Probably you’d have never thought of Poland as a country with some extensive leisure sailing traditions. Before WW II we’ve had very limited access to the sea, and in the period of socialism, because of the politics, sea – sailing was activity limited to very few people. In the ’90s and 2000s’ the situation changed rapidly and Polish people started to enjoy spending time at sea much more often. Polish sailing is governed by the Polish Yachting Association which is also responsible for registering yachts, and issuing certificates of competences for leisure sailors.
Compared to for example the Royal Yachting Association – it is relatively easy to acquire certificates allowing to command relatively large vessels without territorial limitations. Polish certificates are widely recognized in the European Union, and obtaining them is several times cheaper than climbing, for example, the RYA path. The system has been simplified a few years ago, and at the moment path from zero to hero consists of three ranks.
That’s the most basic certificate issued. In order to get it, you need to participate in training and pass theoretical and practical examinations. Training usually lasts between five to seven weekends, but there are schools that prepare you for it in five intensive days. You’ll learn boat handling under sails (tacking, jibing, docking the boat under sails, man overboard maneuvers) and engine, ropework (knots, mooring, etc.) and some safety aspects of leisure on the water. After acquiring this certificate, you’re entitled to sail any sail-powered vessel on the inshore waters, but also at sea: up to 2 nautical miles from the shore, daytime.
That’s level two. This certificate can be obtained only if you can document your sea – time. The minimum is: 200 hours in at least two cruises. There are plenty of offers of Polish companies where you can complete your sea- time onboard of their skippered vessels in course of their sailing adventures. It usually works this way, that you sail with other people who collect experience hours, and you’re actual crew on the yacht. It’s great fun and indeed an adventure, something you’ll never experience on a chartered vessel in Greece or Croatia. You’ll get to know what it is to keep the watch at night or sail a few days in a row.
In order to get a certificate, you’ll also need to participate in training that lasts approximately five days. The syllabus is similar to inshore skipper training, but this time you’ll learn all maneuvers on a much bigger boat – and that makes a significant difference. You’ll also learn terrestrial navigation, International Rules Preventing Collisions at Sea, safety at sea, meteorology, pilotage etc. You don’t need to have Inland Skipper certificate, but you must have the knowledge required by it
If you successfully pass the theoretical and practical exam, you’ll be allowed to command vessels of up to 18 m without any territorial limitations.
is the top of the ladder in the leisure sailing system. Funnily enough – there is no exam for it. You need to be the holder of Yacht Skipper certificate, and document following sea- time: a total of 1200 hours at sea in a minimum of six cruises. Out of those: one hundred has to be completed on a vessel with a length exceeding 20 meters, one hundred on tidal waters, and four hundred of independent command of the vessel at sea.
It allows you to be in command of sailing vessels without limitations in terms of their length – but based on other regulations it is in fact limited to 200 GT. Considering that average seagoing sailboat weights between 10 – 15 GT it is more than enough.
How is sea-time documented?
After each cruise, skipper issues so-called: “Opinia z rejsu” which is in fact ‘Crew Member’s Certificate of Passage’’ where he indicates: number of hours, miles, whether these were tidal waters, visited ports, and other necessary information. Command hours are confirmed on the so-called “Karta Rejsu” (“Captain’s Certificate of Passage”) and are countersigned by the vessel’s operator.
Polish rules for certification are frequently criticized in the country. It is said that it is too easy to get a Yacht Skipper license, because of relatively short sea-time required prior to the training and exam. But as they’re recognized in the countries which are the most popular sailing destinations in Europe, so holders of Polish certificates can charter yachts – they might be an interesting and cheaper alternative for RYA certification. What’s also important: Polish companies offering mile – building trips operate mostly in the North, on the Baltic or North Sea and building your experience there may be interesting preparation before you decide to charter a boat in the South and take all your family with you on island hopping in Croatia.