Regulation of leisure sailing on the sea in the UK is not overbearing. However, when sailing to certain parts, or using electronic aids extra rules apply. The following links are meant to help in finding appropriate information. This is not an exhaustive list. Other websites such as the RYA have good professional advice.
The Government has helpfully summarised the minimum standard that we must meet when using our boats.
This notice by HM Revenue and Customs is intended for use by owners of pleasure craft who sail their craft to or from the UK and specifies the customs arrival and departure requirements.
New licence conditions have been introduced by Ofcom due to concerns about the risk of exposure to electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions which are transmitted by all radio equipment. This change in licence conditions affects boat owners using radio, radar and other emergency alerting equipment on UK vessels.
Vessels need to carry a certificate describing the transmitting kit on board and what is done about safeguarding people from harm through transmissions. The Cruising Association has produced a simple pro-forma that enables you to self-assess your own boat and equipment. Simply fill this in and carry a copy on the boat. Where appropriate place warning notices next to equipment.
All leisure craft using the Port area (which includes the Swale and its associated creeks) must pay the Annual Leisure Craft Conservancy Charge. Proof of payment is provided by a sticker that must be displayed on the boat. The charge does not apply to open unpowered dinghies under 5.1 metres.
Register your ship’s radio with Ofcom and get your ships licence online via Ofcom. This is free of charge online, or you can do this via post, but there is a charge.
You should keep your ship radio licence onboard your vessel for inspection if required. If a valid ships licence cannot be produced on demand, then (especially outside the UK), foreign authorities may confiscate the equipment, take action against the skipper or even detain the vessel. Keep a note of your Call Sign next to the radio: It is not unusual to be asked for this.
A private leisure boat can have part I or part III registration.
Part I is a comprehensive register including title, proof of ownership and details any mortgages on the boat, it also acts as proof of nationality.
Part III simply acts as a passport for the vessel so it can prove its nationality and be sailed outside of UK waters. Part III registration is simpler and cheaper to apply for.
The RYA SafeTrx app monitors your boat journeys and can alert emergency contacts should you fail to arrive on time. It is an app for both Android and Apple iOS smartphones that allows you to track your journey on your phone. HM Coastguard has scrapped the CG66 safety scheme and has recommended that users use the RYA SafeTrx system in its place.
If you have a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Simplified Voyage-Data Recorder it can be registered for free in around 15 minutes.
The Short Range Certificate is the minimum qualification required by law to control the operation of VHF and VHF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) equipment on any British flagged vessel voluntarily fitted with a radio either fixed or hand held. The RYA website has links to locate Radio Training centres