How to Get Your Captain’s License –A Step-by-Step Guide

captains license step by step guide

From Captain requirements to the Coast Guard application process – how to navigate the process of becoming an official boat Captain

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Like all other areas of professional endeavor, getting a Captain’s license is an essential and non-trivial process. Despite the years between my earliest thoughts on having one and actually applying…or perhaps because of that time…I am quite proud to call myself Captain!

From the time I was Quartermaster aboard the Chesapeake Lightship back when she was berthed in Washington, DC, I had wanted to get my Captain’s license. We in her crew had plenty of sea time. The late Capt. Joe Murray, John Hart, and particularly Chris Krusa saw to it that each of us developed our skills and knowledge beyond the minimum that we needed for our jobs. We met collectively with a Coast Guard officer to explore the options for us all getting licensed; however, the wind was taken out of our sails so to speak when he told us that since most of us were not 18, we were not entitled to take the written exam.

I left that session crestfallen but I put it all behind me as I moved on with a career in research physics. Later, I learned that what the officer SHOULD have said is that if we had just waited (a few months) until we turned 18, we could have taken the exams. Years later, my problem was that I could not meet the requirement to have 90 days of sea time in the last 3 years. My employer would have more than frowned on my having been gone so often. And all of us had not even bothered to ask for sea service forms or letters to document our time on the Chesapeake.

Fast forward 34 years and serendipitous events led to my being able to get signed sea service forms for my time on the Lightship. Shortly thereafter, I became a boat owner WITH vacation time afforded to a very senior engineer in the company.

Long story short, I am Capt. Rob Chichester – 200 Ton Master with Auxiliary Sail and Assistance Towing Endorsements.

Navigating the path to a Captain’s license can be full of the brambles of regulations, forms, and oddly worded requirements. In this article, I will try to clarify the process and help interested skippers decide what type of license, scope, and tonnage they should pursue. Then I will discuss the application process and all the elements needed to assemble a successful license application package.

More Resources: If you would like a one-on-one consultation to have your specific questions answered on this topic or others related to boating, please sign up for 30 minute video consultation with me!

ask Captain Rob

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The Basics of a Captain’s License

A first time applicant will need to decide while type of license to pursue. There are two types available to one applying for a new license.

  • You may apply for a license to be an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) or the more familiar “Six Pack” license. It is so called because the holder of this license is limited to carrying no more than 6 paying passengers on any vessel within his tonnage rating regardless of the maximum capacity rating for the vessel.
  • The other option is a Master’s license which allows you to carry up to the maximum number of passengers indicated for the vessel in question. Whereas a Master’s license requires US Citizenship, an OUPV license holder can be non-US citizen. Clearly holding a Master’s license offers more opportunities; however as I will explain later, the knowledge requirements are appropriately greater.

The scope or route for one’s license is the waters in which you are authorized to function in your licensed capacity.

There are effectively three such areas defined:

  1. The first is Inland which covers all inland rivers and bays not otherwise outside the demarcation line for the high seas. This may also include portions of the Great Lakes up to the International boundary line. (I will not explicitly discuss the Great Lakes or Western Rivers in this article but those waters are also covered by an Inland scope with a specific endorsement for each.)
  2. The second route is near-coastal which means ocean waters not more than 200 miles offshore. By extension, a near-coastal route endorsement includes inland waters as well.
  3. Lastly, Oceans refers to all waters seaward of the Boundary Lines as described in 46 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 7.

Tonnage rating is determined by the size vessels upon which an applicant has served. The tonnage is not simply the weight or displacement of a given vessel. It is not how much stuff you had loaded on a boat. It is a calculation of theoretical displacement if the complete available interior volume of a ship were filled with material of density 1 (i.e., water).

There are formulas available to estimate that based on the dimensions and type of boat. The calculations are necessarily different for a sailboat and a power boat. On a very rough order of magnitude, a 100 Ton powerboat would be about 80 feet long and a 100 Ton sailboat would be about 100 feet long. The tonnage rating is a not to exceed limitation.

One need not necessarily serve on a 50 ton or 100 ton vessel to earn the equivalent tonnage rating (see the table below for specifics on that). One cannot be granted more than a 100 Ton rating on an initial license because higher tonnage requires that one has served in a licensed capacity before applying for the higher tonnage. When I renewed my license in November, I applied for a 200 Ton rating which was granted conditional to my successfully passing the mandated written test. By the time you read this, I expect to have taken that exam.

