What does it mean to have a boat ‘coded’?

Any boat used for commercial chartering will need to have been coded by the owner. Coding certification is a measure enforced by the MCA (Marine Coastguard Agency), to ensure that any boats used commercially are safe to take afloat, and meet legal requirements.

A yacht charter or boat hire will have a ‘Category’ from 0-6, which tells you where and when you can take the vessel, and with how many people on board.

Coding certification will vary depending on what you want to use your boat for. Below are the seven possible categories:

  • Category 6: To sea, within 3 miles from a nominated departure point(s) named in the certificate and never more than 3 miles from land, in favourable weather and
  • Category 5: To Sea, within 20 miles from a nominated departure point named in the certificate in favourable weather and daylight.
  • Category 4: Up to 20 miles from a safe haven, in favourable weather and in daylight.
  • Category 3: Up to 20 miles from a safe haven. (Night equipment necessary)
  • Category 2: Up to 60 miles from a safe haven.
  • Category 1: Up to 150 miles from a safe haven.
  • Category 0: Unrestricted


Category 0 obviously provides your boat with the highest cover, but with this comes additional costs and responsibilities for providing the very highest level safety equipment. You may want to think about what you use your boat for and which category is consequently most suitable.

A ‘safe haven’ is defined as somewhere you can safely tie up and make repairs.

Using the terminology around coding, people will say “This boat is Cat (3) coded” or “I need to charter a Cat 2 cruising yacht”. This means everyone can be on the same page about what the boat is safely capable of.

For a more in-depth guide to coding your boat, see our guidance at boatafloat.com 

5 transferrable skills children can learn from sailing

Whether it’s on a family yachting holiday, or learning to sail a small dinghy by themselves, there are so many transferrable skills that children can learn on the water…

  • Patience

If you’re a sailor yourself, then you will know that sometimes we have to wait for the wind. This involves concentration, sitting still, and a whole load of patience. If they are engaged and determined out on the water, those light-wind skills can teach children to that patience really is a virtue…

  • Adaptability and Resilience 

Your child may be the kind who likes to plan meticulously, or may prefer to make it up as they go along; but either way they will have to be flexible when they are on the water. The conditions change, as do the boats around them, and they will have to take charge and adapt. Often this means bouncing back if the situation has become a little more difficult or frustrating for them…

  • Ability to lose

Similarly, not everyone can win every race. Your child might start to engage in casual racing at their sailing club, or aboard your family boat, and with this comes the experiences of winning and losing. Often, sequential races mean that sailors must quickly shake off bad results and re-focus for the next start.



Whether it’s negotiating trolleys down a slipway or communicating on board a double hander, sailing requires teamwork. As a less intensively ‘team-orientated’ sport than some, sailing can particularly suit children who prefer working in smaller groups, but still enjoy participating around others.


  • Confidence

I remember a conversation I had with a parent of a six-year-old who was taking out her first Optimist dinghy. This child was shy and reserved, but had grown in confidence with her sailing over the summer. Her dad commented that it was amazing to see his daughter, who was normally so dependent on adult help, being solely in control of this ‘vessel’! Driving a car or even pushing a trolley may seem second-nature to us as adults, but being ‘the driver’ is a big deal for a child – a chance to be trusted with the controls.


If you are keen to get your family into dinghy or yacht sailing, why not hire or charter a boat to find your feet, and then explore your nearest RYA sailing centre?

Becoming a commercially endorsed skipper

The chances are that if you own a boat, you’re probably already well qualified to skipper it. However, no matter how experienced you are, you need to be commercially endorsed by an MCA licensed authority such as the RYA before working on any British flagged vessels, including your own boat!

Becoming Commercially Endorsed involves the authority checking that your qualifications are legitimate and current.

Below is a matrix from the MGN280 which details the qualification needed for each type of boat and the category it will be sailed under:

For example, you can see that for a Cat 0 (unrestricted) vessel, it is a requirement to have a Yachtmaster Ocean qualification, and also to make sure that someone else on board has the Yachtmaster Ocean or Offshore. If you were on a chartered yacht and your skipper was injured or unwell, you would need a competent replacement to keep everyone safe.

You can also see that for Cat 5 and 6, the RYA Day Skipper qualification is sufficient, along with twelve months relevant experience. If your vessel is only registered for Cat 6, you could just take the RYA Powerboat Level 2, which is a course that can be completed in one weekend.

Such courses are easily accessible and will teach you valuable information about protecting yourself, your boat and other water users. Look on the RYA website to find courses near you.

See here for Boatafloat’s full guide to gaining commercial endorsement