Would you have a yachting holiday using your MCA Certificate of Competency if you could?

Aug 06 2013

Iain and Johan sailing off Turkey – July 2013 (Photo Courtesy S/Y ‘La Condesa’)

In the late 1980s, as a cadet at Nautical College, each autumn as night classes resumed college lecturers would give navigation and chartwork classes to budding yachtsman. However, what seemed to irritate the lecturers was that, while they had spent many years learning navigation skills and had spent many years at sea, they were not themselves deemed qualified to charter a small yacht!

I always thought this was still the position, but found otherwise earlier this year.

At a meeting in London in late March, I was asked if I sailed by someone currently undertaking their day skipper qualifications. I duly told the tale that while my qualifications for merchant ships were recognised by the MCA and 192 other flag States, they were not recognised by the RYA, to which he responded “Ah, but you know it has all changed?”

Since 2009, there has been a change in the recognition of MCA certificates by the RYA.

On returning home I found the application form on the web for the RYA’s International Certificate of Competence (ICC) and sent it to the RYA with the necessary pages from my MCA Certificate. By the end of the week I was now the proud owner of an RYA ICC.

Both Johan, our IT Director, and I had done a small amount of sailing as deck cadets more than 20 years ago, so we contacted a selection of the companies that offer sailing holidays in the Mediterranean.

We settled on ‘Seafarer Sailing’, who had very helpful staff who listened to what we were looking for, working around our particular needs.

Between us and Seafarer we agreed that hiring a skipper for the first 3 days would be ideal, and so we settled on a 2 week flotilla holiday on The Gokova Route (NW of the Greek Island of Rhodes and East of Kos).

We believed this would give us a great start with a few days to focus on the sailing with the skipper and then 10 further days to work on developing our practical sailing skills. The equivalent of a ship’s agent met us at the airport (Dalaman) and took us to where the flotilla was moored overnight.

The flotilla’s skipper was a very experienced Turkish lady named Ipek, accompanied by her partner Silar. They made all the necessary harbour arrangements for our flotilla and the arrangement for mooring berths etc, making the whole process feel very straightforward and easy.

Seafarer holidays are more of a hybrid between a bareboat and a flotilla. I must admit I had been quietly dreading the thought of all coming in to port late afternoon, all lined up like ducklings!

We had a briefing at 9am, where we would be told • The route for the day • good locations to stop (anchor) for lunch and some snorkelling, where appropriate • details of the next harbour and what time we were to arrive by.

On this particular flotilla most days involved 15-20+ miles sailing and we had 3 days that were in the 30-35 mile range. We also had 3 or 4 nights where we could sail and moor up where we wanted, with guidance from Ipek, and told where we could meet up the following evening. On our first morning we were joined by our skipper, Mike, and spent some time getting used to handling the 40’ Beneteau, practicing a few berthing manoeuvres, going out on to the open sea and getting the sails up and the engine switched off!

The first days’ sailing went very well and we had a sense that everything had come together nicely. Day 2 Mike was able to oversee us handling and sailing the boat and on day 3 he sat back as a passenger.

So, as a Merchant Navy officer, I would say this is a really great holiday option for any current or former ship’s officer. You will understand navigation, chartwork, seamanship, boat handling, berthing, safety and communications already, but will need a day or two to get fully comfortable with the sails. We found the cost of the skipper reasonably priced at 120 Euros per day.

Your skills will be almost the opposite to many of the sailors you will see! While they are proficient at managing the sails, you might find they are generally not so good at some of the elements of navigation, berthing, general seamanship and some are a little nervous about communicating on the VHF.

With the right guidance, from a company like ‘Seafarer Sailing’, and with the ability to obtain an ICC based on your merchant marine qualifications this opens up the possibility of a fantastic holiday experience. As a seafarer who came ashore a number of years ago, I found it was good to be out at sea again, sailing in the direction of the horizon!

Further information:
Learn more about the ICC:

ICC Application Form:

Seafarer Sailing: