Motorized boating: do you need a license ?

8 February, 2023 by
Motorized boating: do you need a license ?
Clémence Vollaire
Do you need a license to sail a boat? And what about a dinghy? And what if the engine is electric? There are many parameters to be taken into account, such as sea or inland water navigation, distance from the coast, length of the boat and engine power. Here you will find the essential information you need to know to operate your motorboat safely and lawfully. 

Do I need a license to operate a TEMO motor ?

This is the question everyone asks, so we'll answer it right away: no, you don't need a license to operate a TEMO motor.
Why not? Simply because a TEMO engine has a power of less than 6 hp (or 4.5 kW). It is therefore below the legal limit for a boating license, whether at sea or on inland waters.

The principles of motorized boating regulations

Behind all the laws, distances and restrictions, the regulation of motorized boating is quite simple. It is designed to avoid, as much as possible, damage that could be caused by the failure of or improper handling of the engine:
- To the people on board and around the boat: swimmers, divers and other boaters ;
- To other boats and harbour installations;
- To the environment 

Sailing Under Motor At Sea: Things to Remember

Two essential parameters govern motorized boating at sea:

  • The power of the propulsion 
  • The distance between the boat and a shelter 

Sailing a boat at sea without a license up to 4.5 kW

At sea, you can navigate a motorized pleasure boat with an engine of less than 6 hp (4.5 kW) without a license.

Reminder: the notion of shelter in maritime navigation

A coastal shelter designates a "place on the coast where any craft, boat or vessel and its crew can safely anchor, land or come alongside and leave without assistance. This concept takes into account the weather and sea conditions at the time and the characteristics of the craft, boat or vessel." (Legifrance, Safety Rules for Marine Recreational Boating, Division 240).
A harbour, a calm coastline or a mooring can therefore constitute a shelter. It is up to the skipper to define which shelters are suitable for his vessel, his crew, the tide and the weather conditions. As a reminder, the carrier vessel is considered as a shelter for its tender.

Up to 6 miles from a shelter: the coastal option pleasure craft license

To navigate at sea on a motorboat of more than 4.5 kW and up to 6 miles from a shelter, you must have a coastal option pleasure boat license.

Beyond 6 miles: the pleasure boating license for the open sea

Is the ocean calling you and your dreams go beyond the horizon? To sail under motor more than 6 miles from a shelter, you will need to obtain a pleasure boating license with an open sea extension.

The particular case of sailing boats

Operating a sailboat does not require a license, regardless of its size. The engine of a sailboat is only considered as a secondary propulsion method, even when it exceeds 4,5 kW. These boats nevertheless require considerable experience to be operated safely.

Inland motorized boating

There are two main criteria for inland boating:
- The size of the boat
- The power of the propulsion

Motorized boating in fresh water without a license

On inland waters, you can operate a boat of less than 15 m in length without a license, as long as its speed does not exceed 6.5 knots, or 12 km/h.

Inland waterways pleasure boat license

Formerly known as the "river license", the pleasure boat license allows you to sail a boat up to 20 meters long, at a speed of more than 6.5 knots and within the limits in force.

​The inland waterways license with a large pleasure craft extension

This extension authorizes you to pilot a barge of up to 20 m in length, in compliance with the speed limits that apply.

The particular case of sailing boats in inland waters

While at sea, a sailboat equipped with an auxiliary engine of more than 4.5 kW does not require a license. However an inland waterways license will be necessary to operate it on rivers, lakes and waterways.

​Training and information for safe sailing

Of course, a license is not always required for piloting a motorboat. However, these training courses are as useful as they are necessary for safe navigation. Whether you are a novice or a seasoned sailor, take advantage of the long winter months to (re)immerse yourself in the books published by Vagnon Editions. And why not go a step further and sign up for your boating license?

​As you can see, the TEMO electric motor is for all boaters. With or without a license, the best thing to do is to get trained and to be informed. So go over your old classics and sail safely !

Este artículo está disponible en inglés.

Motorized boating: do you need a license ?
Clémence Vollaire 8 February, 2023