Captaining bareboat charter for 12 passengers w/o COI?

I’m considering a job as part-time captain for a bareboat charter operation and am looking for opinions (or better yet, a reference to the appropriate CFRs) about whether the situation is kosher. The owner wants to do bareboat (demise) charters on an uninspected sailing vessel of about 20 GT with up to 12 passengers. This seems to be legal for the owner with some restrictions (including that the owner can’t be on the vessel or require the charterer to select a particular captain), but I can’t seem to find out whether it would be legal for me to be hired by the charter to captain the vessel. I do have the appropriate MMC (Master 25T, sail) to do this if it were inspected but the idea of more than 6 passengers on an uninspected vessel seems sketchy.

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In the specific example you’ve cited, if it was indeed a valid demise charter and you were hired by the charterer, then the boat would be considered a recreational vessel. Since you would not be carrying passengers for hire, this would not be an UPV. Therefore, you could carry up to 12 passengers in addition to you and other crew if that was within the capacity of the vessel. However, the charter must pay the crew, have the option of selecting the crew, and must retain the authority to dismiss the crew for cause.

See NVIC 7-94 NVIC 7-94 Full Version.pdf (

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46 CFR 175.110(a)(3) covers the scenario you’re concerned about as to why the boat doesn’t need to be an inspected small passenger vessel under Subchapter T. The charterer can hire anyone he or she wants to sail them around, credentialed or not, and you wouldn’t be operating under the authority of your license. But as portofdc mentioned, the charterer has to be the one that hires you, not the owner of the company. Otherwise it could be deemed not a valid bareboat charter and you’d be operating a SPV without a valid Certificate of Inspection.

If things go wrong, you need to be able to prove the charterers hired you totally independent of the operation chartering the boat out.
This is the rental boat over here and there is the rental skipper over there will not work if the holding tank exhaust hits the engine room blower.

Here is the specific criteria USCG looks at as indicative but not conclusive of a valid bareboat charter arrangement:

  1. The charterer must have the option of selecting the crew. Although a master or crew may be furnished by the owner, full possession and control must be vested in the charterer. This does not preclude the charterer from taking advice from the master and crew regarding hazardous conditions such as, inclement weather, navigational obstructions, etc.
  2. The master and crew are paid by the charterer.
  3. All food, fuel, and stores are provided by the charterer.
  4. All port charges and pilotage fees, if any, are paid by the charterer.
  5. Insurance is obtained by the charterer, at least to the extent of covering liability not included in the owner’s insurance. A greater indication of full control in the charterer is shown if all insurance is carried by the charterer (of course, the owner retains every right to protect his or her interest in the vessel).
  6. The charterer may discharge, for cause, the master or any crew member without referral to the owner.
  7. The vessel is to be surveyed upon its delivery and return.

Thanks very much for all of this info. portofdc, that link to NVIC 7-94 is exactly what I was looking for. Much appreciated!

What might be most pertinent is what the enforcement activity is in your area of operation. South Florida and Chicago have been escalating enforcement of illegal charters, so the method acceptable for verification may be most important. After all, the path to having expensive legal issues can begin and end with a young Coastie asking one passenger if they paid to be aboard. I would suggest asking the nearest CG Marine Safety Officer what proof and documentation will satisfy at the point of contact.


Operators of inspected vessels are not always above dropping a dime on their cheaper competition, something to keep in mind.