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Becoming an officer of the watch (OOW)

If you are looking to become a deckhand on a superyacht and want to know the career path to Officer of the Watch 3000GT, the information we provide in this blog will help you understand the pathway to that position and beyond.

To help you understand all the jargon, we will break down the journey from Deckhand to OOW into bite-sized chunks.

The good news is that there is a structured route starting as a Deckhand Officer of the Watch all the way to a Master Mariner (Captain 3000GT).

First, let’s look at the image below, where we try to pick out the essential qualifications required to become an Officer of the Watch.

Your first step is to get the basic qualification to work as a Deckhand. All crew must hold the mandatory STCW Basic Safety Training Course. Most opt for additional training that provides the additional qualifications required to work onboard, including powerboat level 2, Designated Security Duties and so on.

With qualifications and a good CV, you are ready to look for that dream job.


The Pathway to OOW


Assuming you have completed your Basic STCW Training and are busy working on a yacht, the next stage to becoming an Officer of the Watch <3000GT would be to get your RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence.

The MCA produced a Merchant Shipping Notice, MSN 1858 to advise Seafarers of the route to Officer of the Watch for Deck Officers <3000GT on large yachts. It is worth taking the time to read MSN 1858, specifically section 3.3 on page 6 which details the prerequisites for Officer of the Watch (yachts) less than 3000GT.

Step two – RYA Yachtmaster

From the progression chart above, now that you have your dream job working as a Deckhand, your next step is to work towards the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore qualification.

You must build up 2,500 miles on a motor or sailing vessel while gaining practical hands-on experience skippering on smaller (7-24 meters in length) yachts. For a full explanation of what qualification and experience is required to become a RYA Yachtmaster, please visit our dedicated guide.

Assuming you have zero experience on boats, then it will take around 12 -24 months working in the yachting industry and being around small boats before you start looking at the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore course.

RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate

Getting the Yachtmaster Offshore certificate should be the first thing on your list to become an Officer of the Watch.





Efficient Deckhand Course

The Efficient Deckhand Course (EDH) is a one-week course that teaches the seafarer both the practical and theoretical knowledge to be an Efficient Deck Hand onboard a large vessel. You will learn everything from Morse Code to Wire Splicing.

Seafarers on the route to Officer of the Watch must, in addition to all the MCA ancillary modules below, have successfully completed a shore-based Yachtmaster Offshore Course like the RYA Yachtmaster Theory.

Since 2017 candidates must hold the EDH certificate for 18 months before they can sit their Oral exam for OOW 3000GT. So, the sooner you complete the EDH course the better.



So I have my Yachtmaster, Theory and EDH. What’s next?

You have your RYA Yachtmater Offshore, RYA Yachtmaster Theory and Efficient Deckhand under your belt. During the next 18 months or so you are able to complete your Training Record book and all the other ancillary courses required for OOW.


What qualifications are required for Officer of the Watch?

As well as time spent onboard building sea time and experience there are a number of shore based practical and theory courses that you will need to complete before sitting the Oral exam and becoming an Officer.


Qualifications Required for Officer of the Watch
STCW Basic Safety Training Yes
Proficiency in Security awareness Yes
Proficiency in Designated Security Duties
Normally required on vessels over
6 months sea service Yes
RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Yes
RYA Yachtmaster Theory Yes
36 Months onboard yacht service on vessels over
15m, including 365 days at sea.
See section 4.2 for definitions
Efficient Deck Hand Yes
Proficiency in survival craft &
Rescue boats
Navigation and Radar Yes
General Ships Knowledge Yes
HELM Operational Yes

Do I need a training record book?

All Seafarers who are working towards their Officer of the Watch must complete the Training record book.

Part of the seafarer training are a series of shore-based courses listed above and onboard sea service.

The Training Record Book forms an integral part of your training. Once complete you will present the Training Record Book to the MCA examiner during your Oral exam for Officer of the Watch.


Should I complete a Sea Service Testimonial?

Yes. A Sea Service Testimonial provides proof of time spent on board along with actual sea service.

The Testimonial will need to be signed by your Captain, you can not self certify. You are also required to verify your sea service.

All Testimonials will require verification by an independent body. This responsibility has been passed to the PYA and Nautilus International.


Once I have the required qualifications and sea service what to I do next?

Now you have the qualifying Sea Service, Testimonials that have been signed and Verified. You have completed and passed the shore based theory courses detailed above.

The final stage is to apply to the MCA for what is called a Notice of Eligibility or NoE. The completed NoE says that you have the correct documentation and are ready to sit the Oral exam for the Officer of the Watch.