Yacht Charter License Rules and License-Free Houseboat Hire in Germany

Yacht Charter Licenses – Which One Do You Need?


Whether you need a skipper´s license in order to charter a boat or not depends on the regulations of the charter territory as well as your nationality. In addition to that the insurance rules of the charter provider could require certain qualifications form you or proof of your ability to skipper. The charter company will in any case be able to provide exact details regarding whether a license is needed or not. Another decisive factor is if you are planning a boating holiday on inland waters or at sea. Here we have compiled some information on the yacht charter license regulations, with an extra emphasis on license-free houseboat rental in Germany. Discover in 5 points what you need to know.

Which factors decide if you need a license for a bareboat yacht charter?

According to where the charter takes place and what your nationality is you either need a license or proof of sufficient sailing experience for a bareboat charter – i.e. a boat charter where you are steering the yacht yourself.

The charter provider will ask you to provide the appropriate license in accordance with the regulations of your home country or the international equivalent. And even if by laws of your own country you are not required to hold a license, it is ultimately down to the charter provider to stipulate what type of qualification you need exactly. Some countries have special regulations. In most Mediterranean countries it is enough for one member of the charter party to have the ability to skipper. The exception is Greece, where a second crew member should be able to co-skipper. And in Croatia an additional radio license is required.

Is it possible to charter a houseboat in Germany without a skipper´s license?

License regulations are in the first place dependent on the nationality of the charterer. Canadians for example normally don´t require a skipper´s license. For them it is enough to provide proof of sufficient sailing experience. Germans on the other hand need a licence in order hire a yacht.

On certain German inland waterways without much commercial traffic it is possible to rent a motor- or houseboat without any relevant sailing experience or license. Houseboats are also often protected with surrounding rub rails and fenders for cushioning in case of smaller collisions. With this kind of license-free type of yacht charter you are only allowed to drive at a speed of 12 km/h, the boat mustn´t be longer than 15 m and there can only be 12 people on board. To be able to do this, though, you need to obtain a charter permit from the provider. This permit can be acquired by taking part in an introductory course of minimum 3 hours.

On which inland waterways in Germany can you hire a yacht without a license?

Very popular for license-free boat rental in Germany are above all the lake districts of Mecklenburg and Brandenburg, but also parts of the river Saar.

In the following you find a list of the current license-free waterways in Germany that may possibly be extended by further ones in the future:

  • The Dahme-Waterway from km 10.30 – 26.04 including tributaries
  • Parts of the Finow-Canal and the Werbellin-Waterway (tributaries of the Havel-Oder-Waterway)
  • The River Lahn from km 70 – 137.07
  • The Müritz-Elde-Waterway from km 0.95 - 180 including the Stör-Waterway
  • The Müritz-Havel-Waterway from km 0 – 32.02 including the tributary waterways of Rheinsberg and Zechlin
  • The Upper Havel-Waterway from km 43.95 – 94.41 including the tributary waterways of Lychen, Templin and Wentow
  • The River Peene from km 2.50 – 34.9
  • The Rüdersdorf-Waterway with Lake Dämeritz and Lake Flaken from km 0 – 3.8, 8.2 and Lake Löcknitz von km 0 – 10.64
  • The River Saale from km 89.2 – 115.22
  • The River Saar from km 87.6 up to the German-French border
  • Tributaries of the Spree-Oder-Waterway like Lake Seddin, Gosen-Canal, River Drahendorf Spree and River Neuhaus
  • The Lower Havel-Waterway from km 56 – 156 including parts of the tributaries Potsdam-Havel-River, Beetzsee-Riewendsee-Waterway, Rathenow-Havel-River and Hohennauen-Waterway
  • The Upper Spree
  • The Ruppin-Waterway

How do you obtain a charter permit for your houseboat holiday on German inland waterways?

To get a charter permit and drive license-free on certain German inland waterways you will have to do an introductory course with the charter provider. The permit is only valid for the duration of the houseboat charter. The course is straight-forward and you can do it directly before check-in / taking over the boat. It takes at least 3 hours and consists of a theoretical and a practical part. The content is standardized and contains amongst others the traffic rules, emergency situations and description of the charter territory. During the practical part you will then learn how to steer the boat.

Can I hire a yacht without skippering it myself?

If you don´t want to be at the helm of the charter yacht yourself, you have the option to hire a skipper with the boat. In this case you can relax and rely on the skills of a qualified sailor. In addition to skippered charter there is crewed charter with a complete set of crew. Here even more responsibility and work is taken from you. You could get spoilt by a chef and/or get served by a stewardess.

On a flotilla charter you normally steer the boat yourself but you have a lead boat with a skipper and technician that can assist you if you have any problems. Alternatively you also have the option to hire a skipper for the first few days. During that time you can then brush up on your sailing skills until you are ready to take over the helm.

As you see, if you need a license and what kind depends on your preferred type of charter and the sailing territory. We hope that you know a little more now about the existing rules about skipper´s licenses if you charter a boat and wish you a great cruise. To get the best deal just enter your preferred dates into the user-friendly YachtFinder search mask.
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