Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting Your Captain's License is NOT Easy!

The mountain of paperwork Scott had to submit!
Scott headed to Trinidad last night with our friend, Mike, to complete the criteria needed to work on a passenger-carrying vessel, the STCW course...

While many of you may have thought that completing his USCG captain's license course was enough to become a "captain" - that was only the beginning...it is an incredible the amount of work to get your actual license, and Scott has been filling out, organizing and cross-checking paperwork for weeks in order to make sure he doesn't miss a step.

What does getting your captain's license entail, you wonder?

For starters, you must be 18, pass a drug test and a very difficult maritime exam, have a recent medical physical (within last 6 months), and obtain a TWIC card from the Department of Transportation.  Then, of course, there is the sea time. This is the hardest part by far.  To get a United States Coast Guard 100 ton license (which Scott has completed the course for and is applying for) you must account for 360 days at sea.  You'd think that sailing for a year, more or less non-stop, would have covered that with ease but there is a glitch:  a "day" can be no more than 8 hours in a 24 hour period.  If we spent 24 consecutive hours sailing to a destination (which we did plenty of), that is only considered one day, not three like you might assume.  This meant Scott had to supplement the hours spent on our boat and go back to his racing days to log all the hours he spent on other boats (which were many) in the past ten years.

Scott had to literally go back in time; check dates on races and track down former boat owners in his previous cities of Santa Barbara, Salt Lake City, Detroit and Chicago.  He had to make contact with the captains and have them sign-off on his time with them.  This process took ages.  Between a flurry of emails, phone calls and requests, he finally got his 360 hours more than covered*.  Once your sea time is accounted for and all the subsequent forms are completed, you must send them to the USCG for approval.  The following is a checklist of everything you need to apply for your License: 
  • Coast Guard Application Form (CG-719B)
  • Sea Service Forms (CG-719S)
  • Physical Examination Report (CG-719K)
  • Drug Test Report (5 Substance SAMSHA – CG-719-P)
  • Three Character References
  • Social Security Card
  • Copy of TWIC Card or proof of purchase
  • Proof of Citizenship
  • First Aid/CPR Certification
  • User Fees
  • Training Certificate
(make sure to check them MULTIPLE times to make sure you have everything and that you have completed all forms properly!). Once submitted, their average turn-around time is no more than 15 days.  If Scott has one piece of advice for those of you who are thinking about getting your captain's license, it is to LOG YOUR HOURS AS YOU GO.  The form you need can be found here, and if you fill these out as you go, the arduous process of paperwork will be much, much easier when the time comes.

While all of that will get you a Captain's License, it will not be enough for you to work on a boat.  If you wanted to work on any ship, whether it be a steward on a mega-yacht or an engineer on a cargo ship, you will also need to complete the STCW course.  This course covers the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers and it is mandatory to have this certification to work on pretty much any boat (at least in the US and Caribbean).  The course is an intense five days, and by the time it is over on Friday, Scott will be proficient in these four areas: 
  1. Basic safety, survival, and first aid
  2. Bridge resource management (teamwork/watchkeeping)
  3. Survival craft and rescue boats
  4. Fire safety
Obtaining your STCW supposed to be pretty challenging and it includes a significant amount of playing with fire.  Rest assured, we'll tell you about it when he comes back!

HUGE thank you to those wonderful captains who took the time to respond and help Scott out - your efforts are appreciated!

5 comments:

Brett said...

Informative post Brittany! It reminds me of the process for getting my Airline Transport Pilot's license. Very arduous and it took many years. Do you know if you have to log all the time on the CG form you linked to, or can you keep it in a logbook like we do in aviation? I saw Mike from ZTC had gone with the UK's Yachtmaster license rather than the USCG license, any thoughts as to which is better for a career at sea?

Kim and Clay said...

Wow, that is a lot of work but worth it in the end. Thanks for the info and it was very informative.
Clay and Kim
s/v Sundown

Windtraveler said...

@Brett - yes, I think it's similar!! You can keep a log however you like, but you will have to eventually transfer it to the "sea time" form...and, if you move or something, you'll have to track down the Captain when the time comes for his/her signature. But no, you don't need to use those forms for a log. As for the USCG vs. Yachtmaster, there are pros and cons for both, but I think the Yachtmaster is more recognized internationally and there *is* rumor that in the future, only Yachtmaster will be recognized in the Caribbean...but for now, I think it's 6 to one half dozen... - Brittany

Anonymous said...

Brittany thank you for your great post. I have be interested in obtaining my license for some time and now have the time to tackle this challenging process. Do you or Scott have any advice on the process for me as a woman? Do you think the process is harder for a woman and what about age rank. Is there age restrictions on the process? I am 35 years

Anonymous said...

Any perspective from a woman captain out there? Any resources or links for woman who might embark on this process of obtaining boating license? Please share any information you might have available. Thank you!!

Brittany, have you considered getting your license as well? Thank you in advance for any responses.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...