Tonnage and route are determined by one’s documented experience. While you may apply for a 100 ton rating, you may only be granted 50 tons (or less) if your experience does not justify the higher rating. Additionally, the greater the scope, the more sea time is required to qualify for the rating.

For example, while an Inland scope needs 360 days of total sea time with 90 days in the last 3 years, a near-coastal scope requires 720 days and again the 90-day recency requirement. The take-away here is that experience is a big determinant and should NOT be discounted in any way. Note that there is no path to being granted an Ocean scope except by being a licensed mate or master for at least 2 years with documented service on those waters. That is, it is impossible to apply for an Oceans scope on a first application.

It should be noted that an OUPV license is automatically issued with a 100 Ton rating. As coarse as this may sound, the reason is that it is assumed that with an OUPV license, the most damage one can do is to 6 people. Therefore, there is no particular benefit to issuing OUPV with varying tonnage ratings. New Master’s licenses are issued with ratings of 25, 50, or 100 tons. Discussions of ratings over 100 tons or Ocean routes are beyond the scope of this article. You may contact the author if you wish more information on those specific topics.

The table below is a guide to determining for what rating one may qualify.


Your Sea Time Experience

sea time experienceFor an Inland route, generally all of your documented sea time will be on Inland waters. While Inland technically includes the Great Lakes and Western Rivers, there are additional requirements in service and knowledge for those waters.

For a Near Coastal route, ideally, all of your time will be on Near-Coastal waters; however, you are allowed to substitute up to half of the 720 days required minimum with Inland route service. For the purposes of documenting sea time for a Near Coastal route, any time served beyond the 3-mile limit counts for that purpose. So if you charter in the Caribbean or crew on an offshore fishing trip, that time counts.

Just to be clear, sea time is not counted unless you are a working member of the crew of the vessel named on the sea service form. That is to say, just being a passenger is not sufficient.

To keep things on the up and up, the applicant is required to get the signature of the owner, manager, or master of the vessel on the sea service form. If the applicant owns the identified vessel, proof of ownership must accompany the form. Proof might be a Bill of Sale, vessel document, or a state registration.

Sea time is not counted unless you spend at least 4 hours of a given day underway. Being onboard the boat at the dock swabbing the decks does not count. Time underway is counted whether it is in route or adrift. Being anchored or moored also does not count. It can be tedious to collect and collate all of your sea service forms, especially after the fact. My best advice is even if you are only thinking about getting a license, keep blank sea service forms with you for the vessel operator to sign at the end of a trip. Note that the forms are not per trip but per vessel. There is room to document up to 5 years of sea time on any given vessel. There is room for five years of data because your license will be up for renewal every 5 years.

Technically, vessels over 200 gross tons now require a Service Letter from the employer or vessel manager. However at the time I applied for my original license, I submitted my time on the Chesapeake Lightship on a Sea Service form (CG-719S). That form was accepted for that as well as again when I renewed and requested an upgrade to 200 Tons. I may have been grandfathered so new applicants should verify their individual situations with the National Maritime Center.

Health and Medical

To be a Captain, one must be in good health and of reasonable physical ability. The Medical form (CG-719K) is the most extensive form one will need to complete. It also requires the signature of a licensed physician. Unlike an FAA pilot’s license, the physician need not be approved by the US Coast Guard. Your family doctor is acceptable.

For my part, I completed as much of the form as was reasonable. I then FAXed the form ahead of my annual physical so that the doctor could review what was needed and to be prepared to sign off on it. The only extra thing the doctor had to do was conduct color vision and standard wall chart vision test. Your vision need not be perfect without glasses but if that is the case, you should expect a requirement to be written on your license requiring corrective lenses to be used and a spare pair to be available when on duty. If your medical form is accepted, you will be issued a separate medical form which is to be kept with your Merchant Mariner Credential. There is a pocket on the back cover to hold it and the required Transport Worker’s Identification Card (TWIC). The TWIC will be addressed below.

Another form to be completed, this time by an authorized physician, is the DOT five-panel drug test. An applicant must submit proof of drug testing with no findings as determined by an authorized physician. Also be aware that to work aboard any vessel in any compensated capacity, you must have proof of participation in a drug test program, whether it be one in which you elect to participate as an individual or one required by your marine employer. Such proof is to be carried with you at all times just as your license and medical certificate must be. It is generally in the form of a letter attesting to your compliance and passing a test within 12 months of the date of the letter.

Criminal and National Security Background

One has always been required to agree to a criminal background and driving record check. As you can well imagine, adverse findings in either of these areas will negatively affect one’s application.

