Captains License: How to Become a Boat Captain in California

How to Get a Captains License

How to Get a Captains License

Mar 15, 2018

A captains license is your ticket to becoming the top dog when driving the family yacht or working for pay on a commercial boat. The boat captain is the supreme leader and the person designated with a number of serious responsibilities including keeping his passengers safe. To become a boat captain and address these responsibilities professionally, you need to obtain a captains license through the U.S. Coast Guard.

What is a Captains License?

A captain’s license is obtained through a variety of measures that level a person’s level of seaworthiness. Although you don’t have to have a license to operate some types of privately owned boats, many people like the idea of getting a license and earning the name of “captain.” Others have more practical reasons for attempting licensure such as improving their resume or increasing their knowledge of maritime rules and regulations.

Boats used to carry passengers in any number or for any purpose require a licensed captain. If you wish to work for a boating company, you will need to know how to become a boat captain before you apply. The path towards becoming a boat captain is a long one that is only realized when you get your license.

Captaining a Boat

The captain’s license makes the captain responsible for navigating the ship safely, keeping it clean and in seaworthy condition. Responsibilities also include safe handling of any cargo, managing the personnel, maintaining inventory of merchandise and cash, and maintaining the ship’s certifications and documentation. Most importantly, a boat captain is responsible for the passengers aboard their boat.

The captain’s license represents the successful completion of the requirements including knowledge of the vessel and the amount of time logged at sea. It also tells potential employers that the person is in good physical condition and drug-free. These are all important qualities in a captain who is responsible for the safe operation of any boat.

What License Should I Get?

Different levels of captain’s licenses have different requirements. You should get the best license available for your qualifications. The most popular license is the Operator, or 6 pack. It is for uninspected vessels which carry six or fewer passengers up to 100 gross tons, up to 100 miles offshore.

The Master is used for inspected vessels that carry seven or more passengers or uninspected vessels up to 100 gross tons, up to 200 miles offshore or for inland waters. Your previous boating experience may limit the tonnage to a lesser amount. Those with too little sea time to qualify for a Master Near Coastal license can opt to get a combination of the Master Inland, 6 pack, and Mate Near Coastal licenses or other combination.

A charter captain license allows a licensed captain to go from one boat to another. A charter boat license is limited to use on the boat listed on the license. The license you qualify for depends on your documented Gross Tonnage. The Coast Guard also considers your citizenship status before awarding any captains license.

Captains License Requirements

What Are the Captains License Requirements?

To apply for a captains license, you must submit a USCG application form along with documentation of your sea time experience. Accepted forms of documentation include letters or sea service forms signed by a vessel’s owner or captain, or sea service forms signed by you if you logged hours on your own boat. If you spent time at sea as part of your military service, submit the DD2-14 and a Transcript of your military sea service.

If you want a license to sail your own boat, you need to submit proof of vessel ownership. You must also have a physical exam within one year of filing the application. Some medical conditions or prescription drugs may disqualify you from getting a license. In addition, you must have a drug screen within six months of the application.

You will need to successfully pass a certified course and receive certification within the past year. The specific course depends on the type of license you wish to obtain. All training courses include instruction on navigation, coastal pilotage, meteorology, safety, general ship knowledge regulations, and much more valuable information.

Additional requirements include having first aid & CPR certification. In addition, you must pass a criminal background check and National Driver’s Registry report. Finally, you must take the Mariner Oath and pay the licensing fees.

Boat Captain

Captain’s License FAQs

How long does it take to get a captains license?

You must have at least 360 days of experience onboard a boat during the period of time since your 15th birthday. At least 90 days of that period need to be within the last three years with as little as four hours being considered a day. If you choose to take a course before you apply, the length of the course will determine when you are ready to submit the application.

How much does a charter boat captain make per year?

A charter captain can work for a broad range of businesses including everything from a cruise company to a fishing business and lots of other jobs in-between. On average, a boat captain makes between $56,000 and $84,000 annually. A sailboat captain just starting out with a yacht cruise company might expect to make anywhere from $65,000 to more than $200,000 annually depending on the company and the size of the yacht.

How much does a boat captain license cost?

The price for a captains license course is between $600 and $800, depending on where you take it. Licensing fees to the Coast Guard run at around $255. If you require a boat rental to obtain the required sea hours, your costs will be significantly higher.

If you have always dreamed of becoming a sailboat captain or you want to know how to become a yacht captain for a future sailing profession, you need to focus on getting your captain’s license. If you prefer to enjoy your time on the waterways without the responsibilities of being the boat’s captain, contact Adventuress Luxury Catamaran. We offer yacht rentals for your personal or corporate needs.