USCG Captain’s Course

I recently finished my Coast Guard Captain’s license and then further completed my Master Mariner license with a sailing endorsement. I took the course through the Mariners School ( The experience was good. The requirements to get your USCG Captain’s license are extensive so here’s a quick list.

  • About 3 full weekends in class
  • Very extensive test out in 3 sections in a 4 hour exam. Multiple choice but there was plotting involved to attain the answers.

The sections were:

  1. Navigation
  2. Rules of the road
  3. Deck General
  • You need to have spent 365 days on the water since you were 15 yrs old
  • To get an offshore endorsement you must have had 90 days outside a demarcation line from the USA (which is usually less than 5 – 10 miles out)
  • Practical time needs to be documented
  • any practical time where you are not the owner of the boat needs to be signed off by the boat owner.
  • Completed a Red Cross first aid course – about 1 evening.
  • Present your social security card and proof of citizenship
  • Present 3 letters of character recommendation
  • Do a drug test
  • An in person trip to the local Coast guard office
  • Total all up cost is about $1500 and about 120 hours of time

Beyond all that it’s an interesting process. What it gets you is the ability to charge money to up to 6 people when captaining a boat. With out the USCG Captain’s license it is against the law to charge money.

Once you get through the whole process, even if you were completely competent before, you have definitely learned some things. Many of the people in the class that I took in Austin Texas were solely doing it for safety/knowledge purposes because they were planning extended trips. So the course is not just for people wanting to charge money to captain a sailboat.

I can certainly say that most of the boating knowledge is contained in the Courses and Clinics of NauticEd but I’m also recommending that if you have the time on the water documented then you should go through and get your USCG captains license.

The course is all theory knowledge and theory test out as the Coast Guard assume that if you have 365 days on the water then you probably have some decent experience.

What’s really interesting is that most countries through out the world require this kind of process to just operate a boat. Some states in the USA require a water safety class but still no where near what some of the European countries require. Here in the USA we tend to have a Laissez Faire attitude when it comes to water. ie Let us govern ourselves. It’s an interesting debate and we are staying out of that argument. However, we are certainly promoting boat knowledge and handling education as we believe this will reduce accidents, increase water sports participation and generally increase peace on the planet because every one is having too much fun on the water – right? We’d all like to think that the other guy operating the boat heading towards you is competent and responsible.

There are about 12 states right now that require a water saftey class and i did read a blog somewhere where the USCG is considering federally to require everyone to have a boating knowledge certificate before operating a vessel. That may be a while but I’m still sure that the course will be pretty watered down (pun intended).

However – right now regarding real boating knowledge and certification, in the USA there is the USCG Captians License and nothing below that except various associations offering boating knowledge certificates such as by the American Sailing Association and US Sailing. Power boat certificates are almost non existent. Similarly, the NauticEd Certificate represents that you have passed a boating knowledge course and is not federally recognised because again the only one recognized is the full on USCG Captains license. That’s it!

But with a short plug for NauticEd if you don’t mind, the NauticEd courses have been written by practical training authors who have really experienced what it takes to have the knowledge and be safe on the water. The courses can be adjusted as needed because of its online nature and therefore are about as uptoday as you can get and with contributions via this blog we can monitor the wishes of our students. Thousands of hours have been invested in the courses and major companies like West Marine, Beneteau, Sunsail, Moorings, Profurl, Blue Water Sailing magazine, Latitudes and Attitudes Magazine are linking in and endorsing the NauticEd courses and certificates. Additionally, sailing schools themselves are linking in and using the courses as part of their coriculum.

As stated in previous blogs, NauticEd does not propose it is a replacement for the USCG Captain’s license or any of the current association offered Certificates. What NauticEd is proposing is that the knowledge is at the finger tips of everyone in the world and therefore the information can be accessed simply and easily and therefore more people will be safer because of the simple access to information. And having taken the courses here, a person showing up for practical training will be so far ahead of someone who has not.

So… in summary – if you want to be safe on the water, be confident and be able to deal with the situations that will arise, get as much education as possible. You will never regret it.


My vision for NauticEd is to provide the highest quality sailing and boating education available - and deliver competence wherever sailors live and go.
Grant Headifen
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Last updated on July 14th, 2022