back to article Coastguard, plods swoop on fake Facebook yachtmaster

A 29-year-old yachtswoman used an image of a sailing qualification found on Facebook to charter a yacht last summer, according to the UK government. No harm was done and she paid the charter company in full but, nonetheless, crack Coastguard operatives and nautical plods swung into action. A mere eight months later the maritime …


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  1. Neil Hoskins

    "...had done nothing dangerous..."?

    "...had done nothing dangerous..."? What? Taken to sea without the appropriate qualifications, posing a danger to herself and others? She also seems to have committed fraud, which last time I looked was still illegal.

    The permanent DNA records are a debatable issue, but please let's try to maintain some balance.

  2. Chief Engineer



    The writer is a former professional seafarer, having stood bridge watches for eight years and served as navigating officer for two of those. He was also for some of those years an RYA-qualified sailing instructor.


    So we know what qualifies the writter to tell us this is a waste of time, however he should also be very very aware that some of the mentioned disasters on bigger more regulated ships has been proven to be caused by people with fake qualification bought from the less reputable area of the world.

    I happen to think it's over kill but at the end of the day the law is the law. However it would be nice to start a movement for the sensible application of laws

  3. Jim Cosser


    'The writer is a former professional seafarer...He was also for some of those years an RYA-qualified sailing instructor.'

    I dont believe you lewis, upload your certificate :)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How odd

    I agree with the writer -

    Although what the woman did was a tad naughty, it's difficult to imagine that it warranted all the apparent effort from the MCA (which have much better things to do) and the police (who also have better things to do).

    Even if she'd hired the boat and completely trashed it, at the end of the day her "crime" was to fib about her certification (I suppose the insurance would have been invalidated, which may have been the issue, but even that doesn't explain the apparent high profile nature of the case).

    I'm trying to think of an analogy but can't - it's not like hiring a car with a fake driving licence because driving without a licence is an offence, pure and simple, whereas(as has been pointed out) sailing without any official qualifications at all is no problem. On top of it all, she obviously knew what she was doing because the boat came back in one piece. Some people obviously don't have enough to do.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bit rich...

    The owners will have the yacht insured for rental based on the fact the skipper is qualified. If something had gone wrong, the insurance would have been void and the owners would have been out, ooh, £70,000 for a 35ft or so?

    It's called obtaining goods by deception, and I'm pretty sure it really is illegal. Yes, half the skippers out there are clueless (including me on occasion) but it doesn't mean you should be happy about it.

    Anonymous, just in case I sink my next charter in a newsworthy way.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The certificate is for cheaper insurance

    Requiring their customers to have a minimum level of qualification reduces the charter company's insurance premium. The chances of being fooled by a fake certificate should already be factored into the insurance premium. If it isn't, silly insurance company.

    Move along. Nothing to see here.

  7. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    I'm so pleased

    Her DNA is now on file. Will certainly speed up investigation of the next serial killing of young women in Whatevershire. Also will help solve the unslolved rape and suspected terror cases. Not.

  8. Mike Street

    It's a Money thing...

    I charter yachts, but only being a lowly Coastal Skipper clearly would not have been allowed here.

    The point is though, that if you have enough money to buy a yacht, rather than rent one, you don't need any qualifications at all. You can just cast off & crash into the first ferry you see (or more likely don't see).

    So it really doesn't make it any safer to insist on a qualification for chartering - as others have said it is prolly for insurance (for which reason you also pay more, often, if you want to race, or sail at night).

  9. James Condron

    @Neil Hoskins

    Yeah, she could have run over a child, or crashed into someone... Come on Einstein; what could she have done? Especially since sailing requires no formal qualification-

    A good analogy being that in the UK (or at least England) you need no formal training to be a hairdresser (unlike many other countries). Suppose a hairdresser faked a certification from one of our nation's 'better' tech colleges (*snigger*), cut your hair brilliantly, no damage, no harm, exactly as you wanted.

    Would you be pissed off she/he had no actual quals? No- that'd be preposterous.

  10. Jon


    I would have thought this was a civil matter between the charter company and the woman not a legal one to waste MCA money on. They are just using it as propaganda before they bring in the charge for all pleasure boats for bouyage etc. by saying it will make it safer if people register with MCA (for a fee). And can someone remind me if insurance for your own pleasure boat is compulsory on the water??

