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Old 09-27-2020, 10:10 AM   #1
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USCG Captain's License

Currently I'm about to retire and between boats. My wife and I are searching for a long distance trawler like a Nordhavn 47, Selene 53 or KK 48 North Sea. Our plans are to rent out the house and move aboard and cruise until we don't want to anymore. I'm considering getting my captain's license for several reasons - to satisfy my interest in boating, to help with getting my next boat insured, to learn new things and keep my mind active, but most of all to be a safer boater.

What license should I be going for? And in this time of COVID confinement, what's the best option to get it? I live near Newport Beach, CA where there are some mariner schools, but I don't think they're meeting in person now.

I'd like to get your thoughts on this. Particularly from people who have captain's licenses. Thanks!
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:28 AM   #2
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I've had a license for years but at at least as far as my insurance company is concerned, they don't differentiate between being a USCG license holder ,being a member of the power squadron/coast guard auxiliary or having completed a boating course. IIRC, boat US is the same way; there's a box to check that says member of USCGPS, USCG Axillary or other, so I check "other". I'm not unhappy with our rate at all so it isn't an issue for us.
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:37 AM   #3
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I recommend getting the highest tonnage MASTERS license you can, to a point.

https://www.dco.uscg.mil/national_maritime_center/

Your experience will determine what you qualify for. Once you go over 200 tons, there are training requirements that change the math a bit. Do you want to pay for fire fighting training every 5 years at renewal time?

A masters license between 25 and 200 tons is easy to manage and renew. Unless you are working on the water for a career, I don’t know that a greater tonnage license is useful. I will be working on my 4th renewal in a few months.

If you don’t have the sea time for a masters, you can apply for an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels or OUPV (also called charter boat license and six pack). You can upgrade to a masters later. Don’t inflate your numbers to get where you want to be now.

All the checklists and FAQ are at National Maritime Center website (link above). I recommend getting familiar with the requirements of each respective license, as well as the terminology, to inform your decisions.

If you use an APPROVED school, they can streamline the process. The ones I am aware of can administer the examinations on-site. I can recommend Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale.
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:41 AM   #4
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All the checklists and FAQ are at National Maritime Center website (link above). I recommend getting familiar with the requirements of each respective license, as well as the terminology, to inform your decisions.

If you use an APPROVED school, they can streamline the process. The ones I am aware of can administer the examinations on-site. I can recommend Maritime Professional Training in Fort Lauderdale.
Also SeaSchool and Chapman
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:48 AM   #5
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As far as I know the USCG dropped new issues of anything under the 100 ton Masters ticket. Years ago I had to document my time with ship‘s logs and a letter from the Master or company before even being able to set for the exam. However with all these outfits selling or assuring you a license for $$ I have to wonder if sea time in the right tonnage of vessel still applies.

Marine underwriters generally could care less if a private yacht owner has a license. They really don’t even care if you’ve got any real on the water experience at all. You need to show competency of some level to drive a car or commercial truck, a plane, jump out of a plane but you can buy 75 tons of yacht and take the helm without qualifications. Get the license if you’re up for it cause you’ll learn something but it won’t make any difference.
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Old 09-27-2020, 10:54 AM   #6
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I went to Chapman, sat for and passed the professional exam for 100 ton.
I had a couple of captains offer to document sea time (wink wink)
I told them 'no thank you'. Never got the license because of additional liability and insurance.
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Old 09-27-2020, 11:07 AM   #7
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Go for it if you can. If nothing else it helps keep you motivated to keep learning. If you are a long time boat owner you may already have the sea time, just need to document it.
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Old 09-27-2020, 11:25 AM   #8
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Hmmm, it doesn't look like I'm going to meet the boating experience requirement. I would need 360 days of boating experience (I have), but 90 must be in the past 3 years (don't have). Also, I'm not sure how you would show documentation of that time. I didn't always enter my boating time in the ship's log.

