Captains cabin on ship vector illustration. Ferry boat pilot command berth with captain operating machine and talk into radio set flat style concept. View on beauty seascape


You may have heard of the captain’s license if you have ever been boating. What size boat does a captain license need to be able to operate? What is the minimum required license to operate a personal boat?

A captain’s license is not required for any boat of the official size, but it is necessary to host paying passengers. Let’s take another look.

Table of Contents:

  • What Size Boats Require a Captain’s License
  • Types of Boat Captain Licence
    • 1. Six Pack of OUPV
    • 2. Master License
  • How to get your Captain’s License
    • Step 1 – Get the experience
    • Step 2 – Captain’s course and the USCG exam
    • Step 3 – Go through the application process.
  • Do you need a captain’s license?
  • Conclusion

1. What Size Boats Require a Captain’s License

It is not necessary to have a license for every boat. It’s not about the size of the boat or the length of the vessel; it’s about how the boat is used.

No matter the boat’s size, anyone who takes on paying passengers must hold a captain’s license. Paying passengers are those who make a financial contribution to the vessel. The license is required regardless of the vessel’s size.

You will be more likely to receive a discount from your insurance company if you have a captain’s license. Even if you don’t intend to purchase a large vessel, it’s still a good idea to have a captain’s license.

You can operate a civil vessel or a commercial vessel with a captain’s license.

This includes passengers and cargo that are paid. Every five years, the USCG captain’s license must be renewed.

However, laws and regulations can vary from one state to the next, so it is important to know what certificate is required to operate watercraft in each area.

  • Texas requires that anyone who was born after September 1, 1993, must have a boater’s education card in order to navigate a 14-foot boat or larger.
  • However, in Michigan, an In-Land Boat License from the Department of Natural Resources, regardless of its size, is required.
  • A temporary boating safety certificate must be obtained for anyone renting a boat in Maryland. Anyone under 16 years old operating a boat without this certificate would require supervision by a person who has one.

2. Types and Uses of Boat Captain Licence

There are many types of captain’s licenses. There are many ways to break them down, including based on gross vessel tonnage.

There are two types of licenses: the OUPV and the Master. You can further subdivide the Master into Inland Waters/Great Lakes to access specific inland areas and Near Coastal Water to access 200 miles from the coast.

It doesn’t mean that you have to obtain a Master’s license immediately. An OUPV can be used to start and then converted into a Master later.

All USCG license types must meet the same requirements, including the CPR/First aid certification within the past year, the physical examination within 12 months, and a drug test within six months.

– Six Pack of OUPV:

The first type is Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV). This type of license allows you to carry on paying passengers. However, no more than six can be carried at once. These are the requirements for private boat captain licenses.

  • Minimum 18 years old
  • 360 days of experience aboard a vessel
  • 90 days of experience near the water type that you want a license

All OUPV licenses allow the use of vessels up to 100 tons.

– Master License:

The Master License is the second type. It allows you to operate inspected or commercial vessels and has more than six paying passengers.

There are, however, differences between Master licenses for vessels with different tonnages (25 to 50 or 100 tons) and the water body where you can operate (inshore or offshore).

The requirements for a Master’s license are the same for all subtypes. These include the following.

  • Age 19
  • Documented experience on water; length depends on license type
  • Experience of 90 days within the last three years

3. How to Get Your Captain’s License

The process of getting your US captain’s license is lengthy and requires a lot of paperwork. We won’t get into every detail, but we will give you an overview of the information you will need.

Step 1: Get the experience you need

Your first step to obtaining your captain’s license is to get experience onboard a boat. You don’t need to be a professional boater. Any experience with the water is acceptable. You will need to record your boating experience in order to prove it.

It is important to consider where you spend your time, as it will affect the license you apply for. It is also important to consider the gross tonnage of your vessel, as this will affect which tonnage licenses you are eligible for.

Step 2: Captain’s Course and the USCG Exam

The USCG exam is also required. This exam requires that you have a lot of knowledge. A captain’s course is one way to make sure you have enough.

You have many options when it comes to courses, some of which can be done online in addition to traditional classroom-based classes.

Step 3: Go through the application process.

You will need the necessary documents and certifications before you apply. These requirements include:

  • Transportation worker ID card
  • Medical exam and drug screening
  • Certification in CPR and first aid
  • Documentation proving residency

These forms are required along with specific forms depending on the license you apply for. However, this is not an exhaustive list. Before the application process can be completed, you will need to complete several papers and pay fees.

4. Do you need a captain’s license?

You will need a captain’s license to operate a vessel inspected or take on passengers. It is not required if you use your boat only for personal trips with friends and family.

A captain’s license is required if you intend to use your boat to make financial gains or get a discount on your insurance.

5. Conclusion

You now know the size of the boat that requires a captain’s license. You also know that the size of a boat does not matter. It all comes down to how the vessel is used. You should plan ahead if you want to obtain one. It is not an easy process.

What are your thoughts on getting a captain’s license? Although it may seem tedious, safety is always the top priority. Please leave your comments below.

Be safe when you are on the water.


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