With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a requirement was added that licensed mariners have a TWIC card. In fact, anyone working in the transportation sector (air, rail, marine, trucking, etc.) is required to have a TWIC card. You will be investigated for any evidence of threat potential to national security. This is because as a licensed Captain, you may have access to vital and strategic marine facilities.

The TWIC card is issued by DHS through a federal contractor. There is an application to complete and a fee to pay. Furthermore, you must appear in person so that your photo and fingerprints can be taken. This bio-metric data is stored on the TWIC card and protected by a pass code. You must submit a copy of your TWIC with your license application; therefore, one must start the TWIC process at least four to six weeks or more before submitting one’s license application.

Separately, a photograph of the applicant must accompany the application. This can be a driver’s license or passport photo. It should be a state or federal government issued document. Others may be accepted but the applicant should verify this with the NMC before submitting the application to avoid processing delays.


captain experienceAn applicant is required to take a test that covers at least three areas of knowledge:

  • Coastal Navigation
  • Deck General Knowledge
  • Rules of the Road

Deck General includes a wide variety of topics including fire and safety, terminology, and laws and procedures. Rules of the Road covers exactly what it says. Bear in mind that even if you are applying for an Inland or Near Coastal license, the Rules of the Road test will include elements of International Rules. So when you are studying, do not neglect to familiarize yourself with those details. There are some variations in vessel precedence, sound signals, and lights and shapes displayed by vessels.

If you are applying for a Master’s license, there are additional areas of test. The same is true if you are additionally requesting an endorsement for Sail, Auxiliary Sail, or Commercial Assistance Towing. The net effect is more questions overall.

You must score at least 70% in all areas except Rules of the Road for which you must have a minimum score of 90% to pass. Generally, that means you may miss no more than 3 questions to pass with a 90% grade. The Navigation questions will require you to work with a chart to plot position, routes, and so forth.

You may either pay an examination fee to take the exams administered by the Coast Guard or you may enroll in any number of approved Captains’ courses. You will receive a certificate of completion from the school to submit with your application in lieu of the Coast Guard exams; however, you will still take exams which include questions from the same list of questions that the Coast Guard uses. In the latter case, you will not need to pay an examination fee but obviously, you will have to pay a tuition for the course.

Completing your Application

The license application is not unlike many others. It is actually shorter than the medical form discussed earlier. There are two things to note on the application:

  • Item 1 of Section IV describes how one may be asked to serve on behalf of the country in times of national emergency. An example of this was the massive sealift conducted in support of the first Gulf war in the 1980’s, Operation Desert Storm. This is a voluntary action. However it should be noted that during the call up for Desert Storm, more mariners were needed than responded. It is a possibility, particularly in these times, that another such national emergency could arise.
  • Secondly, Item 5 of Section IV contains an oath to which an applicant must swear. If you present yourself in person you will be sworn in by Coast Guard personnel. If you choose to submit your application by mail or electronic means, you must provide proof that you appropriately took the oath as written. This generally means being sworn by a Notary or a local government official such as a county clerk.

Payment of all required application and examination fees is made online prior to submitting the application. You will receive a receipt which you should include with your application package. Pay close attention to the various fees and be sure you select all that apply but ONLY those that apply. An error either way will delay processing of your application.

Submitting your Application

When you apply for an original license and especially if you plan to take the Coast Guard exams, you will need to present yourself in person with your complete application package at a USCG Regional Examination Center (REC). Photo ID will be necessary as well.

One thing that happens if you appear in person is that you will raise your right hand and take the oath on the application. That was a very moving moment for me. Delivering your application package in person also allows you to interact with the personnel directly which could be very valuable if there are errors or omissions in your application package.

If you are not taking the Coast Guard exams and if you have been sworn by an authorized official, you may wish to submit your application by mail or electronically. Be aware that electronic submission has a limit on the size of the email attachment. My applications have always been larger than what is accepted by the Coast Guard mail servers.

Waiting for Your License

The Coast Guard has implemented a very good system of tracking your application and providing feedback at every step of the way. You will receive emails as the application moves through the system. It may take up to a week for the REC to review and forward your application to the National Maritime Center (NMC) in West Virginia. That was my experience with the New York City REC. It may be less in smaller, less congested venues.

By the way, you are not required to use the REC nearest to you. If you wanted to fly to Hawaii or Alaska instead of driving into Baltimore, you may do so. A good friend of mine drove from New Jersey to Boston to submit his application there because he heard the processing times were less than for New York.

