Learn to Drive a Powerboat in the Caribbean, Benefits are Recreational & Professional

Learn to sail programs are popular throughout the Caribbean. Learn to powerboat courses are fewer. However, they are available, either for those whose desire is recreational for chartering more confidently or helming their own vessel or for those whose aim is professional, like driving dive boats, go-fast day charter vessels or ferries or even start their climb up the ladder to the captain’s chair on a superyacht. Either way, it’s no secret the appeal of power is on the upswing.

Recreational Instruction

“Powerboating has increased year over year, and perhaps this can be attributed to a strong economy with more discretionary income, and the increase in boat membership clubs that offer reciprocal benefits from place to place,” says Beth Oliver, director of marketing for Offshore Sailing School, Ltd, headquartered in Fort Myers, FL, with locations in the British Virgin Islands on Tortola and Scrub Island. “Plus, it’s much more likely that a sailor may move to a power catamaran, than a powerboater move to sailing.”

The growing popularity of power catamarans over the past decade has especially driven interest in powerboating in the Caribbean.

“Sail still represents the vast majority of the charter industry, but power charters are the fastest-growing segment over the past few years and are gaining steam rapidly,” says Ian Pederson, senior marketing manager for The Moorings and Sunsail, headquartered in Clearwater, FL, with power cats available in its Antigua, BVI, Grenada, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Martin bases. The power cats are Robertson & Caine-built, 39- to 53-feet LOA, and 3- and 4-cabin in capacity.

To charter a large power catamaran, such as those in the Moorings fleet, guests must have experience operating a twin-screw vessel within 10’ in length of the yacht they plan to charter, according to Pedersen. “We don’t directly offer boating courses, but we have a close partnership with Offshore Sailing School, who have recently implemented a power boating course in Cape Coral, Florida and Tortola, BVI, aboard power catamarans similar to those you would charter with us. Completing this course would provide guests with the proper experience to charter on their own.”

Specifically, Offshore Sailing School’s course is called: Fast Track® to Power Cruising.

“Students arrive Sunday night and stay on the power catamaran at the marina, and instruction runs from Monday to Friday. Up to 4 students live and learn aboard the boat with our instructor. On Friday, the students drop the instructor off at the base, and handle the power cat alone, returning Saturday morning. They earn US Powerboating and Coastal Powerboat Cruising certifications. We also offer Private Couple instruction or a ‘Buy the Boat’ option for a family of five together.”

Cost-wise, Offshore’s power catamaran course on Tortola starts at $3,751 per person for 4 students together or $6,230 for a private couple. 

Courses for Professionals

There are basically two types of powerboat instructional courses. 

“We offer Boatmaster Training Courses based on the recommendations of the IMO (International Maritime Organization), which were developed for those in the Caribbean about 20 years ago,” says Peter Anthony, director of Ondeck Sailing Ltd and Ondeck Ocean Racing LLC, in Antigua. “These courses are for anyone who wants to commercially operate a vessel under 80 feet, such as tourist vessels, sports fishers, motor cruisers, ferries and small cargo boats. There are three grades, with Boatmaster 1 being the highest and requiring more experience and courses but enabling those with this training to go further offshore.”

Those who want to work internationally or on yachts up to around 200 gross tons can choose RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Yacht Master courses. A seven-day course includes a two-day exam at the end, combined with theoretical and practical training. 

“The biggest demand we have is for the RYA Yacht Master level. This is from young professionals who have done their qualifications in Europe or the U.S., then worked as a deck hand on a yacht for a few years. At this stage, they have their miles and passages and are looking to learn more and move up.”

The cost of Boatmaster’s course runs from $1000 to $2500, while a RYA Yacht Master course starts at $2500.

Powerboating skills are great to have to see the Caribbean, while playing or working. And, you can get this instruction right in the region. 

Carol_Bareuther
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.