.
Most boaters obtain marine insurance, but it is also not a legal requirement. The most common marine insurance policy is referred to as "Agreed Value," which covers you and your boat up to an agreed value in case of loss or major damage. It also provides liability and other coverage. The rate you pay will depend on a lot of factors including the value of vessel (determined by a marine survey), where and how you use the vessel, experience, and your personal qualifications. A good insurance agent will fill you in on all the details (and we can refer you to one when the time is right.) As a new boater, taking a marine safety course is a smart idea. This will help get you started on the right tack, and help you obtain insurance at a better rate.
Sailing is easy to pick up, and the more experience you develop, the better prepared you'll be for all the surprises you will experience out on the water. Cruising up and down the East Coast can be a great adventure, and it will be more enjoyable if you do your homework in advance, and inquire and heed 'local information' as you go.
Want to do some research? SailNet is full of great resources including articles, boat reviews, e-mail lists, etc. Short of saltwater spray in your face, there's not much you can't find out about sailboats and sailing on SailNet.
Not sure which boat is right for you? Then consider using a yacht broker to help get started. Not only can they help you consider your options, and help you pick the best boat out of the fleet of options, but they can help you get organized and pointed in the right direction when you decide to sail off over the horizon.