Once the NMC has your package, the process usually will not take long at all. It is very likely you will receive 2 or 3 emails a day, often within minutes, as the application moves through the various approvals. Nothing beats the feeling you will have when you get the final email saying that you have been approved and your credential is being printed!

My original license took slightly more than two weeks from dropping off my application at Battery Park in New York to finding my MMC in my mailbox.

Once you get your license, look it over thoroughly. You may not necessarily have been granted the scope and rating you requested. Sometimes that reduction will be legitimate. Other times, it may be due to an honest mistake. Both my original and renewals had honest omissions. I was only granted a 50 ton rating on my original license when I had applied for 100 tons. I submitted the sea service form supporting the request for 100 tons after the fact and I received an endorsement sticker for the 100 ton rating a week later. Similarly with my renewal, I asked for an upgrade to 200 tons. My renewal was approved at 100 tons. When I contacted the NMC, they amended the approval and showed that I was then approved to take the required test for the 200 ton upgrade. So my message here is to not necessarily accept the delivered MMC as if it were carved in stone.

More Resources from Captain Rob

Being a licensed Captain is a great source of pride to me. I have enjoyed working with my clients as well as pursuing other commercial opportunities like relief captain jobs on various schooners, water taxi and tow boat jobs, and tour boat and ferry captain work. I look forward to many years of working on and enjoying the water.

If you would like a one-on-one consultation to have your specific questions answered on this topic or others related to boating, please sign up for 30 minute video consultation with me!

ask Captain Rob

Recommended Reading

Here is a selection of books that I personally recommend as the next step in your journey becoming a licensed boat captain.

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Disclosure: This site may contain links affiliated with companies where we receive compensation. Also, as an Amazon Associate we may earn from qualifying purchases we refer but it does not impact the price you pay. Full disclosure policy.

Capt. Rob Chichester

View posts by Capt. Rob Chichester
Capt. Rob is an engineer and owner & operator of Chesapeake Flotillas offering charters, instruction, and vessel relocation. A USCG Licensed Master, Capt. Rob has planned and executed flotilla cruises all over the Chesapeake Bay, Europe, and the Caribbean. Rob holds a 200-Ton Master's license with Auxiliary Sail and Assistance Towing endorsements. He also is certified by the American Sailing Association to teach Basic Keelboat Sailing, Basic Coastal Cruising, and Bareboat Chartering. A self-proclaimed sailor & poet, he operates a 41-foot sloop Bay Poet based out of Rock Hall, MD. Rob has also trained and served as captain of tall ships including the state tall ship of New Jersey, the Schooner A.J. Meerwald.


  1. Jeff SennettJanuary 30, 2019

    Hi, I am hoping you can help me out. I am a USCG vet that was stationed at a small boat station in NJ from 1983-1989. I am trying to get my sea time documented but I am having a very hard time finding out how to do that since the station records were not computerized at that time. I have contacted the NMC and they told me to call the station to get an Abstract of Operations report. They just laughed at me when I called the station. I have requested info from but I am sure that will take some time just to get an answer as to wether they can do that or not. I was wondering if you knew how to go about getting the information that I need. I am sure I am not the only person with this issue and I can’t seem to find anyone that knows exactly how to go about documenting that time.


    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterJanuary 31, 2019

      Hi Jeff.

      Thanks for your question. I don’t have a lot of advice for you regarding USCG internal procedures. Perhaps you can contact the Office of Personnel and try to get a copy of your service record. Alternatively, is there anyone at that small boat station who knew you? Would the OIC be willing to write a letter? The last and least likely option would be to fill out your own sea service form and see if anyone there would sign off on it for you. Now the regulations speak of a Certificate of Discharge being acceptable. See for example 46 CFR 10.232 ( If you already have that, you might be good to go!

      So…start with your Certificate of Discharge and if you don’t have that, then contact the Office of Personnel to see if you can get the requisite documents. Let me know how you make out!

      Capt. Rob

  2. Dennis StanleyJune 17, 2018

    Hi Captain Rob, My name is Elton the 66 year old owner of a small 35 ft. Kingscraft houseboat. I spend a lot of time on one large lake. It is an older wonderful all aluminum vessel but weighs only about 8000 lbs. In the chart the lowest weight rating is 17 tons. I would love to educate myself and become a Captain. Is that possible at some level? I would also have to document my own time as pilot.

