RYA Yachtmaster Prep and Exams

Client:     Advanced Sailors wanting the coveted RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Coastal or Offshore certificate of competence.

Dates:   Two prep/exam sessions available in 2023  September 4-9 and September 11-16.

Info:      Five day live aboard exam preparation week, followed by 2 days of exams.

Instructor:  Dave DeWolfe

We offer RYA Yachtmaster Exam preparation on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, the home waters of the schooner ‘Bluenose’. All courses are conducted on the 35′ sloop ‘Michaela’, a centre cockpit Swedish built Hallberg-Rassy.

For information on RYA Training click here.

RYA Yachtmaster Coastal/Offshore Prep Week and Exams

An RYA Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence is often the ultimate aim of aspiring skippers. It is a well known, highly respected qualification worldwide, proving your experience and competence as a skipper.

Unlike other courses in the cruising programme, there is no formal training to complete in order to become a Yachtmaster. Instead, provided that you have sufficient experience and seatime, you can put yourself forward for an exam to test your skills and knowledge.

We offer customized tutoring to identify your strengths and weaknesses very early during the prep and then work to set you up for success for the examinations.

Duration 5 days, 4 nights

Material provided  The Complete Yachtmaster: Sailing, Seamanship and Navigation for the Modern Yacht Skipper by Tom Cunliffe, or
RYA Yachtmaster Handbook by James Stevens

Student:Instructor Ratio 3

RYA Certificates of Competence are some of the most useful and credible of all yachting qualifications. They thoroughly test the skipper’s ability, and can therefore appear daunting to potential candidates. But well-prepared skippers with the right experience needn’t worry. With practice and preparation, you should be able to relax sufficiently to let your skills shine through any exam nerves.

This guide will help prepare you, whether you are taking the Yachtmaster Coastal or Yachtmaster Offshore exam.

Yachtmaster Coastal and Yachmaster Offshore – What’s the Difference?

The definition of a Yachtmaster is: ‘A yachtsman or woman competent to skipper a cruising yacht on any passage that can be completed without the use of astronavigation’.

Yachtmasters should be able to enter any well-charted harbour for the first time, with sufficient depth, by day or night.

A Yachtmaster Coastal has ‘the knowledge needed to skipper a yacht on coastal cruises, but does not necessarily have the experience needed to undertake longer passages’.

In other words, the theory is the same for both, but less practical experience and skill is required for the Yachtmaster Coastal exam.

Pre-exam Experience

As with any exam, the more practice you have beforehand, the more confident you will feel. Before your exam, be more adventurous than the usual weekend trip to your favourite anchorage. Enter some new harbours to refine your pilotage. Attempt the occasional night entry and be aware of the problems.

There is no requirement for you to attend an RYA course before your exam. However, it is often worth receiving some tuition, if only to find out your  strengths and weaknesses. Many centres offer an exam preparation service.

What Happens During an Exam?

Your RYA examiner will meet you onboard and talk you through the plan for the day. They understand that you could be nervous and will do their best to allay your fears and make sure you are clear about what they want you to do. They are there to find out what you can do, rather than pick holes.

You will be asked to undertake a short passage, but you may have to plan a longer one. In general, you should skipper the yacht in your normal style. If this means putting the kettle on every half hour, then do it!


You must know your position reasonably accurately throughout the exam, but don’t make the mistake of being so busy plotting fixes that you forget to look around you. Often, a quick glance on deck will confirm your position from a buoy or transit.

Make sure you know how to use a GPS, but there is no need to over-navigate.

You will usually be given practical problems involving tidal streams and heights. Make life easy for yourself and look them up beforehand – it’s not cheating. Practice a few tidal calculations so you are happy with the methods you are going to use.

Boat Handling

You need to know how your boat will react, its turning circle and any predictable quirks to its handling. There will be some close quarters manoeuvring, usually in a harbour, to demonstrate your skills at berthing and leaving pontoons, piles or moorings. Sailing yachts will complete this section under power, but make sure you practice manoeuvring under sail too, picking up mooring buoys and short tacking.

