How to Get a Captain License for a Boat

Seen the movie Captain Ron? Think you’ve got what it takes to captain a boat, to command a vessel as a captain or skipper? Well, you’re going to need a Captain’s License from the United States Coast Card (UCSG). Of course, if you own a boat and plan on using it only for recreational purposes, no license is required, but if you’re interested in chartering a boat professionally, you’ll need to think about a few things.

Captain OUPV License

Most boaters looking to get a captain’s license receive the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) License, which allows a captain to charter a boat up to 100 tons in weight, carry up to six passengers and travel in near coastal waters not more than 100 miles offshore. This license is also called the 6-Pack License.

An OUPV License is typically used in the context of small-scale fishing boats, SCUBA and whale-watching boats.

OUPV License Requirements

  • At least 360 days of “sea service,” 90 of which must be in the last year. One day has to last at least 4 hours, and this only includes experience after the age of 13. Half of the required days must be acquired after age 16, and to get a license, you have to be 18 or older. Any military or foreign experience is evaluated by the Headquarters or Coast Guard, respectively.
  • First Aid Certification within the last 12 months.
  • Current CPR Certification.
  • U.S. Citizenship, as proven with an original passport of birth certificate
  • Pass a routine physical. Vision must be at least 20/200 uncorrected in each eye and correctable to 20/40 in each eye. You must also pass colorblind and drug screens. You must be free of drug or felony convictions for the last 3 years (or the last 10 years depending on the severity of the offense).
  • Take boaters courses and pass the examinations as provided by the Marine Safety Office Regional Examination Center. The U.S. Coast Guard will test potential boat captains on a range of subjects–tides, lifeboats, radio communications, nautical charts and safety. Many people take online courses or USCG courses to prepare for these examinations.
  • Obtain three references.
  • Get fingerprinted.
  • Fill out and submit the USCG application for an OUPV License. For this form, you will need your SSN.
Captain License

While the OUPV License is the most popular, there are several additional licenses one can apply for.

For more information, check out the official U.S. Coast Guard website, where you’ll find additional license information, frequently asked questions, exam preparation and the like.

And if you still haven’t seen the movie Captain Ron, well, that’s a good place to start. You should probably go do that.

[images via Miller Hats, ViaMoi and SantiMB]

Alan Perlman
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One Comment

  1. Craig ottofaro says:

    I’m wondering if me being a convicted felon would have a impact on me getting my capt license to be a fishing guide..?

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