March 22, 2024

7 min

Skills & Seamanship

RYA Yachtmaster Ocean & Qualifying Passages

crew on rya ocean qualifying passage

The highest of the RYA qualifications is Yachtmaster Ocean. Full information about the requirements are given below. The majority of Rubicon 3’s offshore passages are suitable as qualifying passages, but not all. You can see our full list of ocean qualifying trips here. We can only take a maximum of three watch leaders so please check availability before booking.

Acting as a Rubicon 3 Watch Leader

At Rubicon 3, we feel we have an absolute responsibility to the safety of everyone at sea. As such, we hold ourselves to higher standards than many others when it comes to overseeing qualifying passages. To act as a watch leader on a Rubicon 3 passage, you must already have RYA Coastal Skipper or above or international equivalent. Although we recognise one can get rusty with skills, to act as a watch leader offshore, they cannot be too rusty. When you join the boat, you will be asked to complete a 30 minute navigation assessment, which is roughly at the level of Yachtmaster Offshore. It is not that hard but if you fail this you will not be permitted to act as watch leader on the passage.

Once underway, you will be assessed by the skipper. You are not expected to know everything and will receive support, training and advice throughout. However, we do expect you to rise to the occasion, show a good level of effort and proper care for your watch. We also expect to see a satisfactory level of basic seamanship with regard to helming, sail selection, weather monitoring and such like. At the end of your passage, the skipper will fill out an assessment with you (Watch leader assessment) and so long as you have met the required standards you will be signed off.

What we provide on board

There are sextants on board, along with a nautical almanac and sight reduction tables.

What to bring

Bring a pad of paper and pens. Also, bring a ring binder, hole punch and paper so you can build your exam file as you go. You can also access our celestial how to sheets for all different types of plots. In case they run out, you are advised to bring some Universal Plotting Sheet (print these out on A3 if possible, A4 if not). We suggest around 10-12 plotting sheets. Print off and bring an RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Exam application.

What to practise

You need to be able to do a Sun sight reduction before you get on board. We accept you may be rusty, and we will be able to help you a little, but the expectation is that you have the basic skills you need. When it comes to the set of sights for your exam, and your compass check, we will not assist you – this is your demonstration of what you can do.

What you need to do on board

While acting as a competent watch leader,  you need to be gathering the evidence and records of your voyage and building a pack. Put together something of which you can be proud. To this end:

  • Photograph weather forecasts in build up to passage and during it
  • Note forecast vs actual
  • Photograph any Navtex, Sat C weather comms etc
  • Record victualling plan (& how it worked out)
  • Record briefings and pre trip training such as MoB drills
  • Photograph the log book and any GPS tracks
  • Note down all boat details such as tonnage, LOA, sea cock plan, stores etc
  • Get a Sun-Run-Sun as soon as you can (you may not have another clear day) but then try and navigate as much of the passage as you can using celestial. You should take sights of the Moon, stars and planets as well.
  • Don’t just take the sights. Do the reduction and plot there and then or it’s useless.
  • Do a compass check using the Sun and a sigh reduction.
  • Gather together a full record of your voyage and produce a really impressive pack for your exam.
  • Make sure your application form is filled in and signed.


The candidate must provide the examiner with the following information 48 hours prior to the exam:

  1. A narrative account of the planning and execution of the qualifying passage providing all relevant details.
  2. Navigational records, completed on board a yacht on passage, out of sight of land showing that the candidate has navigated the yacht without the use of electronic navigational aids. The records must include as a minimum, planning, reduction and plotting of a sun run meridian altitude sight and a compass check carried out using the bearing of the sun, moon, a star or planet.

During the oral test the candidate will be required to answer questions on all aspects of ocean passage making in a yacht, including passage planning, navigation, worldwide meteorology, crew management and yacht preparation, maintenance and repairs.


The written exam will include questions on sights and sight reduction and worldwide meteorology.

Candidates who hold the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Ocean Shorebased Course Completion Certificate (final exam must have been invigilated at an RYA RTC), or a MCA issued full STCW Certificate of Competence as a Deck Officer (Unlimited) will be exempt from the written examination.

Before you book your exam please check that you:

  1. have completed the required mileage and experience as skipper
  2. have read the syllabus in RYA Logbook (G158)
  3. have read and comply with the pre-requisites above.

If you need your Certificate of Competence in order to work on board a commercial craft subject the MCA’s codes of practice, you will need to get it commercially endorsed – see ‘Related articles’.

Please note: Only those who hold the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence are eligible to receive the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence on passing the oral exam. Those holding OOW (Yacht 3000gt) will receive a pass confirmation certificate.

RYA Yachtmaster Ocean exam pre-requisites

Minimum seatimeHave completed a qualifying passage on board a sailing or motor yacht up to 500gt1 which meets the following criteria:600M including at least 200M more than 50 miles from land or charted objects capable of being used for navigation;Duration of at least 96 hours;The candidate must have taken a full part in the planning and preparation of the passage, including: navigational plan, checking the material condition of the yacht and her equipment; storing with spare gear, fuel, water and victuals.Throughout the passage, the candidate must have acted in a responsible capacity, either in sole charge of a watch or as skipper.Candidates must have successfully navigated a yacht at sea by astro navigation. As a minimum this should include the planning, reduction, and plotting of a sun-run-meridian altitude or sun-run-sun sight and a compass check carried out using the bearing of the sun, moon, a star or planet.The minimum qualifying passage must have been accrued within 10 years of the examination date.
Form of examOral and written assessment of sights take at sea.
Certification requiredHold either:RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence, orMCA issued Certificate of Competence as officer in charge of a navigational watch (OOW), Yachts less than 3000gt, unlimited area, Reg II/1.
Minimum exam durationApproximately 1.5 hours

Key information re qualifying passages

  • Passage: A passage is a non-stop voyage from a departure port / safe haven to a destination port / safe haven. Where a passage must be of a minimum distance to meet exam pre-requisites, the distance should be taken as the shortest navigable route established when planning a safe and efficient passage.Passages which artificially lengthen the distance will not be accepted.In the example below where the distance run for each passage A-B, A-C and A-D exceeds 600M, only passage A-B would be accepted as a 600M qualifying passage.
  • Illustration showing qualifying passages for Yachtmaster exams
  • The distance measured by log will almost certainly differ from the planned distance due to streams, currents, weather and other navigational factors. Both the planned distance and distance run should exceed the required distance.Passages such as recognised races which may not comply exactly with these requirements may be submitted to the RYA for consideration before the voyage.
  • Skipper: The skipper is the person nominated and responsible for the planning and execution of a passage including vessel and watch management. The skipper is not necessarily the most experienced or qualified person on board but must be the person with responsibility for the safe execution of the passage. If the skipper’s role is transferred to another person at any time during a passage then neither person can claim to have skippered that passage.
  • Mate: For the purpose of qualifying passages, a mate is any person on board who has sole responsibility for managing a navigational watch during a passage. They must be actively engaged in the planning and execution of a passage.
  • Tidal: An area is deemed tidal if published stream, current or tidal range data is available, the influence of which is significant enough to require the effects to be taken into account to plan and execute a safe and efficient passage.
  • Days on board: A day on board or as skipper is a period of eight consecutive hours living on board, the majority of which the vessel should have been at sea. Periods of less than eight hours cannot be aggregated to make up eight hours. Only one eight-hour period may be counted in any 24 hour period.
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