There are two main types of “lower level” captain’s licenses available from the Coast Guard. The first is Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV). This is often referred to as a “six-pack” license since it allows you to carry six or fewer passengers on an uninspected vessel, usually a small fishing boat. The next up is a Master’s License and comes in 25, 50, 100, 150 and 200 Ton increments for use on inspected vessels.
The requirements for both are somewhat similar and include: 18(OUPV)/21(Master) years old, U. S. Citizen (not for OUPV), physical exam and corrected 20-20 vision, clean record (convictions), CG drug test must be negative, 360 4-hour days Sea Service, 90 within last 3 years, Sea Service can be self certified on your boat w/ proof of ownership or certified by the master or owner on someone else’s boat (see www.uscg.mil/forms/cg/CG_719S.pdf). Testing will include Inland Rules of the road closed book, 30 questions, 90 required score*, Deck general & safety open book, 60 questions, 70 required score, Navigation general open book, 20 questions, 70 required score, Chart navigation open book, 10 questions, 70 required score** (* Near Coastal license includes International rules,** Inland license requires charting (but not on Western Rivers Masters license) You must be certified in first aid and CPR and pay applicable fees (about $240).
The first thing you need to do is record your “Sea Service Time”. It can be on anything and you don’t need the log book but on your boat you do have to prove it was your boat with slip rent, fuel or license bills, etc. If you are going for a master’s license the Tonnage you get is based on the boat or boats on which you got your time. Anything OVER 5 tons (my old 25 foot sailboat) gets you a 50 Ton license. You need at least a 100 Ton license to pilot many boats up to about 1,000 passengers.
The next thing is learning plotting on a marine chart with compass corrections and doing time speed distance calculations. The United States Power Squadron teaches these skills in four courses up to “Advanced Piloting”. This needs to become second nature before you test or go to a school. If you need help send email to email@example.com we can assist you. No you can’t claim you don’t need a chart because you have GPS.
You will need to memorize a lot of the “Rules of the Road” (COMDTINST M16672.2D) and many people use flashcards to drill and drill again on the rules, lights, sound signals, etc. The tests are multiple choice but open book means their books! 33 and 46 CFRs come in several sections and cover a lot of pages. You won’t have time to look up much. It isn’t always easy to find something even if you are thoroughly familiar with each book section. You need to know how to use marine charts, light lists, coast pilots, tide tables and similar publications and you must know which one has what that you might need.
“Once you get a license it allows you to stand in the corner of the pilothouse until the owner AND the insurance company decides you can actually touch the wheel.” Licenses are good for five years and for renewal you mush show minimum time using it (360 days in five years) or you will have to retest on some subjects. You can go to a certified school (can give the test) or go to a Coast Guard Regional Exam Center and test their. For the REC you must submit application, etc. and have an appointment. We got our license and endorsements through Sea School as many do. Another option is Truecourses that comes to Knoxville. Both have some online course as well.
If you need a license we can assist you as we have with others at no cost.