Get Your Captain’s License

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First of all, getting a captain’s license is kind of a pain in the ass. Lots of hoops to jump through and some cost involved. So why get it? I got mine for two reasons:

1) I wanted to start a charter operation which requires a license to operate a boat for commercial activities (See Start an LLC) and

2) Every charter company in the world accepts the USCG License to rent their boats and I wanted to sail a bare boat charter in Greece.

Secondly, which license should you get? I chose the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV or 6-pack) License because it’s the most basic and I really don’t need anything more. The 100 Ton Master’s Mate has the same sea time requirements as the OUPV and is easier to upgrade to Masters, but requires a few more modules to study for the exam. The 100 Ton Masters requires twice the sea time, but then allows the captain to operate inspected vessels carrying more than 6 passengers. Also, a sailing endorsement is required for sailboats with the Masters, but not the OUPV.

So here’s my timeline:
2013-2016 – Accrue 360 days of Sea Time
… Study Study Study!
08/30/2016 – Applied for and received TWIC
11/22/2016 – Finished CPR / First Aid training
12/20/2016 – Completed Drug Test and Physical
03/01/2017 – Submitted Application Packet to the USCG
03/25/2017 – Received Mariner’s Medical Card in the mail
04/27/2017 – Completed the Online Training Course
05/03/2017 – Received Captains License in the mail

Here’s the application content submitted to the Coast Guard:
Form CG-719S (Sea Time)
Form CG-719K (Physical)
Form CG-719P (Drug Test)
First Aid and CPR Certificate
Form 866 ATB (3 Character References)
Vessel Documentation
Receipt of payment
Training Course Completion Certificate (Emailed to the USCG one month later).
Form CG-719B (Application)

This MMC Application Checklist helps: MMC-Application-Checklist.pdf

The Details:

Sea Time requirements for the OUPV Near Coastal:
360 days on the water (4 hour minimum per day).
90 of those days accrued within the past 3 years.
90 of those days must be seaward of the boundary line for the OUPV Near Coastal. This allows the carriage of passengers on ocean waters outside the demarcation line, limited to within 100 nm of shore.
Go to the USCG NMC site for the current form CG-719S (

The Transportation Workers Identification Credential has been required for licensing of captains since 9/11/2001.
Fill out a form online, make an appointment at your nearest application center, and show up with your Passport (or Driver’s License and Birth Certificate) and $125 fee.
They will collect fingerprints and a photo and mail the TWIC Card to you within a month.
Apply here:

Physical and Drug Test:
Search around for a medical clinic that does Mariner’s Physicals. I couldn’t find anything online, but I did find a clinic that does DOT drug tests. I called them up and asked if they were familiar with the Coast Guard Form CG-719K Physical and they said they do a few every day! Perfect. Medical Corner by the Honolulu Airport if you’re in the area.
Be sure to bring the printed forms ready to be filled out.
Form CG-719K (Physical) –
Form CG-719P (Drug Test) –
$90 for both the Physical and Drug Test.
The Drug test results will be sent directly to the Coast Guard, but keep the Physical paperwork for the application packet.

First Aid and CPR:
Red Cross has a program which works very smoothly. I completed the online training and then scheduled the hands-on portion, easy peasy. The certificate was emailed to me a few hours after completing the hands-on portion.
First Aid/CPR/AED:

Character Reference:
The Coast Guard requires three character references from people who know you well. A paragraph from each was enough for me, no questions asked.
I’ve attached a form to make things easier.

Vessel Documentation:
Since all my sea time was accrued on my own boat, I had to include my USCG Documentation with the packet. If your time was accrued on someone else’s boat, no documentation required. Although, the owner of that boat will have to sign the sea service form.

When handing in the application packet at the USCG station, they told me to pay online and email the receipt back. But it’s easier to just pay online and have the receipt ready to turn in then and there.
From the NMC site:
$100 for my “Original, Lower Level” application to be evaluated, and
$40 for issuance of the certificate.
Total payment of $140 goes to, print the receipt, good to go.

Training Completion Certificate:
You have a few options here.
1) Attend a course, usually 2 to 4 weeks long and a couple thousand dollars, take the Coast Guard approved exam through that same school, and you get your training completion certificate. This test is way easier than the USCG exam, mostly because the question bank is much smaller and the training material is more geared towards the questions that will be on the exam.
2) Take a USCG approved online course for around $500, print the online completion certificate, then take that to a physical location to take the final exam proctored by an employee of the online training school. This is much cheaper, more flexible for busy schedules, and still has the benefit of having the training geared towards a smaller question bank.
3) Finally, do it the hard, cheap way. $85 and you can take the exam directly with the Coast Guard. It takes more time to schedule an exam and the exam pulls questions from the unfiltered question bank. I almost tried this for the challenge and the cost, but I was limited on time and wanted to guarantee passing first try on an earlier exam date.

Mariners Learning System’s OUPV Digital Edition was great! Easy to use, good format, read or watch video depending on your learning style, helpful quizzes to consolidate knowledge, and proctored exams all over the country. All for just under $500. I would probably use this one again if I didn’t go for the $85 USCG option.

Application Form:
This is my first Coast Guard License, so I marked Original/Officer under Requested Credential.
Description of Endorsements: “OUPV, Near Coastal”. (I also qualified for “Master 50 Inland w/Aux Sail, OUPV Near Coastal”, but didn’t want to study the extra examination modules.)
From the NMC site:

In Summary:
It took almost 4 years to accrue my sea time,
9 months from commencing the first step to finally receiving the license and
$960 in total expenditures.

Good luck! I hope this helps!