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterJune 18, 2018

      Sir, you have open to you both options that I describe in my article. You could pursue either a Master’s license OR an Operator of an Uninspected Vessels license. From what you have written, I see no inherent obstacles. You must be able to document your seatime, get a medical evaluation, and pass the 4 or the 3 parts of the written exam depending on which license you choose to pursue. In any event, you would qualify for an Inland license. Your tonnage rating would also depend on which license you pursue. Solely based on what you have said above, you would qualify for a 50 ton Master’s license. If you pursue an OUPV, that comes with a tonnage rating of 100 tons. For most people, the biggest challenge is acceptably documenting seatime. (It needs all be as captain. You can include time served as master, mate, or crew but NOT as a paying passenger.) If your concern is your age, I know a few captain’s in the 60s and 70s. I am one of the former myself. Good luck!

  3. John Kyle O'ByrneFebruary 23, 2018

    Capt.Rob I am US Army Veteran And I was wondering if their was a school i could attend to obtain a licence, I ask this because i have to decide what i want to go to school for and this job would be a top pick for me. Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated thanks

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterFebruary 26, 2018

      There are MANY captain schools that can help you with the written tests but there are NO schools that can help you with the sea time requirements unless you are considering enrolling in a maritime college like Kings Point or Fort Schuyler in the New York State university system. I used Mariners Learning System for my written tests only because it was more convenient than going to the USCG REC to take the exams.

    2. Brian AricoJune 10, 2018

      Where would I get sea service forms . I have owned and operated my own boats for over 30 years and am now being asked to get a captains liscence

      1. capt rob
        Capt. Rob ChichesterJune 18, 2018

        There is a link in the article for the National Maritime Center. All the forms you needs can be found on their website. Alternatively, you can search for USCG National Maritime Center with your favorite search engine.

  4. AndrewFebruary 21, 2018

    Hey Rob,

    Couple questions. Would working as a divemaster on a dive boat in the Gulf of Mexico count for near coastal sea time? And if you were to have 8 hours of sea time in one day, could you potentially count that as two days at sea? Or would it still be just one day? Thanks for all the info this has been a huge help!


    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterFebruary 22, 2018

      Any time spent aboard a vessel underway counts as long as the owner, manager, or master of the vessel will attest to that. When submitting Sea Service forms, your option for your role aboard the vessel are things like crew, mate, master, engineer, etc. You will need to determine what your position was. Divemaster is not recognized and does not speak to maritime skills necessarily. (For example, you can dive from shore never having been in a boat.) Regarding the near coastal time, you just need to verify that the vessel upon which you served was indeed in near-coastal or ocean waters. The form has spaces for days spent within the specified boundaries and outside those boundaries. I once saw an interactive chart online for finding the boundary lines in a given area. For your purposes, you cannot count 8 hours as two days underway. You need a MINIMUM of 4 hours underway to count that day. Being at anchor or otherwise moored or secured does not count. Good luck!

  5. Robert MottJanuary 20, 2018

    Lots of good and helpful info. I boated the Chesapeake for 10+yrs, from the Delaware bay to Virginia in a 27′ cruiser. i’ve not been on the water since 2012. So to be clear, I need to acquire some time on a charter vessel to even attempt the basic “6-pack”. I have my CG boating skills and seamanship certificates,and will work on the CG719S. Living in Florida, lots of opportunity, should have done this sooner !!

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterJanuary 21, 2018

      Thank you for your feedback. I am glad you found the article helpful. Apart from documenting your sea time, I found the most labor intensive aspect was verifying that a) I had all the documents that I needed and b) I had correctly completely all of the USCG forms. A lesser challenge may be in determining what correct application fees are. If you are not sure, contact USCG NMC by phone, email, or online chat to get clarification on what fees you have to pay. Good luck!

  6. BerryDecember 22, 2017

    This is great info..

    I am starting out (hopefully) as a plan is due to new lifestyle i desire to get an two oceans open ocean 800 expedition catamaran (again very expensive so fingers crossed) but the plan is while the vessel is being built, i can take several classes and get a few certifications prior to launch, then as life you see everywhere on youtube for example have the vessel at dock, then day trips, then a week trip and just push it a little further until you are ready for the maiden voyage, really looking to live off anchorage in around the philippines / guam area mostly philippines or south pacific area, mostly friends and family but my question is any licence for that type of boat, and also if you have heard of any schools in the philippines? I know they have a few courses that are completely certified like any american school but a fraction of the cost, just curious if any particular licence i need to get or have?