Your examiner isn’t looking for first-time-every-time success, but you will need to demonstrate competence and a good understanding of how the boat reacts at slow speed. Don’t hesitate to change sails or reef, if you think it is necessary for the task.

Experience in a variety of conditions will be your biggest help in these situations.

Man Overboard

Exams almost always include a man overboard recovery exercise. The multitude of methods for this can be confusing, but we coach you in what is currently best practices, before the exam, both under sail and under power.However it’s done, you must end up with the yacht stopped next to the man in the water. during the exam you may (or may not) have the engine available.


Make sure you understand and follow safety procedures, and give a safety brief. If you decide that harnesses should be worn at night, take your own advice.


Listen to the forecast before your exam and be prepared for questions about the current weather and how this might affect a passage plan. Understand how weather systems influence sea conditions and how to plan based on this knowledge. The type of boat and strengths of your crew can have a bearing on decisions based on the weather, so your examiner may ask you to consider various possibilities. There is rarely a definitive answer, so it is your informed opinions that are required.

Skippering Ability

This is where your experience and knowledge will really show. Whether you are fully in command of the yacht is the most important assessment that your examiner will make.

A good skipper leads the crew and communicates with them, making sure they understand what is going on and listening to them when they have something to say. They do not shout a stream of commands, leaving their crew in a quivering mess. Quiet competence instils confidence, helping your crew feel safe in the knowledge that the right decisions are being made.

So, are you ready for your exam?

• The RYA Yachtmaster standard is the ‘gold standard’ for yacht training around the world and demands a high level of skill and knowledge.• It is a great benchmark of your years of sailing and commitment to the sport of yacht sailing. Many of us take great pride in accomplishing the Yachtmaster standard; demonstrating a culmination of our sailing, boat handling, navigational, boat management and seamanship skills.

• Should you receive the Yachtmaster Certificate, you are eligible to have your certificate commercially endorsed. This endorsed certificate is the recognized professional yacht skippering ticket in Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, UK and Europe.

• Should you wish to join the growing yacht training industry, a commercially endorsed Yachtmaster certificate is the minimum entry requirement to become an RYA Cruising Instructor within an RYA school anywhere in the world.

1. SEA-TIME – Minimum of 50 days, 2,500 miles including at least 5 passages over 60 miles measured along the rhumb line from the port of departure to the destination, acting as skipper for at least two of these passages and including two which have involved overnight passages. 5 days experience as skipper. At least half this mileage and passages must be in tidal waters. All qualifying sea-time must be within 10 years prior to the exam. Please be advised this is an absolute minimum requirement to be examined!

2. VHF – ROC (M) with DSC or higher

3. Valid First Aid and CPR qualification – CPR within one year.  First aid course must be 8 hours or longer.

The following are not pre-requisites to the exam but are additional requirements should you wish to have your certificate commercially endorsed:

1. Transport Canada Medical certificate

A list of Designated Marine Medical Examiners in Canada

2. Sea Survival Course The recommended minimum level of safety training is the MED A1/A2. However to ensure recognition internationally we recommend you take the STCW Basic Safety offered at all Marine training institutions across Canada.

3. The Professional Practices and Responsibilities on-line courseyou can take that with us.  Online, and priced at $70.00.

Fees and Booking

Price $2295.00.

The above price covers the cost of specialized tutoring from a current RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Instructor/ Examiner.  The examiner for the exam is a different person.  The exam fee is separate and is paid to RYA. It is about $380 for the Yachtmaster Coastal Exam, and about $425 for the Yachtmaster Offshore Exam.

Request more Information

Register for the course

If you need a room before and after the course, we have negotiated a special Discovery Sailing room rate for your convenience.   If you would like to book a room using our Discovery rate (20% discount), please call or email Jeff Green at 902-627-3361 or at jeff.green@oakislandresort.ca.

“I liked the practical hands-on approach to each problem couples with the extensive experience of the instructor”

T.T., Yachtmaster Prep Candidate
  • Very knowledgeable and encouraging Instructor and Examiner
  • Opportunity to learn and practice new techniques
  • Better practices, techniques, record keeping demonstrated
J.R., Yachtmaster Prep Candidate