Bespoke Boatmaster Training

Boatmaster Training

We have been running Boatmasters Licence, (BML), training ever since the licence was introduced. There are two tiers of BML, Tier 1 and Tier 2.

Tier 1 is for bigger vessels in more challenging waters . Tier 2 is a 'restricted' licence which will allow you to operate passenger vessels carrying more than 12 persons or freight vessels or workboats of 24 metres or more in length and generally in a more restricted area. It is the licence normally used to operate passenger trip boats on the canals and smaller none-tidal rivers. We specialise on the Tier 2 licence for passenger, (trip boat), operations.

Since the Tier 2 licence should be linked to a specific passenger boat operation we normally carry out the training at the customer's premises and on the customer's own boat. For delegates with boating skills already up to RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman standards, (this is essential), we offer a two-day coaching course which covers Underpinning Knowledge, (see below), and Advanced Boating Skills. We prefer to organise the two days with each day comprising a half-day in the classroom and a half-day on the boat but we can have a full day of underpinning knowledge, (possibly at our training centre), then a full day of boat handling. The training is carried out by the centre principal who is an experienced RYA Instructor and MCA Tier 2 Boatmaster.

£820 for up to two people.
£1,230 for three people.

For delegates who have never had specific boat handling training, no matter how good they think they might be, we strongly recommend talking the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Course prior to embarking on Boatmaster Training.

Gaining the licence is a complex process and comprises a number of elements:


The "normal" process of gaining a BML is where you serve as crew on a commercial vessel for some time and during which the skipper allows you to operate the vessel occasionally and learn the trade. This experience is recorded in a Training Record Book, (TRB), and is signed off by another Boatmaster or the vessel owner.

During this period you would also learn the various legalities of skippering a vessel known as Underpinning Knowledge. This includes knowledge of the various M Notices relating to a commercial operation.

This process can take many years but can be shortened by having specific instruction from an existing commercial boat operation or by formal training. The RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman's Course would complete a number of the boat handling entries but not all.

If you are setting up for the first time, we can help with TRB completion and Underpinning Knowledge by spending a number of days, (depending on your starting point and number of candidates), at your operating base using your vessel. We charge at the normal Own Boat tuition rate per day plus expenses.


If you don't have much commercial experience then it is useful to create a list of personal experience. This can include boating holidays etc. We can give you a format for this.


You need to pass a formal MCA medical examination which is usually carried out with your own GP. Some existing medical conditions may be acceptable as the MCA are able to issue restricted licences.


You need to have a formal First Aid qualification. We provide the RYA First Aid Certificate which is accepted by the MCA.


These qualifications can only be gained at an MCA Approved Training Provider such as Willow Wren Training.


During the examination you will be expected to know all the legalities, procedures and terminology of being a Boatmaster. We run coaching sessions for what is known as Underpinning Knowledge either at our training centre or at your chosen operating base, (subject to expenses).


Quite naturally, the MCA will be looking for well above average skills in boat handling. The RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman's Course is a starting point but we can help coach you up to a higher professional level. Ideally, this is done at your chosen operating base and on the craft that you are hoping to be skippering. However, we can simulate trip boat handling with our boats at our training centre base.


When you have all this in place you need to complete an application form, send it, along with the fee, to the MCA and agree a date for the examination.

You need to pass a practical and oral assessment by the MCA examiner on the vessel you will be skippering and in the area of operation. The exam usually takes an hour but can be longer.

As you might expect, the final assessment demands good boat handling skills. Our experience shows that whilst many think their skills are already good enough we quickly discover that they are not.

If you are unsure about your skill level then we suggest you undertake a one-day Experience Course or the two-day RYA Helmsman Course with us and we can carry out an informal assessment before you commit to spending more money. At the end of the course we will give you an honest opinion of your chances of success. We will also be able to make some entries in your Training Record Book as two of our instructors are also Tier 2 Boatmasters.