How is the quality of on line training? I like the convenience, but I also like the real world stories you hear from a flesh and blood instructor.
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Old 09-27-2020, 11:52 AM   #9
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Hmmm, it doesn't look like I'm going to meet the boating experience requirement. I would need 360 days of boating experience (I have), but 90 must be in the past 3 years (don't have). Also, I'm not sure how you would show documentation of that time. I didn't always enter my boating time in the ship's log.

How is the quality of on line training? I like the convenience, but I also like the real world stories you hear from a flesh and blood instructor.
I speak from experience, the Chapman course was a real bugger.
They do have rooms to rent and they even give you a current Chapman's book. Bring your own highlighter.
As I recall, the non-professional course is one week long and run separately from the professional 2 week school. Both include boat handling. If you are interested, they do have a surveyor school too.
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Old 09-27-2020, 11:52 AM   #10
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I got my license in 1998 when I started guiding, started with OUPV then upgraded to 100 ton the next year, not because I needed it, just because I could. I went to Sea School.



I learned a lot in the course. I'd spent a lifetime on the water prior to getting my license, including a good bit of commercial fishing, and thought I knew most stuff. I was wrong.


That said, much of what they taught me didn't apply at all to the small boat fishing guiding that I did for 13 years. It was more targeted at tow operations and piloting around commercial traffic. Small boat guiding has its own dangers and pitfalls that they did not address at all, to the point where I believe there should be a second license, or an add on license requirement for fishing guides, dive boat operators etc.


Still worthwhile in my opinion though.
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Old 09-27-2020, 12:19 PM   #11
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Once you go over 200 tons, there are training requirements that change the math a bit. Do you want to pay for fire fighting training every 5 years at renewal time?
I would agree. My 500 ton is a pain in the butt to keep current, it costs money and takes time. Currently I have parked mine inactive because of those reasons.

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Marine underwriters generally could care less if a private yacht owner has a license. They really don’t even care if you’ve got any real on the water experience at all.
Disagree here. My insurer stated that although they wouldn't give me any discount for having a license, there's no way they would have insured me on a 65ft boat without one.

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... much of what they taught me didn't apply at all to the small boat fishing guiding that I did for 13 years. It was more targeted at tow operations and piloting around commercial traffic.
I still remember testing down in Miami and I had to demonstrate launching that old lifeboat which I think was from the 1800's or came off the Venture after it's disastrous attempt to find Skull Island ... talk about NOT applicable to small boats, ha!
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Old 09-27-2020, 12:35 PM   #12
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I just did my 6-pack (OUPV) training with Flagship Maritime in the Seattle area. It will save me.....$12.00 per year! on my yacht insurance. Fortunately for me, I keep detailed logs!

The issues about liability are overblown. Liability that concerns the license only applies when you are operating under the license, i.e., operating a boat as master/captain while conveying passengers for hire. Having a friend informally split costs is NOT operating under the license.

To my mind, the class was well worth the $cost and time spent. I got to brush up on some skills and add some new ones. Besides that, I now know more than I ever wanted to about how fishing vessels use lights at night!
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Old 09-27-2020, 12:58 PM   #13
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Hmmm, it doesn't look like I'm going to meet the boating experience requirement. I would need 360 days of boating experience (I have), but 90 must be in the past 3 years (don't have). Also, I'm not sure how you would show documentation of that time. I didn't always enter my boating time in the ship's log.

How is the quality of on line training? I like the convenience, but I also like the real world stories you hear from a flesh and blood instructor.
Sometimes the instructors are there because they “fit in” there better than the field. I found the networking with classmates to be well worth the price of admission, for the real world experiences you refer to.

Maybe consider a radar observer or ARPA class...lots of plotting and use of the toys we all have now anyway, along with the professional contacts in the class.
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:18 PM   #14
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Waiting for Pau Hanna's expertise...

Not sure the USCG license give a huge discount...but its proof of experience and training for insurance companies to look at.

