Motorboat Expert

Independent Yachting Magazine

What size motor yacht can you sail alone without a crew

Maximum size of motor yacht without crew

Updated on May 31st, 2024

Perhaps you are one of those who buy a motor yacht largely to enjoy the sea views in complete solitude, without the need to communicate or coordinate with anyone else. In this case, a natural question arises about what size boat you can sail on your own without having to resort to finding additional crew members.

Generally speaking, in the legislation of the vast majority of countries there are no requirements regarding crew for private vessels. Accordingly, in theory you can sail a yacht of any size alone.

Depending on the country, you may need a captain’s license to operate your boat, but the crew size is up to you. On small yachts, the role of the crew is often played by the family or friends of the boat owner. Please note that we are talking exclusively about private yachts and not used for charter. In the commercial version, different rules will apply.

However, there are at least two important factors that determine the size of the boat you can handle yourself.

The first is the insurance company. Your previous experience of owning and cruising alone on motor yachts will be a determining factor in obtaining insurance, but there are still reasonable limits on the length of the boat beyond which the insurance contract will require you to have a certain number of crew on board, regardless of your qualifications. On average, it seems that this length is somewhere around 20 meters.

The second factor is common sense. Yes, modern boat control systems, including remote and fully automatic ones, allow even a child to easily perform complex maneuvers in the marina in strong winds and currents, not to mention cruises. However, as you can guess, increasing the complexity of on-board systems, unfortunately, does not lead to an increase in their reliability. Quite the contrary.

Moreover, the number of these systems and their complexity increases, probably exponentially, as the size of the boat increases. If you have never owned a yacht before, then know that the breakdown of any equipment at sea is only a matter of time. It’s not so much the quality of the equipment, but rather the conditions of its operation, including the aggressiveness of the external environment.

There is no analogy with a car here, since your car, regardless of the extent of the breakdown, will simply remain where it is. Plus, in a car, especially if it’s an old classic from the analog age, you can put off fixing many problems indefinitely and keep driving without the risk of going to the bottom of the sea in the middle of the night.

Considering that a yacht’s most important systems have a nasty tendency to fail at the most inopportune moment, it’s not hard to imagine a situation where, in bad weather, an alarm suddenly goes off at your helm about some kind of malfunction in the engine room, a failure of the bilge pumps, or a fire in the laundry. Or all at once. And at the same time, you are alone in the wheelhouse of a 25-meter trawler, trying through the rain to make out the silhouettes and lights of other vessels jumping nearby on the waves.

Based on personal experience, we would never recommend that solo yachtsmen buy a boat longer than 15-16 meters. And, of course, the less complex and useless equipment there is on board, the better.