When do I need a boating licence?

Sailboat, motor boat, license free boat without training, boat without license with training ... How does one decide according to the French legislation? SeaZen Academy, specialist in solar powered boating, offers you to discover the regulatory framework according to your navigation practices.

What does the regulation say?

The maritime regulations impose the motor boat license for all vessels beyond a certain engine power. Acording to the public service website (service-public.fr):

"A motor boat license is required to operate a yacht with a power of more than 4.5 kilowatts (6 horsepower), whether on sea or on river"

Yet sailboats can be maneuvered without a license and they have engines sometimes higher than 4.5 kW?

Indeed, the sailboats are a particular kind of yachts. The legislator considers that skipping a sailboat is so complex that the skipper feels responsible to get trained. The definition of sailboat is itself regulated. Attention, a motor boat to which a small sail is added will never be a sailboat. The legislator has foreseen everything. In fact the key factor is the ratio between the engine power and the sailing power. To make it simple, lets say, a sailboat is a boat that moves better overall if it uses its sails and moves less well if it uses its engine... otherwise it is a motor boat!

The boat license schools are for motor boating

The boat license is necessary for motor boating in France

The boat license is necessary for motor boating in France

A boat license or a boat permit is therefore necessary when sailing on a motor boat of more than 4.5 kW. This applies of course for any kind of motor boats, even for jet skis. The training to the boat license is itself regulated, it must be held in a school agreed for such training.

Which motor boat school to choose?

If you stay in Beaulieu-sur-Mer we like the Maritime Agency (Agence Maritime). Beyond Beaulieu, we recommend you to consult the selection of school of license boat of Sport Découverte. Generally, if you want to pass your license in the best conditions, we recommend to spend 2 weeks. First of all, you have to "digest" the theory and also practice a little before you take the test, and then you have to count the lead-time for enrollment!

The sailing boat schools are for sailing and are license free

A sailing boat can be skipper license free in France

A sailing boat can be skipped license free in France

We have seen previously that sailing is a special case in France. It is simple common sense that makes training necessary. It is obvious than steering a sailboat is more complex and more time consuming than steering a motor boating. Generally sailing courses are provided by Yacht Clubs or Club Nautic in French, under the quality label of the French Sailing Federation Fédération Française de Voile.

Which sailing boat school to choose?

If you stay in Beaulieu-sur-Mer we recommend the Yacht Club de Beaulieu. Otherwise you may find your nearest club with the keywords "Club Nautic".

The license free boat rental is open to everyone

The boats called license free boats are motor boats with power less than 4.5 kW (or 6 horsepower). They are more often hired than owned by skippers. With the arrival of electric batteries and solar powers, these boats benefit from better energy efficiency. If they have a better energy efficiency they are therefore larger, more comfortable, increasing the number of passengers. The better the efficiency will be, the better the comfort. It has therefore become necessary to distinguish these new categories of boats without a license.

The traditional boat without a license

A classic licence-free boat is small in order to be able to sail with a 6 HP engine

A classic licence-free boat is small in order to be able to sail with a 6 HP engine

The traditional licence free boat can be maneuvered extremely easily. A training of a few minutes is enough. Generally when we talk about boating at sea without a license, we think about such boat.

The "License free electric boat", a logical step forward

This might be a next evolution of the license free boat, bigger, more comfortable they may gradually replace the existing fleet of license free boats.

The 2 electric boats on the right are bigger than the classic boat on the left because the engine efficiency is better

The 2 electric boats on the right are bigger than the classic boat on the left because the engine efficiency is better

Thanks to its electric propulsion, it does not emit CO2, which is a noticeable progress in terms of the environment. In addition electric propulsion has a much better performance than propulsion engine. So that it is possible to have a power engine two times less with the benefit of an equivalent thrust at the propellers. Sometimes it is equipped with photovoltaic panels which allows to shelter the driver of the sun. Attention this does not means the boat is propelled with solar energy. Remember to inquire about energy solution in case of empty batteries offshore at sea. In order to avoid any confusion we rather suggest to use the word electric licence free boat which is already much better for the environment.

The solar catamaran, a revolution in boating

This solar powered boat is inspired by the motor yacht-catamarans. All yachtsmen are already familiar with the large "classic" motor catamarans of over 40 feets. But for daytime use it is not necessary to have a large catamaran. As long as you have an engine below 4.5 kW, it becomes a licence free boat as well. More than a boat without a license, the catamaran is appreciated for the quality of the comfort it offers on board. Its energy efficiency is extreme because not only it can have electric engines so it has a yield twice as much as fossil engines. But in addition the hydrodynamics of the catamaran with its 2 floats moves hardly any water, so it has very low need of engine power.

A solar-powered catamaran is by far the largest and most comfortable license-free boat

A solar-powered catamaran is by far the largest and most comfortable license-free boat

The high stability of its floats allows to support a large solar roof with an important photovoltaic power capacity. As a result, it becomes fully autonomous with solar energy, and still license free when it remains below 4.5 kW. Solar navigation is a new form of boating. We find many similarities with sailing: the silence, the absence of odors, and the proximity with the marine elements. The speed of navigation is comparable to sailing, but it remains closer to a motorboat for maneuvers and stability.

Thanks to its solar autonomy, it can go around the world ... as long as it is daylight! And it is the biggest license free boat. Without having to spend so much of you time for a motorboat license or sailing training, it becomes possible to drive it alone after a quick and easy practice.

Boating without a license does not mean boating without training

Boating at sea requires anyway a minimum training. The bigger a boat is, the more time it takes to learn. Moreover, sailing on a solar boat means having new sensations especially for licensed skippers. Gliding slower on waves does not react in the same way. The solar boat reacts more with the sensations of the sailing boat. In port the thrust of the propellers is perceptible from 100 W of engine power. Not to mention the learning of energy management... This can become quite complicated meanwhile the skipper just needs the right accompaniment for his sailing programme.

To be able to navigate as easily as possible, it is possible to split the training into experience levels according to the degree of autonomy sought. To the best of our knowledge, seaZen is a wold pioneer in the creation of a Solar boating Academy. This academy offers a 4-level solar sailing training program that allows to skip alone right after one hour of practice. Then it requires a higher level to sail by night or to sail further.

Where is it possible to compare and rent all these licence free boats together?

The marina of Beaulieu, near Nice Côte d'Azur, offers the full range of licence-free boats listed in this article. SeaZen, author of this article, exclusively rents solar-powered catamarans. Incidentally, as you may have read in this article, the port provides trainings for all practices including as well sailing schools (yacht club) and motor boat licensing.