Marcus & Randy The Cat - plotting a course

In 2008 we (my husband and me) did a boat driving practical course on the Mar Menor with Santi from – we had great fun, got sun burnt and played on a sail boat. Now to get our license to be able to buy and legally drive a  boat we needed to pass an exam too. So, on to the theory exam. Multiple choice – can’t be that hard? We bought the books and interactive CDs, did the tests online, tested each other, read loads, made notes, you know all that stuff we haven’t done since swotting for our degrees, we took the exam… And then we failed!To be fair, we had two challenges here: we’re English and Spanish is our second language, the exam was in Spanish and we didn’t study hard enough 😉

The theory exam covers the following categories, and as you can see some sections are less forgiving than others. In section 7 for example, engines, we could only make 2 mistakes out of 5 questions. Now, we’re both engineers by training (electrical – not mechanical – engines are mechanical!) so we had some clues, and I know our maths training helped us a lot for the cartography section (vectors anyone?) but, I’m a girl! Oops, that was said in my whingey voice, and I know I can’t use it as an excuse.

Apartados (Sections)
Preguntas (Questions)
Errores posibles (allowed errors)
1.- Tecnología Naval (naval technology) 6
2.- Maniobra (manouevres) 8
3.- Seguridad en la mar (safety at sea) 11
4.- Navegación (navigating) 12 (4 de carta) sólo se permiten 2 errores en ejercicios de carta
5.- Meteorología (weather) 4
6.- Comunicaciones (comms) 5
7.- Propulsión mecánica (engines!) 5 sólo se permiten 2 errores
8.- Reglamento de abordajes (tema 8) (collision avoidance) 15 sólo se permiten 4 errores
9.- Balizamiento (tema 8) (bouyage) 5 sólo se permiten 2 errores
10.- Legislación (tema 8) (legislation – there’s lots!) 4
Total 75 sólo se permiten 22 errores en total

We completely underestimated the difficulty of the exam, and also didn’t expect the level of nerves on the day. Over 600 people went for the exam on a sunny Sunday morning in November 2008. It was packed. Only 300 people passed. It’s not an easy exam.

So, 7 months later (the exams are every 6 months or so in our region), 2 months of solid swotting (we didn’t go diving, said no to late night drinking sessions, gave up all our weekends for 8 weeks), 1400 test exam questions studied, 2 new books and a well thumbed Spanish dictionary and we were ready again. Sunny Sunday morning at Murcia University, with 450 other hopefuls, compass, 2b pencil, DNI and ruler at the ready.

I came out of the exam crying. I’m still having nightmares about it 1 year later.

After 5 days of waiting they posted the results on the website – we had both passed – with excellent results! Fewer than 300 people passed this time. So, I know it’s not polite, but yoohoo – we passed – smartypants – yay. Ok, showing off over with now, onto some useful info for anyone else considering doing this.

If you want to have a go at some example questions have a look here: – some of the sample answers are very funny, I think they throw some funny ones in to keep you going… For example, before embarking what should you check: a. you have fuel, b. you have beer, c. your stereo works, d. all of the above – your answers in the comments section below please…

We had an interactive CD/DVD and also bought this book: – which is really very good. His website is great too and includes sample questions if you’ve bought the book.

Costs to get the PER license will vary, especially if you have to do the exam more than once, but here are some sample costings:

  • practical around 150€ – 250€ per person
  • materials (dvd, books, tools, practice map) 120€ (you can share dvd for example if there’s more than one of you doing the exams)
  • radio course 100€
  • exam 50€ each time.

Now if all that sounds like too much effort (we’re still recovering 1 year later), then you could always hire Santi and his boat for a day.

Also, there are easier courses / routes. We did the PER, which allows us to drive a boat upto 12m long, 12 miles from port/shore. You can get the titulin qualification which is the most basic that will allow you to drive a boat upto 6m in length and with an engine less than 54cv. There’s a good article here explaining the main differences between these and a couple of other boat driving qualifications in Spain.

And finally, we’ve bought a boat. More on that later this week, places to go, fishes to meet


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