In which case do I need a boat license?

Sailboat, motorboat, boat without a license without training, boat without a license with training... how to find your way around in French legislation? The seaZen Academy, specialist in solar navigation, offers you to discover the regulatory framework according to your navigation practices.


What do the rules say?

The marine regulations require a pleasure craft license for all motor boats above an engine power of 6 HP. According to the site

"A Pleasure Craft License is required to operate a pleasure craft with an engine power greater than 4.5 kilowatts (6 horsepower), whether on sea or river."

Why sailboats are often manoeuvred without a license even though their engines are more than 6 HP?
In France, sailboats do not need a permit, we're going to focus on the sailing clubs a little further on.


Which sea license school for which motorboat?

The boating license is necessary to skipper motor yachts in France

Official boating licence in France

This pleasure boat license, or boating license, is required if you are sailing on a motorboat over 4.5 kW and this of course applies to all motorboats, even jet skis. The training for the boat license is itself regulated, it must take place in a school approved for the sea license.

Which boat licensing center to choose?

In France, you can consult Sport Découverte's selection of boating license schools. If you are in Beaulieu-sur-Mer we recommend the Agence Maritime (French). Generally, if you want to pass your license in the best conditions, we recommend spending 2 weeks on it. First of all, you have to "digest" the theory and also practice a little bit before taking the test, and then you also have to count the time it takes to register for the exam!


What is a Self Drive boats at sea?

These 3 types of license free motorboats can navigate at sea :

The Solar
Electric + Battery + Photovoltaic

Solar license free boat

The efficiency of the catamaran offers maximum size and comfort

The catamaran, with a surface area of 14 m2 is appreciated for its comfort because it is raised, with a real table for 6, spaces to lie down at the bow and stern. Its large sunroof protects from the sun's rays and, above all, allows you to return to port on your own. A safety and flexibility advantage if you need to rent by the hour.

Electric engine + batteries

Electric license free boat

The electric motor provides more thrust, allowing a larger design

This electric license-free boat is the logical evolution of the combustion boat, bigger with a surface near 10 m2, it does not emit CO2 which is a notable progress in terms of environment. Usually rented by the day or half a day, it must be recharged in the port before each trip.

The 'Classic'.
Combustion engine + fuel

Cheap license free boat

The compact size makes it possible to sail with a combustion engine at a small price

Thanks to its small size for a surface near 8 m2, the traditional license-free boat can be manoeuvred extremely easily. A short briefing of a few minutes is enough. Usually when we talk about boat without a license at sea, we think of this type of boat.

Where can we try all these self drive boats ?

To our knowledge, the marina of Beaulieu, between Nice and Monaco, offers the largest choice of self drive boat in France. All these boats are for rent at Beaulieu. SeaZen, author of this article, proposes sale and rental of Self Drive Boat aboard its solar powered catamaran.


Do not confuse sailing school, yacht club and boating licenses

Why is a boating license not required for sailing?

A sailboat can be driven without a license, even if the engine is over 6HP. The legislation is very consistent in this regard. One should not imagine that by adding a sail to a motorboat it will be able to be driven without a license. A sailboat is defined by the ratio between engine power and sail power. In fact, and to put it simply, a sailboat is a boat that potentially moves forward better if it uses its sails and less if it uses its engine. If it is the opposite, then it is a motor boat.

Sailboat skipped licence free

A sailboat can be skippered without a license in France

Driving a sailboat is more complex than driving a motorboat. So every skipper in his right mind understands that he needs a minimum of training before setting out to sea. This is why it is not necessary to have a motor boat license in France.

Which sailing club to choose?

Usually the sailing courses are given by the Sailing Schools under the quality label of French Sailing Federation. If you wish to practice without re-training, turn to the Nautical Club. In general the Sailing Schools are close to the Nautical Clubs.

The nautical clubs are very well distributed all along the coast of France. To choose your club, the first criterion is geographical. Then, the choice depends on what you are looking for. SeaZen being based in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, we recommend for its family spirit the Yacht Club de Beaulieu. To the West, the Club Nautique de Nice is recognized for national competition level. To the East, the Yacht Club de Monaco might be the most select in the world.


What to do once you have your boat license?

Once you have passed your boating licence you will only want … to sail! And yet the statistics are implacable, the majority of those who pass the sea licence in the year do not sail the first year. Then this happens again the following year for a variety of reasons. And in the end, as the years go by, the dreams do not come true. So, as soon as you have your boat licence, you need to think about how to sail. Here is an overview to help you:

Choice Interest Advice
Rent by hour
  • Sailing accompanied by a pro at an affordable rate
  • Start a first experience with your family
  • You will have to find your way between formulas such as charter, license free, accompanied by a coach or a guide, in a private group or as a passenger with other groups.
  • You may need to start a training course in a sailing school or club or make sure that your coach/skipper is able to give you theoretical and practical training.
Boat Club
  • Going out frequently and for short periods of time
  • The quality/price ratio
  • It is important to find out about them and then choose between packages with a monthly subscription to smooth out your budget but which encourage consumption, or à la carte  with no hidden fuel costs.
Weekly rental
  • Spend a very exotic holiday with your family or friends
  • You already need to know your crew members and their reactions at sea
  • Without a skipper, you need more experience than for a day rental: taking the weather forecast, routing the boat and reading the charts
  • Make a dream come true (provided you sail +2 weeks a year)
  • The purchase of a boat as a symbol of social success loses its meaning if the boat pollutes unless you convert your boat to electric, the retrofit, or buy an electric or solar boat
  • Port berths are limited and maintenance requires a high level of involvement

If you want to sail on calm, odourless and electric boats, seaZen and its partners offer a complete range of solutions for Boat tours, Self drive boat rental, Boat club, Retrofit of your boat to electric or Sale of new solar catamaran.

Photos credit, © seaZen