The following is a guide to what is required to charter a yacht and skipper it in the Mediterranean.
In Croatia possession of a skippers licence is a legal requirement, and there is an official list of recognised licences which is published by the authorities. As far as we are aware Croatia is the only Mediterranean country where such a list exists. The list shows qualifications that are issued by various authorities around the world which are recognised in Croatia. Most charter companies insist that the skipper has a qualification that is on the list and one person should also have a VHF licence. Anyone from any country can have any of the qualifications shown and you can skipper a yacht even with the most basic licence shown, provided you also have sufficient relevant experience. You can view the list here
All of these countries expect a skipper to be qualified, although there is no official list of recognised licences. Qualifications should ideally be from a national Sailing body like the RYA, ISA or one of the larger licencing bodies like IYT, ASA etc. Normally any of their Skipper qualifications like the Day Skipper from the RYA or ISA, the Flotilla Skipper or Bareboat Skipper from IYT etc are accepted, as well as any higher level qualifications.
Where possible the qualification should include a Photo, and for this reason the International Certificate of Competence "ICC" is now being asked for more and more by the authorities. Most European countries recognise the ICC, and in the UK and Ireland most sailing schools can do a straight forward assessment, for experienced skippers without qualifications. In addition people of any nationality can now get an ICC, and you can get more information on this here
A Flotilla is where you rent a yacht and then sail as part of a group of other yachts, under the overall guidance of lead skippers that have specific local knowledge, and are there to assist with any sailing issues that you may have on the trip. This option is ideal, either for people with less sailing experience, or anyone that likes the social side of things or who does not know the area.
A Bareboat charter is where you rent a yacht and head off on your own, making all of your own decisions and taking care of any sailing issues that may occur as you go along.
In both of these cases however, the skipper is still responsible for skippering the yacht and so in either case the skipper must be qualified and satisfy any legal issues of skippers qualifications that apply in the country that the yacht is being chartered from.
There is nothing in any law that allows the responsibility of the skipper of any yacht to be passed on to another skipper of a different yacht or to assume that the Skipper is no longer responsible for his vessel and crew just because they are sailing as part of a flotilla.
In all countries, before you can rent a yacht, in accordance with maritime law, it is understood that there must be someone competent on board to take charge of the yacht as the skipper, and the normal wording on official paperwork, insurance documents etc refers to a “qualified skipper”. What is often a grey area however is exactly what makes a skipper qualified, and many people ask
Can experience alone suffice or
If there is a legal requirement for the skipper to have some form of qualification, what should it be?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to the above. You should always assume that some form of qualification will be expected by the authorities in any country that you are planning on chartering in, but often this may only be asked for if you are unlucky to be involved in an incident. In the absence of anything more definite than this, we suggest that you use the official list for Croatia as a guide, although many other qualifications not on the list are perfectly acceptable for skippering in countries other than Croatia.
If you decide to charter without possession of a qualification of some form, then you are effectively self certifying and so should be able to justify this if required. Fortunately serious accidents are rare, but, for example, anyone can be unlucky enough to be hit by an out of control speed boat that someone has just rented locally for the day. If this involves serious injuries, then this could end up with the courts having to decide which vessel's insurance company should bear the subsequent costs, in which case both skippers' experience and qualifications are likely to be checked in detail!!!
Finally all charter companies will have a clause in their small print to state that they can refuse to allow someone to take a yacht if at check in it appears that the skipper may not be competent to handle the yacht being hired, irrespective of their qualifications. In this case they can demand that they go out for a trial to check the skipper before handing over the yacht and if they are not satisfied insist that you hire a local skipper at your expense.