preparation for your powerboat instructor skills ASSESSMENT:

Like you, we WANT you to pass your powerboat instructor skills assessment so you can move forward onto the instructor course. To give you the best possible opportunity to pass you will find a number of items to work through below:

What does the RYA Powerboat Instructor Skills Assessment involve?


You will be asked to carry out some, if not all of the practical tasks below during your skills assessment: 

  • Hold off a mark
  • Pick up and secure to a mooring buoy
  • Moor alongside up/down tide
  • Turn using warps
  • Turn in a confined space
  • Recover a man overboard
  • Stop / Start engine
  • Planing speed runs including 'Figure 8' and 'U' turns


Being able to handle a powerboat well is one thing, but having the background knowledge behind the tasks is as important, so check out these links and prep up on the following: 

Lets look at the specifics of each practical aspect:

You may have an extensive amount of powerboat experience, but do not let this deter you from reading, research and practice. The RYA have specific methods of carrying out practical tasks that have been tried and tested from both a safety aspect but also from the student learning point of view. As you are looking to move onto to teaching beginners how to handle a powerboat being competent, safe and following RYA recommended methods is key. Please note the below are not the 'only' items that you may be asked to complete, in particular 'coming alongside' where you will be asked to moor the boat in a variety of berth types. 

Hold off a mark:

Aim: To hold station in a designated space in close proximity to a mark such as a mooring buoy or similar. 



  • Ensure the area is safe & clear of obstructions 
  • Establish the direction of drift (wind / tide effect)


  • Position the bow into the direction of drift at a safe distance from the mark


  • Maintain your position by observing the effects of drift on the boat and where necessary countering them accordingly. 
  • REMEMBER: Steer before gear to ensure the ability to make defined manoeuvres, Neutral is the favoured gear during this exercise. 


  • If things aren't going to plan, leave the boat in Neutral to allow you to drift away from the mark 

Pick up and secure to a mooring buoy:

Aim: To pick up a mooring buoy & tie off using the painter. 


  • Locate a mooring buoy & ensure the area is a safe & clear of other obstructions
  • Brief your crew as to what you'd like them to do (i.e. prepare the painter / boat hook)
  • Establish the direction of drift (wind / tide effect)


  • Position the boat into the direction of drift (wind / tide effect)
  • Approach the buoy at a slow speed maintaining visual contact with the buoy
  • Ensure your crew are ready to pick up the buoy / attach the line


  • On arrival ensure you are 'stopped' next to the buoy, ideally with it located approximately 1/3rd back from the bow. 
  • Tie off onto the mooring buoy


  • If things don't go to plan engage neutral gear until you have drifted away from the buoy. 

DEPARTURE: When you're ready to leave the buoy.. 

  • Brief your crew & Start the engine
  • Check for hazards, if clear, Untie the painter and allow the boat to drift away from the mooring buoy
  • Once clear of the buoy, drive away

Moor alongside:

Aim: To come alongside into the wind / tide


  • Establish the direction of drift (wind / tide effect)
  • Prepare the boat (i.e. fenders & lines) 
  • Brief your crew as to what you'd like them to do (i.e. lines to tie off on arrival)
  • Ensure the pontoon is clear & safe, Decide on your approach direction 


  • Take a slow parallel approach toward the pontoon pointing in the opposite direction of drift. Alternate between Forward and Neutral  to maintain forward momentum but keep the speed to an absolute minimum. 
  • Turn in towards the pontoon (40 -45 degree angle) 


  • Engage neutral & steer full lock away from the pontoon
  • Briefly engage forward gear to straighten up the return to Neutral


  • Ensure you retain clear space in front of the boat in order to drive away if required. If no space in front, adjust your steering in order to implement reverse to pull away from the pontoon. 


  • Start the engine, Brief crew, Check area behind is safe & clear of obstructions
  • Turn the engine full lock away from the pontoon & gently engage reverse. 
  • Keep you eye on the pontoon & bow to know when to straighten up so you don't scrape / hit the pontoon. 

If wind/tide does not allow for the above, then use 'springs / turning on the warp' to depart. 

Ferry Gliding alongside a Pontoon:

Turn using warps:


  • Check the area around you is safe & clear
  • Brief your crew
  • Change the bow line / painter to a slip line
  • Start the engine & steer it away from the pontoon


  • Release all lines except for the bow slip line
  • Gently engage reverse gear 
  • Once boat is clear of the pontoon instruct your crew to release the bow slip line & retrieve it whilst you continue gently in astern
  • Once line is retrieved drive away


  • DO NOT engage Neutral as the bow line will be stretched so will act like an elastic band pulling the bow back into the dock
  • You can also reverse this method in order to get ONTO the pontoon. 

