How to Get a Sailing Captain’s License: The Complete Manual

Finish off the process of getting a USCG Sailing Captain’s License in 6 steps. No complicated instructions! In this article, you’ll find every detail about the Captain’s License and how to get it. We’ve simplified the whole procedure for you—really simple!

Complete Manual on How to Get a Sailing Captain’s License

Complete Manual on How to Get a Sailing Captain's License

in this article, Sailingyes is going to simplify the whole process of obtaining a USCG Captain’s License within a 6-step easy-to-understand manual.

The following is a guide that would help you set the ball rolling and apply for the card. Plus, it’ll give you handy data on each stage of preparation to make sure you know “what’s what.” For more material, read our guide on how to get a sailing license that actually works in the US. Better yet? You can ask any questions in the comment section down below! Now, let’s get down to the business.

1.   Logging the Time on the Water

The first thing you need to get a captain’s sailing license is proving that you’ve been abroad for quite a while. In fact, the Coast Guard wants to make sure the nominees are familiar with the boating principles and have general marine comprehension. So, as the initial step, you must hold a provable involvement log.

To create such a resume, you can use a Maritime Logbook and record the statistics. The US Coast Guard wants you to have at least 360 days of involvement on board. So, you might want to start logging the data as soon as possible. The statistics are counted as valid information from the time you’re 15-year-old until the present time.

  • 360-day rule: if a sailor has been abroad for 360 days (almost one year), they can apply for an OUPV* or Masters at 250 gross register tons. However, 90 days of this period must be within the past 3 years. Otherwise, the nominee wouldn’t be qualified by the USCG.
  • 180-day rule: if the sailor is willing to get a hundred register-tons license, being on the board of a vessel—33.4 gross tons or larger—for 180 days is enough. When the nominee has been onboard for that time, they are automatically qualified for an OUPV or masters at 100 gross register tons. However, if you have half of this involvement time (90 days) on a vessel fifty-one gross or larger, you can apply for the certifications as well.

What Is an OUPV?

“It stands for Operator of an Uninspected Passenger Vessel which is a certification that allows you to take up to six paying passengers.”

2.   Taking US Captain’s Training Course

The United States Coast Guard approves only one module, the US Captain’s Training. It’s a process involving 4 main modules to warm up the sailors for actual events onboard. Bear in mind that having the certificates of training is necessary for the registration.

So, find an institute in your area that can issue this certification and sign up immediately.

US Captain straining is the official instructor of these classes. However, there are other facilities that are valid instructors for these lessons. So, check their website and see if there’s an official affiliate in your area.

Taking US Captain’s Training Course

The Modules of US Captain’s Training Course

  • Rules of the road: in this lesson, you learn how ships behave when they are next to each other. Like what you may have learned driving a car, there is a set of rules for ships’ traffic as well. You can’t go wherever you want—whenever you want.

That’s why we have a term called “Colregs,” which is a set of rules to be followed by ships and other vessels at sea to prevent collisions between two or more of them.

Note: The International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea 1972 (Colregs) are published by the International Maritime Organization (the IMO).

  • Navigation general: navigating a craft is the most important duty of a skipper. That’s why you should take this lesson to get some general ideas about the weather ranges, nominal ranges, luminous range, graphics range. Basically, this class will prepare you for the actual navigating procedures at the next stage.
  • Chart Navigation: this is where everything gets more realistic. During this module, you get to measure the distances and create routes on a real charter map. You’ll get the chance to undergo hands-on practices using classic chartering tools such as dividers and parallel rulers.
  • Deck general and safety: throughout this class, you’ll know how to react to certain threats like possible fire incidents, etc.

3.   Passing the Exams

When you finished the courses off, it’s time to pass the exams. There will be separate tests for each module you’ve learned and you’re supposed to achieve the minimum points on each of them. The rule is to score 90% on the first lesson (Rules of the Road) and 70% on the rest.

The Rules of the Road test contains 50 questions, General Navigation, on the other hand, is a 20-query test. Plus, the Charter Navigation exam is a 10-query one, while the Deck General and Safety test have 70 questions. So, you must answer 150 questions to get the certificates of training.

4.   Paying the Fees

The payments consist of “issuing costs” and “processing fees.” The former will charge you $45 and the latter will require $100. So, $145 is the bill you should pay before applying for this pass. Go to Pay.Gov to pay up the bills and don’t forget to print the receipt by the end of the process. You’ll need that as documentation to prove that you’ve paid the fees.


5.   Getting the USCG Packet Together

This is where the paperwork comes in. At this stage, you should fill out several forms and put them in a folder. Although it may sound like a simple task, most of the nominees get confused during this process. So, here’s a brief explanation of forms and documentation you need to include in the folder:

  • The application form: this is a form that includes general information about you and the request you’re about to make. To download the application form, visit the com website.
  • Small vessel sea service forms:  there are three sections on this sheet that require general information of the boat owner (i.e. you), plus, details such as gross tons about the craft. If you have any trouble filling this document out, read this article.
  • Physical examination report: the USCG wants to make sure that you don’t have any physical issues to stop you from navigating the boat. In fact, an official should check your physical responses and the overall bodily performance qualifying you for the permit.
  • Drug test: a medical review officer should issue a certification guaranteeing that you don’t use any sort of drugs. That’s a safety caution and there’re no immunities when it comes to recreational drug use.
  • Oath forms: this is a document that assures you’ll follow the rules of the USA government while abroad a vessel. However, you can’t sign it in the absence of an authorized person. So, you must go to a notary, read the oath out loud in front of the authorized person, and then sign the paper.
  • 3-character references: you should find 3 qualified adults who know you outside of the work environment to write about your personality and capabilities. A personal reference is a document to prove your skills and approve your behavior.
  • Certificate of training: this is the pass you get when finishing off the training course.
  • Payment receipt: a document to prove that you’ve paid $145 for issuance and processing fees. (See chapter 4).
  • CPR in first aid card: this certification proves that you’re able to perform CPR on people abroad. There are free classes that would teach you how to perform it and issue you a certification for that.
  • Twic card: it stands for Transportation Worker Identification Credential. Go to the Twic website, find an office in your area, and let them take your biometric information. They will issue you a TWIC card as soon as possible.

Getting the USCG Packet Together

6.   Mailing the Package to the USCG

This is the final step of registration. At this stage you must put all the documentation explained in the previous chapter in a folder and mail it to USCG. The next thing to do, however, is waiting for 2 weeks. During this period the United States Coast Guard will inspect your profile and issue certification within 14 days.

If documentation is not valid, your request will be rejected/denied. And you may repeat this section after reconsidering the papers.

The Most Common Questions About the Captain’s License 

  • Who needs It?

If you will carry paying passengers abroad or participate in any sort of commercial boating programs, you need this certification. Generally, whenever a sailor is going to make money out of their vessel, having the permit is vital. So, if you’re a recreational boater, it’s an unnecessary pass for you.

  • How a navy officer can log their time on the water?

The navy will give you sea time when you get out. However, only a certain percentage of it will transfer over—depending on what department you worked in.

  • how do you log your time abroad?

You could get a Maritime Logbook and use that to log your seafaring time.

  • How much does the Blended Course cost?

It costs between $1,395 and $995. Plus, you should pay $145 for the processing and issuance of the pass as well. So, this certification will cost between $1,540 and $1,140.

  • Can you log 1 day as 24 hours?

No, a day counts as 4 hours. So, only four hours in a 24-hour period is going to be on your log.


Reference (s):

Sailing Fundamentals



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