If you can show similar or at least their minimum requirements, then that's as good as a license. Some insurance companies seem to place a slightly higher preference on profesional licensing....but I guess not all do.

As to not caring...seems that insurance companies care enough that my insurance surveyor put in the survey that I should take a AUX or power squadron course and have the boat AUX inspected. Even though he knew I has a commercial license, taught captains licensing and had rebuilt much of my trawler.... keel to mast.
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:34 PM   #15
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I have obtained several types of licenses in the past 30 years. I learn to pass the tests by being in a classroom. I don't do well on my own. If you are the same way, then a school is the way to go. Covid is likely to interfere for now. As many have pointed out, the insurance savings is minimal. Unless you're going to take passengers for hire, no need to get license. Enjoy your retirement!
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:55 PM   #16
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I believe its only minimal if you can prove "other" similar experience that meets that insurances requirements.

It will probably max you out for credits unless your vessel is way larger than your license goes to.
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:55 PM   #17
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As far as I know the USCG dropped new issues of anything under the 100 ton Masters ticket. Years ago I had to document my time with ship‘s logs and a letter from the Master or company before even being able to set for the exam. However with all these outfits selling or assuring you a license for $$ I have to wonder if sea time in the right tonnage of vessel still applies.



Marine underwriters generally could care less if a private yacht owner has a license. They really don’t even care if you’ve got any real on the water experience at all. You need to show competency of some level to drive a car or commercial truck, a plane, jump out of a plane but you can buy 75 tons of yacht and take the helm without qualifications. Get the license if you’re up for it cause you’ll learn something but it won’t make any difference.


I hate to be a stickler, but this is mostly wrong.

The requirements are quite strict and are reviewed and approved by the CG, not the training company. And the sea time requirements are to get the license, and to determine what license restrictions/endorsements you will get.

We all talk about 100 ton masters and 200 ton masters, but that’s a really incomplete description of the ticket. There are training requirements that go up from OUPV to “100 ton”, then again when you cross to 200 ton. But there are two other dimensions to the license; allowed tonnage, and allowed range.

The allowed tonnage is determined by your sea time in different size vessels. Unless you have time is larger boat, typically as master or mate, you will never get a “200 ton” ticket no matter what training you take. And a “100 ton” can actually be rated for 25, 50, 100, or 150 ton. But I think you are right that the CG has eliminated some of the intermediate tonnages, but I don’t know which.

The other dimension is operating range. You can be inland which is up to the “boundary line” as defined by the CG. Near Costal which is up to 200 nm off shore, or Ocean which is anywhere. Each is incrementally harder to get, and requires incrementally more sea time in appropriately sized boats.

As a recreational boater, it’s hard if not impossible to get much more than 100 ton, near coastal.

As for insurance, there may not be much discount, but as others have said, you won’t get insured at all. Most people I know need to hire a captain for long enough for him/her to sign off on the owners skills. That can take weeks, or even months. If you have the appropriate ticket then you won’t have to do the hired captain thing.
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:57 PM   #18
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Waiting for Pau Hanna's expertise...

Not sure the USCG license give a huge discount...but its proof of experience and training for insurance companies to look at.

If you can show similar or at least their minimum requirements, then that's as good as a license. Some insurance companies seem to place a slightly higher preference on profesional licensing....but I guess not all do.

As to not caring...seems that insurance companies care enough that my insurance surveyor put in the survey that I should take a AUX or power squadron course and have the boat AUX inspected. Even though he knew I has a commercial license, taught captains licensing and had rebuilt much of my trawler.... keel to mast.
I think that is funny really that a surveyor conducting a C&V inspection told you to take a class and he knew you were teaching Captains classes. Something is adrift here but not sure what. I’m sure you weren’t too impressed with the surveyor huh ?

