Sorry again that our blog has had little activity but I can tell you it has been for a reason. For the past couple of months all of our non-working hours have been consumed with taking classes to get our captain’s licenses. This past Saturday we passed our final exams and we are both certified as Masters of up to 100 Ton Vessels. We need to submit our applications to become licensed but they are done and it’s just a matter of sending an email to the US Coast Guard with all of the info.
We are so glad this is done. It took way more time and effort to get this done than we thought it would. The classes were every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6-9:30. We also had to do homework almost every off night and on weekends. Near the end we just wanted the whole thing to be done and over because it felt like it was consuming our whole life!
We initially decided to get our 6-pack captain’s licenses due to a conversation with our insurance company. They said we would either have to hire a professional crew for our crossings or pay twice the rate. When we looked at the cost of getting our license vs. the increased cost of insurance it seemed like a no brainer. The 6-pack allows you to take up to 6 passengers on an uninspected vessel and is actually call the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV). They are further classified as Near Coastal or Inland based on your boating experience or sea time. You need 360 days of sea time to qualify for the Inland and 90 of those days must be beyond the “Boundary Line” if you want the Near Coastal. Luckily the “B” Buoy is the local edge of the Boundary Line and we often sail out beyond this area. When I added up all of our time on Smitty and Splash we have 464 total days with 153 being beyond the Boundary Line.
Once we started the course it seemed like getting the 6-pack was kind of foolish. The difference between the 6-pack and the Masters is only 2 and half weeks of class and you have 10 additional questions on one part of the exams. Also, after talking to a couple of the instructors it looks like it will be relatively easy to pick up some work along the way with the Masters license that will help keep the cruising kitty going. So we paid the extra $150 to upgrade to the Masters. Based on our sea time on Smitty (a 7 Gross Ton vessel by USCG standards) we should qualify for a 50 Ton Master’s Inland and OUPV Near Coastal. This would mean we could deliver private yachts going offshore up and down the coast and work on larger boats like ferries, working boats, launch tenders, etc. inside the Boundary Line.
We both also got the sailing endorsement, which allows us to operate sailboats. For that we needed 180 days of experience on a sailboat. That was no problem since all of our days were on a sailboat.
I also decided to get my tow endorsement. This would allow me to work for an assistance tow company like Tow Boat US or Seatow.
Here is a little outline of the process.
- 10 weeks of courses Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6-9:30 and you must attend 90% of the classes to sit for the test (school rule)
- an additional 4 hours of course time for the sailing endorsement
- an additional 4 hours of course time for the towing endorsement
- Pass all the exams
- Rules of the Road – 30 questions, no resources, 90% correct required to pass (hardest test for most)
- Navigation General – 20 questions, you can use the Pubs and CFRs, 70% correct required to pass
- Plotting – 10 questions, you can use the Pubs and CFRs, 70% correct required to pass (actual paper chart plotting including taking wind and current drift into account)
- Deck General – 70 questions, you can use the Pubs and CFRs, 70% correct required to pass (this is only a 60 question test for the OUPV)
- Sailing Endorsement – 20 questions, no resources, 70% correct required to pass
- Towing Endorsement – 20 questions, no resources, 70% correct required to pass
- USCG Physical & Drug Test – This includes some different stuff than your typical physical like a test for being color blind, a functional hearing test and it has to be on their specific forms
- Get a Transportation Workers Identification Card
- Get 3 Letters of Reference from non-family members
We could have studied on our own and just went into the USCG office in Boston and took the exams. Given the info that was on the exams we felt the best option was to take a review course. We went with New England Maritime; they are out of Hyannis but have a satellite location in Quincy. I am really glad we went with the course. We learned a lot of good info that isn’t covered in the exams but we should know. The main instructor, Charlie, was great and really prepared us well for the exams.
Another step to leaving the cubicle life behind us!