  11. G R Goslin


    I'm having a bit of trouble here in seeing what the criminal aspect is in all this. Since, in criminal law, it is apparently not an offence to take a yacht to sea without a Yachtmaster Certificate. The young woman had not stolen the yacht, nor carried out criminal damage. This appears to be to be simply a breach of contract, and therefore a civil matter, and of no concern to the Coastguard or police.

  12. Graham Marsden

    Her DNA is on file...

    ... so the next time any woman tries to charter a yacht, not only will she have to present the appropriate certificate, her DNA will be sampled and checked to make sure that...

    ... oh I can't be bothered.


    (PS Jolly Roger icon for obvious reasons ;-) )

  13. Peter H. Coffin

    You're losing focus, folks...

    Remember, the article says "However, neither Yachtmaster nor any of the lesser, more reasonable tickets are a legal requirement. Anyone can take a yacht to sea under UK law - provided they have the owner's permission." The only possibly law involved may have been that she somehow lied on a contract. Taking the boat out broke no law, regardless of certification.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'd suggest the best comparison would be an advanced driving license/certificate. Doing the advanced test isn't a legal requirement, but you often get lower insurance premiums if you have one.

    The one area I can think of which might have put this into the criminal arena rather than civil is insurance. While getting insurance with incorrect details is fraud, which is a civil matter, does martime law require you to have insurance in the same way that you are legally required to have at least 3rd party insurance when driving a car? If so then I guess it could be said that since the insurance was obtained by fraud, therefore making it void, she was sailing without insurance, which is then a criminal matter.

  15. James

    Insurance Fraud

    I think you will find that they can probably get her on some sort of insurance problem / possible fraud if anything had happened. Since the RYA qualitications are quiet often quoted in the insurance documents for many boats / ship etc.. These would have been passed onto her by the contract which was why she required the cert in the first place.

    Boats and silly / dangerous things still typically have have their own punishment. Thoose who are stupid die faster :) so its already kind of self policing

  16. Jim Lewis

    Wider implication

    Whatever your feeling about the right or wrongness of this person and her actions, I still find it incredible that we simply accept that you will be put on the DNA database for getting arrested, IE before any charges are put forward, whether you are innocent or not.

    If I believed in the DNA database, I could just about accept putting details on of convicted criminals.

    How is this not an infringement of my rights?

    I'm innocent until proven guilty, (allegedly), and yet my right to anonymity is gone simply for getting nicked. (But of course only guilty people get arrested!)

  17. David Rollinson

    @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    "Her DNA is now on file. Will certainly speed up investigation of the next serial killing of young women in Whatevershire. Also will help solve the unslolved rape and suspected terror cases. Not."

    It will if it involves her brother, father etc.

    Mine's the all-in-one paper overalls...

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Repeating comments

    I know I am repeating comments that others have made, BUT where is the crime?

    As reported the only laws involved are civil, so why were the police involved? If the MCA spent man hours tracking this woman down for a civil offence then surely THAT is a criminal offence, if the police arrested her for a civil offence then THAT is a crime, if the police took her DNA just because she was interviewed then isn't THAT a crime.

    She should get a lawyer and start suing, maybe then she would have enough dosh to buy her own 35 footer (and a boat).

  19. zxcvbnm

    Be fair

    Presumably she paid with a credit card and possibly even told them her name and address. While its all very well to say police should be focusing on serious crimes it would be annoying if they refused to act in a case as simple as this wouldn't it?

  20. Matt West

    The RYA get most upset...

    The Yachtmaster certificate is the bottom rung of the MCA's professional certification. It's recognised all over the world, and apparently forgeries are a big issue. Most countries have stricter laws about who can skipper a yacht, however if you wave your RYA certificates you can charter(or work aboard) a yacht almost anywhere.

    If the MCA allow forgeries to happen then the certificates become worthless. Although their response here was well over the top, especially the DNA sample, the PR effort is needed to reassure insurance companies, charter companies and other governments that the MCA takes this stuff seriously.

  21. StopthePropaganda

    It's called FRAUD, fools!

    doesn't matter what the final outcome was, she obtained the use of that craft under stolen and fraudulent pretenses. The permission of the owner was scammed with a faked document!

    To sit there and try to make the Coast Guard and law enforcement look bad for collaring this miscreant because "nothing happened" is the same as saying credit card and identity theft isn't bad unless a lot of money is stolen or mistaken identity causes someone to get physically assaulted.

    Or that claiming to be a terrorist and planning to kill people, running an antisemitic website, constructing a bomb belt and wearing it to a crowded marketplace is perfectly okay until you push the wait, that's already been supported by anarchos here in the past...

