The following is an overview of the USCG Captains license prep course by Sea School. If you are looking to get your captain license to run a charter boat, this article will summarize what you must do to get there. It’s not easy, but in the end could be worth it.
I first registered for the USCG Coast Guard captain’s license 6 pack license, OUPV at Sea School Fort Lauderdale, FL. Sea School is an approved Coast Guard training center offering the 6 pack license. They test you at their facilities. This means you don’t have to go directly to the U.S. Coast Guard.
The coast guard calls this license OUPV or Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels. The local captains and public call it the 6 pack license, basically because you can take u to 6 people out on your boat. The OUPV comes in 3 types: Inland, Near Coastal, and Great Lakes. I went for the near coastal that allows me to charter a boat up to 100 miles offshore with up to 6 people. This means I can charter to Bimini Bahamas from South Florida.
The OUPV 6 pack course is for vessels less than 100 tons. This tonnage is based on experience, but you can opt to upgrade your captain license to the 100 ton master, if you need it. A physical exam, Drug Test, and CPR & First Aid is required as part of this license. Sea School makes it easy for you and offers all of this within the class. The CPR and First Aide is a separate 2 day course, 4 hours each day. Of course all these exams and tests are extra fees.
The class starts out going over basic and advanced chart plotting and navigation. This is in a classroom for 2 days, 8 hours each day. It was a pretty long 2 days, but interesting. We learned everything in those 2 days to cover us for the exam that would come in about 3 weeks if we chose to take it right away. We really got into set and drift problems and how to properly plot a course using the compass rose on the chart. For testing purposes, we focused on Block Island and Chesapeake Bay. When I was tested, it was on Block Island.
For the next 2 weeks, we were in the classroom. I worked a full time job during the day and went to the classes at night. The classes were about 4 hours at night and we really went over some material. From Rules of the Road, Distress Signaling, Boating Terms, Fire and Safety, and Knot Tying, these classes covered a lot of material.
The last 2 days of the classes consisted of review. We paired up with someone and tested each other using flash cards and then went back over the chart plotting. Many of us opted to take the test the following Tuesday, while the information was fresh. I however had to work straight for the next 6 months, and was unable to get away as the test was only offered on Tuesdays up to 5:30pm. About 6 months later, I crammed a few days in advance and went in and took the test.
The test was pretty straight forward. No big surprises. Everything that was on the test was covered in the course. The chart plotting took me some extra time as I hadn’t done it in about 6 months, so I did a few problems right before the test and then went in. You had to get a 70% on the chart plotting and you guessed it, I passed by the skin of my teeth! I sailed through the other sections with ease. The Rules of the Road has to be passed by 90% or better. Make sure you are pretty sharp on these.
Upon passing the exam, I was fingerprinted and then I went over all my paperwork with one of the employees who were there. I had taken care of the drug test, visual test, 360 days total boating experience, and was ready to bring my papers to the Coast Guard station in downtown Miami.
Before I could go down there I had to take CPR and first aid course. I signed up at the local Red Cross and knocked out the course in 2 days.
When I got to coast guard, I had forgot my Social Security Card (Don’t forget it). But that was all I needed to bring back. I did my Oath with one of the Coast Guard employees there, and my paper work was filed away.
The total cost with supplies, drug test, and miscellaneous fee’s was about $800.00. Not too bad I guess. About 3 months later I received my official coast guard captain’s license. Some of the supplies I bought prior to class were quality mechanical pencils, eraser, chart divider and chart tube holder.
Now I have to remember to renew it in 5 years or I have to start all over. The 6 pack license can be upgraded to a Master License.
Overall the experience wasn’t too bad, but plan on dedicating some time to it when you take it. I suggest you take the exam right way, while the information is fresh. If I had the time I would probably do the upgrade. If I was doing charters professional, it would be good to advertise the 100 Ton Masters Captain. Might be good PR.
When the 5 years is up, you have 3 options to renew your uscg captain license: Show 360 days of operation since your last renewal, take a Coast Guar Exam, or attend a 1 day Renewal/ Refresher course. Showing the 360 days sounds good to me! It’s all honor system, so be honest.
Tightlines and Safe Boating,
USCG Captain Michael Grimm