The Category E skipper’s license is one of the highest-sought skipper licenses in South Africa. It is considered The Best gateway into the South African boating experience. If you are excited about boating in South Africa, then the Category E Skipper’s License is waiting for you!

Category E Skipper’s License? What is that?

In another article, we covered why getting a Category R license first might be a better idea. However, if you really feel you can take on the challenges of the sea, why not go for the Category E skipper’s license instead? You still get to enjoy all the perks a category R license gives, plus the permission to ride your boat on South African shores.

South African shores, that’s right. Because a Category E skipper’s license gives you permission only to sail or drive your boat 15 nautical miles around the South African shores and up to 1 nautical mile deep into the sea from a safe entry port.

Not really a bummer though, since it is more than enough to experience South African waters at a beginner level.

Requirements for the Category E licenseĀ 

The requirements for an entry-level skipper’s license are generally similar. Just like the Category R license, the Category E license also requires you to be at least 16 years old of age, have a certificate of fitness, and have proof of identification.

As far as the certificate of fitness is concerned, you can easily get one from your local doctor. This is required as boat handling requires a certain level of endurance and strength. If you are physically unfit, you may face unwanted situations on the sea, sometimes even severe.

So, what can I drive with a Category E Skipper’s License?

A Category E license will allow you to drive a Category E vessel that is 9m in length (for sailing boats) or has an engine of 15hp or more (power-driven vessels). Please check the SAMSA website for more information.

However, there are some vessels that you may “drive” without a license. But there is a good chance that authorities will not allow you to explore the seas without a license regardless, and rightfully so. These small, unlicensed vessels are not designed to take on the waves and other rough conditions on the seas. You may end up putting your and other lives around you in danger.

However, this will not stop you from exploring relatively safer inland waters, so feel free!

The Category E License Exam

The category E skipper’s license exam consists of two phases: a writing exam and a short practical exam, including an oral exam.

There is no official course for the Category E skipper’s license exam. However, in South Africa, you can contact marine institutes for help in preparing for the exam. For example, in Cape Town, Sail and Power SA provides training to prepare you for the Category E examination.

And we highly recommend you take the course. Why? Because, if you do take a course with us, your sea service prerequisites are cut down by half.

Sea Service Pre-requisites?

That’s correct. Despite this license being a basic skipper’s license, you still have to fulfil a certain prerequisite: the total sea service hours.

Sea service here means working on a vessel that helps you get familiar with certain boat-related procedures. For example, anchoring, watchkeeping, maintaining, or even driving the boat under supervision.

So, for the Category E license exam, you only will need 25 hours of sea service if you have taken a course in a SAMSA-accredited marine institute. If you do not take the course, then you will require 50 hours of such experience under a certified skipper’s supervision. And lastly, 100 hours if you have worked on a vessel but unsupervised a certified personnel.

So, yes, we definitely recommend you take a course prior to the examination.


The Category E skipper’s license is indeed an exciting way to get into skipping boats around South African waters. Make sure you refer to your SAMSA manual and study it well. If you do so, you should have no problem clearing your writing exam.

Did you know that we also have an article that only compiles some important questions that could be asked during the SAMSA Skipper’s exam? Click here to find out!

If you are looking for a course to obtain a Category E license, feel free to connect with us today for more information!