JENI BONE takes a look at the options available to becoming acquainted with the water…


Like any other pastime, boating is better when you’re confident in your knowledge of the rules, the tools and the broad horizons available to you.

All over the country – on the coast, rivers, lakes and inland waterways – there are reputable training options for the kind of boating you want to get into and the skills you want to acquire... from knot tying and basic safety, to boat handling and formal qualifications such as licences and various tickets.

In this day and age, where communities and families are more fragmented than ever, boating is a pleasurable means of bringing people together. As one old salt so eloquently puts it: ‘There’s a gap in the community that a boat can fill.’


Boat licence requirements vary from state-to-state. As a general rule, anyone who drives a powered vessel for recreational purposes at a speed of 10kt (18.5km/h) or more must have a boat operator’s licence. The same applies for people who want to drive a personal watercraft (PWC) at any speed.

general-imageIn some states, Boating Safety Courses have been developed as part of the licencing process. In NSW, for example, to obtain an initial general or PWC licence applicants must complete the compulsory General Licence Boating Safety Course and for PWC applicants the PWC Licence Boating Safety Course. The Boating Safety Course can be viewed online, or by purchasing a DVD of the course for viewing at home.

An alternative is to attend a Boating Safety Course conducted by NSW Roads and Maritime Services, Marine Rescue NSW, or another by a Recognised Training Provider (RTP).

Several certificates from Yachting Australia are also recognised as satisfying the full requirements (including the practical component) for a general boat licence.

Proof of practical boating experience is also required before obtaining a boat driving licence in NSW. To gain the required practical boating experience, applicants can undertake a practical boating course with an RTP, or complete a Boating Licence Practical Logbook by undertaking a minimum of three trips in a powered vessel under power and recording trip details in the logbook with verification by an experienced and licenced skipper.


The Boating Industry Association (BIA) launched Try Boating Day as a pilot program in preparation for a state-wide launch to complement the existing programs Try Sailing Day and Try Crewing Day.

Over a dozen trailerboat dealers came together over five locations – Putney, St George, Windsor, Penrith and Bayview – with a variety of sizes and types of boats to give participants the opportunity to gain hands-on experience. More than 110 families and groups pre-registered with dozens more registering on the day.

Running for a few years now, Try Crewing is another initiative of BIA – in conjunction with Yachting NSW and partnering with sailing clubs in Newcastle, the Central Coast and Sydney – to introduce people to this exciting pastime.general-image

After an initial club briefing covering the basics of crewing, participants undertake a tour of a boat and then go out for a sail. After a real hands-on, wind in your hair experience of sailing, the clubs finish up with how participants can take their interest further and the opportunities available locally, such as the calendar of social, twilight and racing days and evenings.

Some of the participating clubs include Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association (RANSA), Royal Motor Yacht Club, Middle Harbour Yacht Club, Gosford Sailing Club and Newcastle Cruising Yacht Club.

Commodore of Gosford Sailing Club Geoff Jollow said Try Crewing had proven a boon for participants and the club.

“It has gone really well the past two years… online registration took a lot of the hassle out of coordination and packages were easy to plan,” Mr Jollow said.

“We had very good weather, which also helped, and the BIA supplied gift bags which were a great incentive and included information on licences, knot tying and BIA resources.”

Try Crewing days often attract a mixed bunch of people, which shows it doesn’t matter what your age, ability or background, sailing is very egalitarian. Such days are ideal for people of all experience levels.
While Gosford Sailing Club has a sailing focus, it does have a motor cruising section and also conducts Yachting Australia accredited courses – one of 14 clubs nationally to offer such courses.

In Mooloolaba (QLD), Sunshine Sailing Australia director John Bankart director said his club also conducted training on both sail and power – for all ages and at all levels, for fun or professional attainment.

“We offer courses for beginners covering basics to experienced sailors as well as for offshore racing and ocean passages,” Mr Bankart said.

“The courses result in recreational tickets which can be commercially endorsed for working in all parts of the world.”


Formal training gives people the skills and information they would not be able to acquire from hands-on experience alone. People with formal training have a deeper depth of knowledge and confidence, and they make better informed decisions, keeping the crew and the boat safe.

It’s advisable to update your training every few years, due to the advances in electronic navigation, new vessels equipped with new technology, plus conditions change and safety legislation is updated and can vary from state to state.

A good way to think of it is that training is fundamental to fun. Making it interesting makes learning easier – and the main objective is to help people enjoy their boating.


Little Tackers Sailing Academy has been developed specifically for kids.

The program’s developer, accomplished sailor Steven Bond, said he wanted to make sailing more accessible and more affordable.
general-image“I know the depth of the friendships I have made over the years and I wanted to set up a program that opens this up to kids and families,” Mr Bond said.

“Kids can learn many life skills through learning to sail… independence, responsibility, the importance of preparation, team work, self-esteem and becoming self-reliant.

“Sailing is a work-out for the brain and it’s also physical, requires decision making once they get further into the sport, it’s great for fitness, getting fresh air and not sitting at home on a couch or in front of the computer!”

The Tackers program is currently available through Yachting Australia centres in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.