All you need to know about obtaining a skipper's ticket

(Originally published in the March 2019 issue of Ski-Boat magazine)

ANTON GETS, SADSAA’s Deputy Safety Officer — Coastal, tells you exactly how to go about getting your skipper’s ticket ….

ONE must be truly motivated to obtaining a Certificate of Competence, especially with a surf launch endorsement, and then decide which category of vessel you want to skipper:
• Cat B is 40 nautical miles to sea with a two engine rig.
• Cat C is 15 nautical miles to sea with a two engine rig.
• Cat D is 5 nautical miles to sea with a one or two engine rig.
• Cat E is 1 nautical mile to sea with a one or two engine rig.
• Cat R is for sheltered launches, i.e. harbours, dams, lakes, rivers, estuaries and all inland waters where boating is permitted.
Boats with 15hp or less don’t require a Certificate of Competence (COC) or Certificate of fitness (COF) for the boat but SAMSA highly recommends that you kit the boat out with the same safety equipment required for Category R boats.
We also strongly recommend that candidates do the Cat B to D Skipper’s Course COC as it is much more informative and ultimately covers just about all the scenarios that you may encounter at sea in difficult situations. It also covers basic seamanship and one will want to advance further after starting off with perhaps an entry level boat like a semi-rigid, jetski or single engine boat. Although you may have two motors on your boat, a Cat E COC will still limit you to one nautical mile (1.8 km) offshore.
You cannot convert your Cat E or R to the B to D ratings as they have different theory examinations with a lot more detail involved, including navigation, law, power, weather, first aid etc. It sounds hectic, but if you study it all makes sense and is needed for any difficulty you might encounter when out at sea.
The B – D licence allows you to skip all boats including semi-rigid, jetskis and bow riders (river boats) under 9 metres in length.
The course involves 16 hours of theory lectures, but that can be done over three or four days in four-hour long sessions. Most lecturers can adjust the classes to suit the candidates.
SAMSA legislation on practical surf experience requires a minimum of three launches on four different days at the wheel with a qualified skipper on board who then can instruct you and sign off the launches and sea experience on the required SAMSA log sheets. You can also go to a certified skipper’s training institution that holds courses weekly and do practical surf launches from first light and finish at approximately 08h00. When the practical training is finished you will then start with the theory at about 09h00. Some skipper’s training institutions may do theory up-country in the evenings or on weekends and then send you to do practical surf training with a training institution at the coast.
It’s much easier to do the practical and theory training at the same time, but unfortunately you may need to take leave or make arrangements where you can do it in your own time or on weekends. Doing practical training at the weekend is not always ideal because of the chance of inclement weather, and on a good weather day the launch site will be busy with everyone launching. As a result it can take quite a bit of time to get all the launching in. Bear this in mind if you’re going to travel a long distance for a weekend. We recommend that you to do one solid course so that you can get it over and done with at the same time and remain focused on what you are doing.
For every category, including category R, one must do a practical test which has to be signed off by a registered SAMSA qualified examiner. The boat that you are signed off for — in both surf and sheltered categories — is the boat that you are qualified to take out to sea through the surf or harbour. For instance if you do the examination on a jetski you will only be licenced for <9m jetski endorsement. The same with semi-rigid craft and single/double engines or tiller arm endorsements. Therefore it is recommended that when you do skipper’s training you do it on a deep sea rigid boat <9m with two engines through the surf..
To upgrade from a Cat C licence to a Cat B licence you need experiential hours at the helm — 100 hours at 15nm — signed off by a skipper with a Cat B licence. In other words, to obtain a Cat B licence (40nm <9m) there is no extra theory involved, only experience at sea.
If you want to go further than that and add extra endorsements like night rating and dive endorsements you will need to do an extra course. Night rating involves another theory course which focuses on night lights, shapes and sizes. For night rating launching through the surf you have to launch before sunset and beach after sunrise. If you’re operating through harbours you have to go through Port Control when proceeding to sea day or night. No further practical experience is needed to upgrade to a night rating. For the dive endorsement you must furnish the examiner with a copy of your divemaster card or instructor’s card to enable the endorsement to be added.
I suggest that before purchasing a vessel you should decide what your ultimate goal is — recreational boating, water skiing, inshore fishing, deep sea fishing etc. Start out with a good entry level vessel and motors suited to your purpose, and then from there purchase something that will suit you for future enjoyment and outings in all aspects of the sport. If you purchase a suitable boat you can use it on rivers and dams for family outings and enjoyment and also go deep sea fishing and travel anywhere in South Africa and Moçambique through surf and harbours.
The minimum age at which one can obtain a skipper’s ticket (COC) is 16 years for recreational purposes category B to R. You have to be at least 18 years old to obtain sport & recreational/commercial ticket B to R.
Please note that some digital selective calling (DSC) VHF training institutions are advising people that they can’t do a skipper’s course until they have done a radio course. THIS IS NOT TRUE. We suggest that you do the skipper’s course first, and once you have passed these exams then worry about doing the radio course . You might not complete the skipper’s course for some reason and then you would have paid in excess of R3 000 for something you will never use.
Regarding the DSC VHF, the digital selective calling is still not a regulation as yet, but you are required to have a VHF operator’s licence and VHF radio equipment on your boat licenced with ICASA.
Any enquires can be made to the Provincial Safety Officers, National Safety Officer, Deputy Safety Officers or SADSAA Secretary. They will answer questions and assist in whatever way they can.

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