    Bad reporter! No biscuit! *swats with the rolled up newspaper*

  22. Rich

    Forgery is illegal

    It's illegal to forge any document and use it to obtain a benefit, I think.

    I'm guessing this yacht was pretty high-end and usually chartered with a skipper.

    Most charter firms only want a low-end qualification, if any (or just the ability to motor out of the berth without hitting anything). Demanding a Yachtmaster cuts your market down, I would think - most people I've met who have one either own a boat or are semi-pro yachties.

  23. Turbojerry

    Compare this to

    Our boat had the gas pipe to the cooker cut, the police dropped the case as there was a lack of forensics, and they could not be bothered to interview people and follow leads, so in Britain 2008, attempted murder double plus good, forging an RYA certificate double plus ungood, you can draw your own conclusions.

  24. Dillon Pyron

    Who needs qualies?

    You can rent a bareboat in the Caribbean with nothing more than a quick check out sail. And if you've passed the ASA's bareboat certificate, you don't even need that. And that course is a three day weekend.

    And why is this in the Reg? If Paris had used her iPhone to forge a copy, I could understand it.

  25. JohnG

    Enough resources for this

    ..but (according to Thames Valley Police), they didn't have enough resources to shift the 30 or so travellers moving onto the local village green few years ago. To get their vehicles in, they trashed the fence using a pickup to pull the posts out of the ground (I think that would be criminal damage). They spent nearly a month on the site, none of their children were at school, they left behind two stolen cars and half a ton of rubbish.

    Whilst what this girl did may have been fraudulent and probably meant that the boat was not insured, if the police haven't got the resources to address more serious crime, they shouldn't squander them on such trivia.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    "you are strongly advised to remove them immediately."

    From Facebook? Good luck.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Dorset for sure.

    This was Dorset where even living is punishable by death. We have a nice few speed cameras sorting out the evil motorists freeing police time for pursuing other serious criminals, such as the boating fraternity.

    They do actually make up offences down here liberally applying the law as they see fit. An acquaintance, passenger in a crashed car, got "done" for "refusing to provide" a breath test even though he was not driving and was in asthma attack mode brought about by shock. Solicitors said it would be thrown out but not down here! Guilty as charged. This woman would have been threatened with court and, being Dorset, probably capital punishment for piracy, but would have been given the option of accepting a nice caution to admit she had been naughty. They don't actually point out that the caution is the same in the eyes of the law as going to court and pleading guilty.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Bottom Line analysis

    OK, The lady committed fraud and forgery at the very least. Both are considered to be serious crimes. The fact that nothing bad happened as a result is really irrelevant. She still committed those acts against the charter company. They should have followed due dilligence and validated her certification... I assume there is some method to do so. If not, they certainly need to establish an ability to check the certification. It's not that hard with the technology available today. A phone call or an online check would verify that CERT#51745 belongs to Bill Smith, a 5'11" caucasian with brown hair and blue eyes, rather than some dame with a big rack.

    Did they over-react by using the manpower to pursue an 8 month investigation??? Probably, but as stated by someone else there is a "perceived value" associated with the certification. If there really is an ongoing issue with forgeries, that will discredit the merit of that certification.

    I think they were rather fair overall... no real harm came, so she just got a slap on the wrist, along with having her identity positively logged to make it clear to her that she can't get away with this again. End result, the MCA shows that they take care to protect the value of their certifications.

    Was the DNA sample necessary or legally attained? That's questionable, but if she refused, they would simply proceed with pressing charges to the full extent of the law, then obtain the DNA sample while she was incarcerated.


    Personally, if I attempted to attain a charter and they said I didn't have the certifications they required, I'd simply take my business elsewhere... as mentioned, it's not that hard to get a charter if you know the difference between a halyard and an anchor.

  29. peter


    The good thing is that the curtain twitchers haven't managed to get their hands on stopping people from taking jolly big boats out to sea with no experience, and to suffer even death from their stupidity, or to come back having enjoyed it.

    The Boatmaster is the legal certificate that lets you carry passengers for money and such like, Yachtmaster being a very well regarded voluntary certification, that lets you skip some of the Boatmaster exams but doesn't have any legal status AFAIK.

    The fraud is wrong of course, but that 29 year old had planned on renting a yacht with her false certificate and heading out to sea. The DNA , photo and swabs are probably to make sure she doesn't try anything exciting without proper supervision and controls in place. Yes I know it was a wrong thing to do, but recently mostly anything is.

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