Co-Navigation: Taking Strangers Sailing in France and Spain

Posted on May 10, 2016 by Richard Shrubb under Uncategorized Comments Off on Co-Navigation: Taking Strangers Sailing in France and Spain


With the explosion of Airbnb the world has become aware of the so-called social economy. Where for hotels this will mean competition with a person with a spare room who can rent it out for a few days to help them pay their mortgage, and taxi companies feel threatened by Uber, but what’s happening for sailing?

Regulations for someone who charges people to take them sailing have meant that professional sailors around Europe have effectively had their jobs protected by the law. This appears to be changing with the advent of ‘co-navigation’ in France and a new sailing qualification in Spain. Other countries may follow in fairly short order. Let’s start with France and then Spain before assessing the future…

Co-Navigation, The French Way!

France as a nation has taken the idea of the social economy with both hands and run with it. A blog on the new industry stated “The fact of the matter is that it is no longer possible to be a global leader in the Sharing Economy without being a leader in France.”

While France has embraced Uber and Airbnb, it has also taken steps to deregulate sailing. Until recently, as with many other nations, in order to take someone sailing on your yacht for a fee, you had to get professional qualifications that had to be re-examined every five years in much the same way as you would if you were skippering a cruise ship or a ferry. Things however have changed with the development of co-navigation.

Essentially, as long as you are not teaching someone to sail you can invite people to pay you to come sailing on your yacht.

From what I have seen (admittedly, limited by having to search Google via Google Translate) this means that almost anyone can charter their yacht out and skipper it themselves with just the basic French sailing qualifications. For coastal sailing this would mean you would need to have the Permis Plaisance Cotiere (Pleasure Coastal Permit), and for offshore sailing you will need the Permis Plaisance Hauturier (The Offshore Permit).

Sailing insurance in France is not generally required though all marinas have stated that you need it to use them. Even so, a leader in France’s social economy sailing movement suggested in a blog that harbourmasters in France don’t check this routinely!

Co-Navigation, The Spanish Way!

Spain’s sailing regulations are notoriously well enforced by their marine police, and there have been a number of edicts from Madrid that irritiate the daylights out of boat owners, to put it mildly.

For luxury yachts there is a blog in English that describes the hoops you must jump through to charter out your vessel – and the cash you must pay the Spanish government for the privilege.

There are rather silly regulations, such as not being allowed on your vessel when it is on charter, as well as the Matriculation Tax – a luxury tax worth 12% of the depreciated value of the vessel – though this is limited to vessels over 15 metres (50ft or so).

However, Spain has recently taken a step towards making it easier for sailors to charter out their vessels. The ‘certificado de patrón profesional de embarcaciones de recreo’ is just a baby step above their top recreational sailing qualification the Patron de Yates.

To get the Patron de Yates you must be a very experienced sailor – it is very like the RYA Yachtmaster – but you would then get a commercial certification that allows you to take passengers sailing on your yacht. Until the development of the certificado de patron profesional, you would have had to get a full on merchant marine sailing qualification!

The uberification of yachting?

To become a journalist I took a year out of my life and spent a good £7,000 to get qualified to a high standard. I had to pass a media law exam dealing with very difficult aspects of UK law in order to qualify, as well as a range of other punishing courses that nevertheless left me qualified to a very high standard.

As a result, I have done a number of investigations over the years that have seriously pissed people off but they couldn’t sue me as I stayed legal. Anyone however, can call themselves a journalist if they think they can string two sentences together and impress an editor.

Journalism as a profession isn’t protected, and this affects us as a profession both with idiots getting sued and by knocking the bottom out of the market in terms of the rates we can charge.

In France, professional skippers are starting to get quite peeved with the co-navigation regulations for pretty much exactly this reason. Professional sailors have to undergo stringent testing and be safe in all conditions, and their vessels need to be inspected regularly. This doesn’t apply to leisure sailors doing co-navigation.

In addition the European Union is slowly waking up to the social economy and we could see a change in regulations to leisure yacht owners taking people sailing throughout the 27 member states in the next decade.

Could this threaten professional sailors? The obvious answer is, not really. There will always be the need for qualified journalists, and there will always be the need for professional sailors. Deregulating the leisure charter sailing market will threaten some, but not most of the professional sailing industry.

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