How To Be a Boat Captain? A Newbie Guideline

If you find solace in spending days or even weeks cruising along the sea, traveling to different and often exotic locations, being a boat captain is certainly a skill you should acquire, whether as a hobby or as a profession.

However, there are certain aspects such as knowledge of maritime practices and law, and leadership experience that are an essential quality for any individual looking to become a boat captain.

Becoming a captain through only accumulated experience and credentials is a vastly different practice when acquiring the skill through academics.

This article will assist you in learning about the required steps, procedures, and safety regulations before operating a boat on your own.

Step 1: Admitting in a Maritime High School 

Maritime High Schools are becoming prevalent in current day fields of education. The purpose of these schools is to prepare their students with the basic knowledge of water transportation.

Although, this isn’t a mandatory step, but a rather crucial step nonetheless. As it introduces young individuals to general maritime skills, maritime education, and future naval career prospects.

Step 2: Getting a Bachelor’s Degree 

Acquiring a bachelor’s degree in Maritime Studies isn't technically necessary, but it can work as a worthy advocator during your licensing exams.

However, a major in marine transportation in specialized marine academies are designed for students seeking a career as a boat captain. And lengthy training procedures on the water are offered to students, to help acquire first experiences.

Such programs in marine transportation includes a large spectrum of courses in marine studies such as naval leadership, maritime communications, nautical sciences, ship structure, marine business etc.

Step 3: Gain Experience as a Deckhand 

Getting a bachelor's degree in marine studies gives any future boat captain a significant head start in gaining extensive work experience about ships and boats alike.

Even after working thousands of hours as a deckhand (a crew ship member in charge of manual labor aboard the ship), a licensing exam without a bachelor’s degree would only be possible through extensive training and study.

Applicants for a licensing exam must spend 360 days on the water, at least 4 hours each day, and documented for five years, which should include the signature of the commanding captain.

Although, it is possible to become a boat captain exclusively through experience, as captains of supply boats and navigator of inland rivers can obtain their position through years of experience.

Mariners need to be licensed to navigate deep-water vessels, which is often the most lucrative option for any boat captain.

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Step 4: Working as a Deck Officer 

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree from a Merchant Marine Reserve or any other certified marine academy and gaining experience as a deckhand will give you the essential knowledge and ability to work as a deck officer or a third mate. 

Working as deck officer

A deck officer is in charge of supervising the routine operations of the boat when the captain is unable to keep watch. 

Although a license isn't necessarily required to become a deck officer, you will need to ensure that the Government Authority approves your bachelor's degree or specialized nautical science courses of the country.

Step 5: Applying for the License Exam 

To officially become a boat captain, you need to take a licensing exam, which includes three character references from previous commanding licensed captains or similarly other licensed boat owners.

Physical exams such as substance drug tests, first aid certification, fingerprinting, and a background check are all required for the application to be considered.

The license is formally known as the Six Pack License. And the application can be found in your respective Government Authority Coast Guard websites.

Step 6: Acquiring the Six Pack License 

This is undoubtedly the most important credential you’ll need to obtain to command and navigate a boat. It is also required for any captain operating uninspected vessels carrying up to six passengers.

The Six Pack License can be obtained through thousands of hours of experience as a deck officer in merchant ships, alongside the license that proves your capability of commanding and operating a boat or a ship.

Step 7: Operating Your Boat

With years of experience and knowledge obtained from commanding captains, crew members, or peers and special institutionalized education, you can captain any maritime vessel navigating through inland waters. 

Possessing a Six Pack License, you will have the ability to accommodate paying passengers, navigate deep-water vessels, hire your crew, and turn your vessel into a supply boat for a more lucrative option.

Experience Commanding Your Vessel!

A captain's license isn't necessary for pleasure cruises and commercial fishing, but to compensate for your boat's services and to accommodate paying passengers in your boat, a valid captain's license is mandatory.

Despite the somewhat lengthy process, obtaining a maritime license is crucial to get the most out of being the commanding officer of your vessel.

Last Updated on March 9, 2021