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterDecember 23, 2017

      You did not say whether you intended to take passengers for hire. Generally, one only needs to be licensed if you are getting paid to carry passengers OR if you working in more advanced maritime fields like tug boats and large cargo vessels. If you are only operating your private vessel for your own personal or recreational purposes, you usually do not need any kind of license other than possibly taking a multiple choice test on local safety rules and rules of the road. I am not familiar with the licensing requirements in foreign venues like the Philippines. Each nation has its own requirements. I was able to find information at this link: You may find some useful information in that document.

      Good luck! And safe sailing…

  7. DanaSeptember 12, 2017

    Your information was helpful, thank you. I have decided to pursue getting my License but I am starting from scratch. Should I take classes before looking to get sea time? And how does one go about getting sea time with no experience?

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterSeptember 12, 2017

      Any course work you take will typically culminate in a certificate of completion. However that certificate will only be valid for 1 year. Therefore, do NOT take any exams more than about 6 months prior to submitting your original license application. As for sea time, you can look for marine work that does not require a license like deck crew on water taxis or excursion boats. Time spent on a friend’s boat counts. Have that friend complete and sign a sea service form. Sea time never expires and can be counted from the age of 15. Learn your rules of the road and learn to feel your vessel. Driving a boat is a lot different from driving a car. As a licensed captain, you are expected to step up to the helm and handle the ship with relatively little training time. Good luck!

  8. CraigAugust 31, 2017

    Great article, thanks for writing it! Does time spent aboard a recreational boat that I own, when I am the only person aboard, count towards sea time? If so how do I document that – there’s no one to sign for the time. Thanks again.

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterAugust 31, 2017

      Time spent on your own boat absolutely counts. You would sign the CG-719S Sea Service form yourself where it says Applicant AND where it says Person Attesting to Experience. However, you will have to provide proof of ownership for the vessel. The Bill of Sale is usually what is used but the vessel’s CG document or state registration card should also be sufficient. Remember that seatime is counted only from the age of 15 and it is underway time of at least 4 hours per day. Time on the anchor or alongside do NOT count. The presence of others is irrelevant.

  9. capt rob
    Capt. Rob ChichesterJuly 31, 2017

    Hi Shane. Sea time is defined as time working aboard in any capacity relevant to the rating you are pursuing. For instance, if you are a bos’n or deck crew, that time it unlikely to count towards a engineer’s license and conversely, time in the engine department or work on mechanical systems would be difficult to apply towards a deck officer’s license. The highest rating one can get on an original (i.e., first) license is 100 Ton Master. It is likely that your Navy time would count; however, your challenge is getting an appropriate service letter from the Navy. You cannot submit a CG-719S for your Navy service as that form is for SMALL VESSEL service. Consult the USCG site at for more information. Also note that you may use any valid sea time accrued from the age of 15. Good luck!

  10. ShaneJuly 20, 2017

    Hi Capt. Rob,
    I have one question rather just some clarification regarding the time at sea, for the tonnage rating. Does “time at sea” mean just that or does it mean operating the vessel. I was in the Navy for several years as an operations specialist and I am not sure what level I would qualify for if I were to pursue getting a Captains license. Also I was wondering how much the entire process would cost.

  11. Mike AutonJuly 19, 2017

    Hey Rob, Thanks so much for taking the time to write this, it was really very useful to read. This has been on my mind for some considerable time, but I am now finally starting on the road to getting my licence and taking a nautical shift in my career. I have been a sailor all my life, was sailing single handed as soon as I could walk and now own a 38 foot Irwin racer/crusier.

    My one big question is online study vs going somewhere to do the required course? I wonder how you gained your licence and what you might recommend?

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterJuly 19, 2017

      My issue was primarily NOT wanting to have to take the tests at the NYC REC and to NOT attend intense 8-10 hour weekend classes. I was comfortable with the Rules of the Road and chart navigation issues as well the Deck General material. Since I got a Master’s license (versus the OUPV), there was more legal stuff to know in the category they call Ship’s Business. I did an online course through Mariner’s School in Princeton, NJ. The price was good and the location was convenient for when I did go to take the test.

      The bottom line is do what works best for you given what you need to learn or refresh, how much time you have to do it, and where you will need to go to take the final tests.

      (Please note that you can submit your application and/or take your tests at ANY REC anywhere. It is not a function of where you live or where you will sail.)

  12. mckenzie1975February 6, 2017

    Great article Rob. Thanks for sharing your experience

    1. capt rob
      Capt. Rob ChichesterFebruary 7, 2017

      Thank you for the feedback. Do please let me know if you have any further questions or if I may be of service in some other regard!

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