Curious how a store bought license is “proof of experience” unless the students are actually working as a professional mariner on a qualified tonnage vessel. Most mariners working American flagged vessels desiring to set for a license go the USCG closest Sector MSO office and get all the testing handout study literature. When ready you schedule the exam. Im not sure how it is anymore but if you weren’t already employed on a American flagged or USCG inspected vessel you would need a ‘ Letter of Intent ‘ from a company stating they would hire you if you were issued a license or Z-card. The USCG doesn’t like issuing Masters licenses if you don’t have a job.

The only underwriters I’ve ever worked with that cared about licensing were those writing Sub Chap T & H vessels, towing and some other operations. There was nothing in reporting about yacht owners and licensing. But I’ve been outfit that business for about five years now.
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Old 09-27-2020, 01:59 PM   #19
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I hate to be a stickler, but this is mostly wrong.

The requirements are quite strict and are reviewed and approved by the CG, not the training company. And the sea time requirements are to get the license, and to determine what license restrictions/endorsements you will get.

We all talk about 100 ton masters and 200 ton masters, but that’s a really incomplete description of the ticket. There are training requirements that go up from OUPV to “100 ton”, then again when you cross to 200 ton. But there are two other dimensions to the license; allowed tonnage, and allowed range.

The allowed tonnage is determined by your sea time in different size vessels. Unless you have time is larger boat, typically as master or mate, you will never get a “200 ton” ticket no matter what training you take. And a “100 ton” can actually be rated for 25, 50, 100, or 150 ton. But I think you are right that the CG has eliminated some of the intermediate tonnages, but I don’t know which.

The other dimension is operating range. You can be inland which is up to the “boundary line” as defined by the CG. Near Costal which is up to 200 nm off shore, or Ocean which is anywhere. Each is incrementally harder to get, and requires incrementally more sea time in appropriately sized boats.

As a recreational boater, it’s hard if not impossible to get much more than 100 ton, near coastal.

As for insurance, there may not be much discount, but as others have said, you won’t get insured at all. Most people I know need to hire a captain for long enough for him/her to sign off on the owners skills. That can take weeks, or even months. If you have the appropriate ticket then you won’t have to do the hired captain thing.


Also is where you have experience...If you have never been more than 100 miles from where you have boated all your life...you may wind up with a limited ticket.
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Old 09-27-2020, 02:07 PM   #20
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I think that is funny really that a surveyor conducting a C&V inspection told you to take a class and he knew you were teaching Captains classes. Something is adrift here but not sure what. I’m sure you weren’t too impressed with the surveyor huh ?

Curious how a store bought license is “proof of experience” unless the students are actually working as a professional mariner on a qualified tonnage vessel. Most mariners working American flagged vessels desiring to set for a license go the USCG closest Sector MSO office and get all the testing handout study literature. When ready you schedule the exam. Im not sure how it is anymore but if you weren’t already employed on a American flagged or USCG inspected vessel you would need a ‘ Letter of Intent ‘ from a company stating they would hire you if you were issued a license or Z-card. The USCG doesn’t like issuing Masters licenses if you don’t have a job.

The only underwriters I’ve ever worked with that cared about licensing were those writing Sub Chap T & H vessels, towing and some other operations. There was nothing in reporting about yacht owners and licensing. But I’ve been outfit that business for about five years now.
Funny.... I know exactly why it was included...boilerplate that makes insurance companies happy...its called playing the game. I think some might argue licenses are store bought...while it may not be all that difficult in a spoonfed course.....test taking is still daunting for many...and at the USCG....I don't believe all the tests are cl OK sed book. They werent for my old timer friends. They are ALL closed book in the newer "store bought" courses.

You don't understand licensing nowadays at the level many recreational boaters speak..none of what you typed is close to what happens with "letters of intent"....etc....definitely more than 20 year old knowledge for at least up to what I taught 100 ton master.

My experience with licensing and insurance companies goes back at least 20 years and again your experience is not my experience. On my last 3 liveaboard policies, if I produced a merchant mariner credential, nothing else was required to max out on credits...if not, they wanted all sorts of proof of experience. I guess some insurance companies trust the USCG and their requirement of sea time and their verification process.
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