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How to Start a Sailing Business

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For those who love to sail, starting a sailing business is the stuff of dreams. Fortunately, it is easier than you might think. There are several business models from which to choose. One popular choice that offers entry into the sailing business with a minimum of licensing is a sailboat brokerage. Other popular choices are sailing charter companies and sailboat delivery companies, though these require sailboat operators to hold at minimum a valid Coast Guard OUPV (Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels) license. Follow these steps to start the sailing business of your choice.

Open a yacht brokerage specializing in sailboats. This is an option for sailors who might not have the required time at sea to qualify for an OUPV license. A yacht brokerage assists customers with the purchase and sale of their sailboats. Brokerages can offer used boats, new boats from a sailboat manufacturer, or a combination of the two. Business licensing requirements vary from state to state, and some states require yacht brokers to pass an exam much like a real estate agent's exam.

Attain the required experience to apply for an OUPV license, which is 360 days at sea. This sea time is documented on the Small Vessel Sea Service Form (CG-719S) provided below. A day is considered 8 hours at sea. It is also important to note whether the time was spent on inland waterways or offshore, as it will make a difference in the type of OUPV license for which you qualify. The completed sea service form must be signed by the owner of the boat (or boats) where the days were served. If the time was served on your own sailboat, your own signature will suffice.

Pass the Coast Guard OUPV license exam. Many maritime schools nationwide offer training to pass the captain's test, and some are even licensed Coast Guard examination centers. The fastest and easiest way to pass the exam is to attend a course at one of these schools. If there is no maritime school nearby, OUPV exam preparation materials are available in book form. Apply to the Coast Guard with verification of your sea time. Once your application has been approved, you will be allowed to take the test and earn your captain's license. This license enables you to carry passengers in a charter capacity or to charge customers to deliver their boats from point A to point B.

Start a charter company. If you are a people person and enjoying sailing with a crowd of people aboard, a charter company might be the answer. Charging passengers to go sailing can be a fun and lucrative business. Some companies specialize in short day or sunset cruises, while others offer long-range charters for a week or more.

Start a yacht delivery service. If you prefer a more solitary style of sailing, or you just don't have a boat appropriate to charter, a yacht delivery service is an excellent way to make a career of sailing. Boat owners often need their boats moved from one place to another and don't have the time or inclination to do it themselves. As a professional captain, you provide the delivery service and get paid up to $500 per day plus expenses to enjoy someone else's boat!


Dave Guilford has been a freelance newspaper and magazine writer for more than 10 years. As a former stockbroker, commodities trader and life insurance agency owner, he writes on personal finance, investing, insurance and retirement planning. A former international yacht racer and yacht brokerage owner, Guilford is a frequent contributor to "BoatU.S. Magazine." His work has also appeared in "Latitudes & Attitudes Magazine."