Captain License

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Joined: 2/5/09
Posts: 72
Captain License

I have been sailing and power boating for more than 20 years. The only course or class I ever took was a Power Sqaudron Safe Boating class. I've captained 50 foot sailboats in BVI and a variety of power boats up to 48 foot houseboats.

I was thinking about getting my captains license as I thought I would learn a lot and improve my skills. I also may be interested in captaining small (less than 50 feet) sailboats with paid passengers in the future.

It appears there are many 60-80 hour courses (on site or intenet) that prepare you for exam and then give you the test for around $1,000. I was surprised that it does not include any hands on training. However the license requres documented logs of boating and captaining experience.

Anyone have experience in getting a Captain's License? Did you learn a lot? Was it worth it - are you a better sailor / captain? If you are not going to take passengers for hire is it still worth it?


Ken Enstrom
2004 C-36 MKII #2199
Tall Rig, Wing Keel, M-35B
S/V Valkyrie - Sail Great Lakes

deising's picture
Joined: 11/3/08
Posts: 1351

Two comments:

Despite enjoying academic pursuits (espcially in boating), I have avoided the USCG Captains license because I have no 'need' for it. I have heard from many sailors that it may increase your overall liability. In other words, if anything happens and you are anywhere near it, you might be a larger target due to your credentials. This may be an old wives tale, however, and I cannot attest to it.

I am pretty sure that all those with Captains Licences need to jump through extra hoops for Homeland Security, with increased costs. I would not want to be stuck with a lot more hassle and expense just to have the license, unless I needed it.


Duane Ising - Past Commodore (2011-2012)
s/v Diva Di
1999 Catalina 36 Hull #1777
Std rig; wing keel, M35B, Delta (45#)
Punta Gorda, FL

caprice 1050
Joined: 7/1/07
Posts: 345

I had been thinking of taking the test for at least the last 20 years or so. I was 72 and figured If I was ever going to do it time was running out. The course was just under $500. plus the cost of a first aid, a physical and drug test which came to about another $300. The government threw another thing into the mix, (thanks to the terrorists) called a Transpotation Workers Identification Credential which was another $120. So altogether the total coast was almost one grand.

I took a Captains Course through an accredited scool in Florida called the Captains School. They gave a daily classroom session for two weeks. I don't remember the total hours but it was about fifty plus. During the second week they gave an additional class of about two hours a day for students who thought they needed extra help, at no addtional charge.

The instructor was grreat. He held our attention every minute, was very knowledgeable and answered every question put to him. I had been boating 57 years when I took the course, had over 45,000 miles under sail, sailed to four Caribean Countries, raced and thought I knew everything there is about boating. Wrong, I was one of the guys taking advantage of every hour of the extra help. My wife, who has a Full Certificate in the Power Squadren helped me study also. I did well on the final test and recieved a Six Pac rating. I do not intend to use my license because of the liability insurance coast. I just wanted to have it.

By the way if you do not want to spend the money I highly recomend taking as many of the Power Squardron courses as you can.

Another thing I wanted to do since I was a kid is the fly an airplane. I now have a Student Pilot Certificate and plan on getting a Pilot's license before I turn 75.

__/)__/)__/)__Capt Mike__/)__/)__/)__
Punta Gorda Florida
1990 Std WK M35 Hull #1050

Allan R's picture
Allan R
Joined: 6/26/07
Posts: 177

Getting the TWIC is no big deal, you just need to pay the fee plus pass a security check. I got my license several years back for no reason other than the personal satisfaction (no regrets). It was over several weekends, all classwork (nav rules, coastal navigation, colregs, etc.). I found them all helpful and felt they made me if not a better sailor, at least a safer more knowledgeable one.

You will also need to pass a Substance Abuse (drug test) prior to applying for the actual license.

Good luck if you decide to go for it.

Allan Rex
# 2216

GaryB's picture
Joined: 10/26/08
Posts: 575

I believe the cost when I got my license was around the $1000 mark. I took it with BoatWise, [url][/url] and it was a repeat basically of everything you can get in a United States Power Squadron (USPS) courses as far as navigation. The primary courses they (USPS) offer Seamanship, Piloting, and advanced Piloting would run you around $300 and you would have the skills required. USPS also offers Sailing, engine maintenance, Marine Electronics, Cruise Planning and a host of others. They also now have a preparation course for a USCG License.

The biggest part of the USCG exam is answering the question centered around colregs (which are the rules of the road) The course I took spent several sessions going over and over. You basically have to memorize approximately 600+ questions which they will pull 50 out for your exam and you have to pass with a score of 80% or better.

It really comes down to what you want to accomplish and what you want to do. If you have designs on chartering ie. you are the capt. with passengers, teaching on your boat, or anything that earns money for hire you are required to have a license. If you just want to be a better boater and socialize with other boaters in your area join USPS or take their courses.

Gary Bain
S/V "Gone With The Wind"
Catalina 36', Hull #: 1056, Year: 1990, Engine: M-35
Standard Rig
Moored: Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Home: Auburn, Maine

Joined: 9/27/09
Posts: 591

Following up on the issue of the OUPV, I have my Masters -50GT with sail & tow endorsement and I teach the courses for Sea School here in New Jersey..

The whole cost to get your license is about $1,200. There is the cost of a course (if you take a vendors course... see below for info on that), $75 for a drug testing program,$135 or so for your TWIC card, a medical fee for a physical and some additional fees to the CG for application processing.

There are 4 tests, Rules of the Road (30 questions), general navigation (20 quest), deck general (50 quest) and charting (10 quest), all of which require 70% to pass except for Rules which requires 90%.

Not to "sell" Sea School or the other vendors, but you should know you can go to the CG and take the tests thru them directly after studying on your own using the available books you can buy from our friends at West Marine.

However, they draw their tests from their hugh data base of questions, some of which apply to larger vessels than we normally sail. When they outsourced the testing to vendors like Sea School, they allowed the vendors to use a more restricted data base of questions that is drawn from their larger data base. As a result, there is no question you have to know the material, but it is somewhat easier to pass the tests.

The CG also requires 56 hours of instruction before you can take the OUPV tests and they are anal about complying with that. In NJ most of our courses run for 2 weekends, Fri-Sat-Sun and there is no leaving early on Sunday to watch the Giants play the Eagles in the 4PM game (though that may be a blessing this year at least).

As far as needing the license, you don't unless you want to take 6 or less people out for pay (more than 6 you'll need the Masters upgrade.... 3 more days of class and a 30 question test) or if you want to deliver boats (insurance companies will want you to be licensed).

Most of the people I have in class fall into 2 categories... fisherman (very few ladies take the course) who want to charter their boats and then the guys like us who just always wanted to get their licenses. I get some guys who are professionals... they work on tugs or on the local ferries and the OUPV is their first step toward getting their heavier licenses. Ages have run from 19 up to 82 (that was a renewal).

As far as liability, having your license wont increase you liability. Be aware however that if you have an incident the CG assumes you know all the requirements of being the captain of your vessel (equipment requirements, rules of the road, etc) regardless of whether or not you have a license. For example, if you have a collision, did you know you are required to use your radar if you have one and it is operations? If you do not haveit on, this is a "strike" against you in an investigation. Maybe a Power Squadron course is all you need, but you should know what is required of you. In NJ having your license eliminates the need for the NJ Safe Boating card BUT you must carry your license on you while you operate the boat.

Contrary to popular rumor, I have never heard of anyone getting a reduction in their insurance costs based on having their license.

Hope this proves useful in your decision making process.


Chuck Parker
HelenRita 2072 Mk II
2002 Tall Rig - Winged Keel
Atlantic Highlands, NJ

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