Category R is the entry-level skipper’s license issued by SAMSA in South Africa. This most basic license only allows you to drive a small vessel on sheltered waters. Let’s understand more about the Category R SAMSA Skipper’s License.

The Category R SAMSA Skipper’s license in South Africa

According to the SAMSA regulations, all skipper licenses allow you to drive a sailing vessel of up to 9m in length or a powered vessel with an engine of up to 15hp. Category R is no exception to that.

So, what are sheltered waters? It basically means inland water bodies such as lakes, lagoons, dams, rivers etc. While you may not need a license for riding a kayak or other small vessels, you will need a license for the bigger vessels mentioned above.

If you ask us, the category R license is actually an excellent entry point to start your skipping adventure into South African waters. You can either get your license via a training institution or on your own if you satisfy the necessary requirements.

Requirements to obtain a Category R Skipper’s license

Apart from the boat requirements mentioned above, you, as a skipper, also have to fulfil a few requirements.

You must be at least 16 years old or above. To apply for the license, you will primarily need a certificate of fitness and your personal identification document. You can get this health certificate from any certified doctor in South Africa, so your family doctor here should be okay too!

Apart from this, there is a requirement for prior boat service hours. For a Category R SAMSA skipper’s license, you can either work on a vessel that sails inland water bodies or the ocean within South Africa’s marine boundaries.

If you are getting your license via a course provided by a training institution, then you need only 25 hours of sea service logged. If you are on your own, then you will need 50 hours logged under the direct supervision of a certified skipper (who basically teaches you the ropes of sailing/driving a vessel) or 100 hours of sea service on a non-supervised vessel (where you may be working as a crew member).

Category R and Category E

In South Africa, we often contemplate twice about going for the Category R or Category E license. Now, this completely depends on you. Do you want to explore the South African seas or are you content with inland sailing? How far do you stay away from the ocean? How often do you go to sea for sailing?

The answers to these questions may help you decide whether to go for Category E or Category R.

Also, if you are someone who is seriously thinking about making a career in the marine industry, we would highly recommend you go for a Category E SAMSA skipper’s license instead of R. With the Category E, you can drive category R vessels anyway, so it is a win-win.

However, if you want to take your time and be thorough with the knowledge–be perfect–category R is an excellent entry point. Also, did we mention that Category R is an excellent opportunity to safely introduce the young ones to the wonders of sailing?

The only drawback of getting a category R license is that you cannot count your inland skipping experience as valid when applying for sea-going skipping licenses. So that is something you should keep in your mind.

However, there is a way around that. The RYA’s Competent Crew course. It is a fully practical course that spends almost 100 miles on the sea, teaching you the ropes of being a good crew member as well as handling a vessel. This course is available in South Africa. Feel free to contact us for more information.

The Category R Skipper’s Examination

There is no direct training for the Category R license. However, institutions like us do cater out a training plan for all newcomers to make the experience easy.

During the examination, you will have to go for a written exam, followed by a short practical test along with a few questions and answers (oral exam). If you study well, it should not be a big deal for you. However, make sure you study that SAMSA manual well!


SAMSA Category R skipper’s license is one of the safest ways to start sailing in South Africa. As long as you meet the age, fitness, and experience criteria, you are good to go! Pass the exam, and the license is yours.

This license is mainly for South African citizens and other foreigners residing in South Africa for a long duration. To know more about the Category R or other skippers licenses or book a session, please feel free to connect with us today and we will help you out!

The SAMSA Category R Skipper’s License in South Africa