Springing on / off a pontoon:

Leaving a pontoon using a Bow Spring:


  • Check the area around you is safe & clear
  • Brief your crew
  • Bring a bow spring (line) to a cleat 1/3 to 1/2 way back from the bow and ensure its set up as a slip line that can be retrieved from within the boat. 
  • Start the engine & position it central 


  • Release all the lines except for the spring line
  • Engage forward gear (if wind/tide is strong then a small amount of turn into the pontoon may be required) 
  • Once the stern of the boat is clear of the pontoon, engage reverse gear & get your crew to retrieve the spring line. 

Turn in a  confined space:


  • "Slow is Pro" in all close quarter manouevres 
  • Steer then Gear = Engage Neutral before steering to get the tightest/ most effective turn
  • Where possible, allow the elements (wind/tidal flow) to do the work, whether that be slowing you down or rotating your bow
  • The most effective part of your turn will be when you are in forward gear or when the wind/tidal flow is pushing your bow round
  • Don't Panic! If things goes wrong avoid using power to overcome as this will more likely put you in a very sticky situation, instead just allow the powerboat to drift and if necessary fend off. Basically if the plan goes out the window, a bump is preferable to a crunch!


  • Put out your fenders (hopefully you've already done this before entering the marina..)
  • Check the area is clear
  • Stop and assess the elements, figure out whether the wind or tidal flow is strongest 
  • Plan to make your turn into the strongest element (wind or tidal flow)

Red = Danger Area

Amber = Risky Area

Green = Safe Area



Step 1)

  • Engage Neutral 
  • Full lock your steering (in this example to Starboard)
  • Engage forward gear gently until bow is pointing into the wind / tidal flow


STEP 2) 

  • Engage Neutral
  • Full lock steering in opposite direction (in this example to Port)
  • Engage a short burst of reverse gear until bow is caught by wind / tidal flow which will assist the bow coming round


STEP 3) 

  • Engage Neutral
  • Straighten up steering
  • Engage forward gear gently to depart the area


Recover a man overboard:

Aim: To recover a person (dummy in this case) safely from the water

Drive-On Method:


  • Brief crew (tasks such as pointing to the MOB, simulating VHF Mayday Call, preparing 1st aid kit if required)
  • Establish direction of wind (only)


  • Position the boat 6 - 8 boat lengths down-wind of the MOB
  • Approach into the wind at a dead-slow speed


  • Boat to be stopped in the water with the MOB approximately 1/3 to 1/2 way from the bow, ideally on the opposite side to the throttle when crew are onboard 
  • When contact is established remove the killcord therefore turning off the engine. 
  • MOB retrieval


  • If travelling on the wrong approach or too quickly so you are unable to end up stopped next to the MOB decide early and change direction or put the engine into neutral to drift away from the MOB

Drift on method:


  • Brief crew (tasks such as pointing to the MOB, simulating VHF Mayday Call, preparing 1st aid kit if required)
  • Establish direction of wind (only)


  • Position the boat 2 - 4 boat lengths up-wind of the MOB and at 90 degrees to the wind


  • Keep the MOB approximately 1/3 to 1/2 way back from the bow, ideally on the opposite side to the throttle when crew are onboard. 
  • Allow the boat to drift down towards the MOB leaving the engine running to enable you to make small boat movements to retain position
  • When contact is established remove the killcord therefore turning off the engine. 
  • MOB retrieval


  • If you drift out of line with the MOB & you are over 2 boat lengths away adjust your position using Forward / Reverse gear. 
  • If you are positioned badly closer than 2 boat lengths away, turn the engine off regardless & allow the boat to drift past the MOB or retrieve them if you are able. 

Starting the engine:

Starting the engine:

Ensure the water behind you / around your engine is clear of obstructions. 


Acronyms such as K.N.I.G.H.T.S. can assist to ensure you run through the correct process each and every time you are starting your engine. 

  • Killcord - ensure the kill cord is attached to the helm (around the leg, above the knee) & the kill switch
  • Neutral - Ensure the throttle is in Neutral gear
  • Ignition - Turn the key
  • Gears - Ensure both forward and reverse gear are functioning
  • Hot TellTale - Ensure the tell tale is flowing freely (if the engine has been running for a while the water will be warm)
  • Steering - Check your steering turns freely

Planing speed runs including 'Figure 8' and 'U' turns:

Aim: To drive a powerboat safely at higher speeds. 


  • Secure all loose gear
  • Brief crew on correct positioning, lookout & communications
  • Trim the engine down
  • Ensure area is safe & clear


  •  Engage forward gear & gradually increase speed until you are on the plane decrease throttle to maintain a constant speed
  • Trim engine up / adjust trim tabs for most comfort 
  • Turning: Trim down first, communicate with crew, maintain all around look out & ensure area is clear & safe BEFORE making the turn. Make wide, gentle turn/s increasing throttle during turn and decreasing when straightening up to maintain planing / a consistent speed 


  • Check behind you
  • Trim engine down
  • Gradually decrease your speed to ensure the wash does not catch up with the boat and swamp it 

TOP TIP: Watch out for engine ventilation 

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