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How to be the Captain of Your Own Ship

It takes more than a passion for the deep blue sea and owning your own boat to become a captain. But, with proper education and the right equipment, this can be a dream job for anyone who wants to chart their own course.

Though in most states, licenses to operate a boat for recreational purposes are not required, obtaining a license to captain a boat is a necessary requirement. Types of licensing varies dependent upon whether you wish to captain a recreational charter or fishing boat or a larger vessel, such as a water taxi or cruise ship. The most common type of license is the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels, also known as a 6-Pack License. Before taking the courses necessary to achieve this license, applicants must take a physical, pass a drug test, be certified in CPT/First Aid, have a Social Security card and photo identification. Applicants are also subject to background checks and fingerprinting.
Captains with a 6-Pack License operate smaller vessels near coastal waters and are not permitted more than 100 miles offshore. The vessel itself is limited to 100 tons and 65 feet, and the total number of passengers may not exceed six. These are generally the type of vessels used for whale watching excursion, scuba diving, island tours and charter fishing trips
The education a perspective boat captain receives includes rules of the waterways, boat inspection and valuable safety and emergency information. A qualified captain who is knowledgeable and confident in his role can literally make for smooth sailing through troubled waters.
Experience is essential for obtaining a license. Applicants are required to log time on the water in a boat of the appropriate size for your category of license. When you go for the license, they will require at least 90 days within the last 3 years. Near coastal water licensing requires 360 days deck service, including 90 days on oceans or near coastal water. Licenses to operate larger vessels have additional requirements.
Visit the following web sites for a thorough list of courses, requirements and FAQ"s.
United State Coast Guard
National Association of State Boating Laws Administrators


By Neil Whitehall
Get Captain Jobs, Contributing Editor

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