If you are planning to skipper a boat in South Africa, you will have to have a valid SAMSA Skippers’ license. And for that, you will have to take the SAMSA Skippers’ exam. Each category gets increasingly more difficult to pass, but of course, gives more privileges to operate a vessel. If you are actively preparing for a SAMSA Skipper’s exam, then this is important for you! In this article, we have compiled a few sample test questions that may be asked during the skipper’s license exam.

Before we begin, let’s just clarify one thing. If you are here to find out more about SAMSA Skipper’s License Categories, then this is not the article for you. Instead, read here: Getting a Skipper License in South Africa – Sail & Power SA


Skipper’s License Test Questions

We have categorised these questions into a few subcategories. Huge shoutout to City Sailing and their informative videos which have made writing and segmenting this questionnaire easier and more convenient for us.

You have to be versatile with your knowledge so make sure you prepare well. Many of these questions will be scenario-based and what would you do in such scenarios.


  1. What type of rope is best used for anchor and mooring lines and why?
  2. Knot related question: What is this knot and what is it used for?
  3. What is the minimum length of chain and rope you should use to anchor when the maximum depth of water at high tide will be 6.5m?
  4. Your Steering compass seems to have developed a deviation of 4 degrees in some heading. Name 3 things that could help cause this?
  5. Suggest 3 checks you should do before using your engine?
  6. How often should your engine be serviced?
  7. List 2 items for engine spares you should have on a boat.
  8. List 2 problems that will make a boat unstable.
  9. While on a passage, the visibility begins to deteriorate. List 4 actions you would take as you enter fog.

Buoyage and Pilotage:

  1. Six factors to consider when selecting where to anchor?
  2. Scenario: You are heading south when you sight the ‘X’ type of buoy ahead of you. Which side do you leave the buoy, port or starboard?
  3. What type of X buoy shows light with Y characteristics?
  4. What type of X buoy is this and what colour of light will it show?
  5. Using a back bearing if the bearing increased, would you turn port or starboard to stay on course?
  6. You create a clearing bearing on a lighthouse to miss some rocks, are you in safe water if the bearing increases or decreases?

Safety Equipment:

  1. Suggest 5 items of safety equipment on which a skipper should brief his crew.
  2. In which situations should your life jacket be worn? When should you always wear your life jacket?
  3. What would you look for during a regular safety inspection of a life jacket?
  4. What are dan-buoys used for?


  1. Different types of fire equipment onboard, and in what situation would they be used?
  2. Explain a few different ways of giving distress signals.
  3. Red hand-held flares are only recommended for use within 3 miles of a potential rescuer – why?
  4. Orange smoke should only be used in daylight to signal helicopters. Why?
  5. How should you legally dispose of the time-expired flares?
  6. On which VHF channel should a mayday by voice be sent?
  7. Distress scenario and how would you act in it?

Rules of the Road:

  1. Do the collision regulations give one vessel the right of way over another in a potential collision situation?
  2. How do you confirm a risk of collision exists with another vessel?
  3. Short and Long Blasts of the Horns, and their meanings.
  4. Short and Long Blasts of the Horns in different situations.
  5. Meaning of a particular flag a ship is displaying.
  6. Meaning of a particular symbol on the sea.
  7. What type of vessels are indicated by these lights? Type of vessel, size, and aspect. A bunch of light patterns will be shown in the question.
  8. Scenarios between vessel A and vessel B — which vessel gives way to whom?


  1. List 3 nautical publications you should carry on your boat.
  2. Meaning of various chart symbols.
  3. Meaning of various abbreviations on the chart.
  4. Where is the compass variation found on charts? How do you read it?
  5. Scenarios related to charts. E.g.: If the height of the tide is Y metres, then what is the depth in these X positions?


  1. You have 4-day weather fax but the weather does not seem as forecasted. Name 4 sources of weather information you can use to check the forecast on a small craft at sea.
  2. Suggest 4 factors that influence how rough the sea will be.
  3. Scenarios include weather, tides, and wind.


  1. Why is it recommended for boats making passages over 30 miles offshore to carry an EPIRB?
  2. How is a portable GPS useful? What can it be used for?
  3. Which of these might not be seen on the radar? (Examples/options will be given)
  4. Which would give rise to a potentially more dangerous situation? (Situations here)
  5. Advantages of fitting radar to your boat.
  6. Which type of electronic chart gives you layers? Raster Charts or Vector Charts?
  7. What do you need to consider when deciding where to put waypoints?


Conclusion and Answers

And that’s it! By now, you must have understood what kind of questions you may face during your Skipper’s exam. For further practice, we highly recommend watching the videos below. Although they are mainly focused on the RYA Day Skipper examination, the nature of the questions will be similar. These sample test questions (with answers) will definitely prepare you for your Skipper’s License exam.

Important: You also should have a general knowledge of South African geography and climate. Make sure you also study the legal entities that watch over South African waters; and various abbreviations and jargon skippers use on the sea. 

Need help with training and courses? Sail and Power SA is here for you. Simply contact us today with your queries and we will help you!