Thursday, July 17, 2014

MLS Seamanship Series (Week 29) - Boat Nomenclature and Terminology

As with any profession or skill, there are special terms that mariners use. Many of these terms have a
fascinating history. Fellow mariners will expect that these terms will be used in routine conversation.

The front end of a boat is the bow. Moving toward the bow is going forward; when the boat moves forward, it is going ahead. When facing the bow, the front right side is the starboard bow, and the front left side is the port bow. The central or middle area of a boat is amidships.

The right center side is the starboard beam, and the left center side is the port beam. The rear of a boat is the stern. Moving toward the stern is going aft. When the boat moves backwards, it is going astern. Standing at the stern looking forward, the right rear section is the starboard quarter and the left rear section is the port quarter.

Starboard is the entire right side of a boat, from bow to stern and Port is the entire left side of a boat, from bow to stern. A line or anything else running from side to side is athwartships. Inboard is from either side of the boat toward the centerline. However, there is a variation in the use of outboard and inboard when a boat is tied up alongside something (e.g., pier or another vessel). In this example, the side tied up is inboard; the side away is outboard.

Going topside is moving from a lower deck to a weather deck or upper deck. Going below is moving from an upper deck to a lower deck. Going aloft is going up into the boat’s rigging. The weather deck is the deck exposed to the elements (weather). Lifelines or railings, erected around the edge of weather decks, are all technically called lifelines, although they may have different proper names. Windward is moving in the direction from which the wind is blowing; toward the wind. Leeward is the opposite point from which the wind is blowing; away from the wind. The term is pronounced “loo-urd”.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So you want to be a Captain? Online learning Myth vs. Reality

Is online learning right for you?
A recent GALLUP poll found that 33% of Americans believed that online education provided the best curriculum options and was a better value economically compared to traditional classroom education. Studies show that online instructional programs work! That said, there are still fence-sitters out there who are reluctant to take the plunge.

The following list outlines some of the most common myths associated with earning your Captain's License online.

Myth #1: All online courses are the sameNot true!  Just like a traditional face-to-face class, the quality of online classes can vary greatly. Those organizations with restricted budgets or little online teaching experience may use formats that offer little more than text-heavy electronic correspondence courses.  However, on the other end of the spectrum, Mariners Learning System uses color, graphics, animation and simulations to assist with the learning process that can rival a Hollywood production. 

Myth #2:  Taking online courses is "settling" for a lesser-quality education. Many students enroll in an online course due to necessity rather than choice. They may live in a rural area or find themselves struggling to balance multiple obligations making it difficult to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar type school. The growing consensus is that online learning, if done well, can rival or in many cases surpass, the levels of quality and student education found in a traditional classroom setting. The content of Mariners Learning System online curriculum is comparable to that found in face-to-face classrooms in terms of material covered, but the online platform facilitates a broader array of delivery styles and greater level of interaction among students.

Myth #3: With online education you are "going it alone." As of the fall 2013, seven million people were taking online college courses in the U.S. alone. As an online student, you are part of a growing academic community of those who consider turning on a computer to be an integral part of "attending class." The truth is that by becoming a Mariners Learning System student you are not "going it alone" by any measure. Simply investing some time in clicking around the classroom and other parts of our school website will reveal a robust network of resources in place to support you.

Myth #4: Online courses are not as engaging as face-to-face courses. Online courses can be just as engaging as traditional face-to-face courses — but in different ways. Our instructors have a variety of tools to foster and support online engagement. They may use voice-over presentations and training videos to deliver a lecture, facilitate an online discussion between a student and staff, offer one-on-one telephone instruction; the possibilities are endless. But just as with face-to-face courses, online courses require active participation to gain the most out of the experience.

Myth #5: Online instructors are not as qualified as in-classroom faculty. Every Mariners Learning System instructor is a USCG Licensed Master that has gone through a rigorous approval process meeting the standards of the United States Coast Guard to become a certified instructor. They bring a level of knowledge, experience, and professionalism that add to the total learning experience. In the rare event an online instructor cannot answer your question, toll fee telephone support with one of our Staff Instructors will be provided.

 About Mariners Learning System

The Mariners Learning System is highly regarded and recognized, with its award winning courses earning the approval of the United States Coast Guard, National Maritime Center, Department of Military, Veteran Affairs, and Homeland Security.

The Mariners Learning System course materials include eBooks, training videos, and broadcast-quality audio lectures that are available on demand for every major device, including PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, tablets, and MP3 players. This "Anytime and Anywhere" learning approach allows you to learn wherever and whenever you have time time to study - at home, on a train, on a boat, or just sitting in traffic.

By assuming you know nothing to start, we teach you the basics while gradually building on that foundation to give you the complete breadth of knowledge you need to become a master seaman and pass your captain's exam. This learning method, refined and perfected by years of experience, has proven remarkably effective and is the reason Mariners Learning System has one of the highest success rates in the industry.

Upon completion of a course, taking our proctored exam, and meeting other requirements such as documenting seatime and passing a physical examination, you simply submit, within one year, the application package to the nearest Coast Guard Regional Exam Center and upon their review and approval, they will issue the license.

Are you interested in learning more? If so, watch this 4 minute demo and learn what all the excitement is about!

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Confessions of a Captain - How the Navigational Rules of the Road saved my life

As a USCG Licensed Captain, a lot of opportunities come my way to earn a living. One of my
favorites is working as a delivery Captain. I would like to share one of these trips that was like no other and nearly cost my crew and me our lives... 

I was sitting in a restaurant in Annapolis Maryland a few years ago when I met a couple who had just bought a 58 foot boat that they needed to have moved down to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. After the evening’s festivities were over we agreed that I was going to help their family with moving their new toy. 

On board would be the husband and wife who were both experienced boaters, their two children, a 9-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl. The trip would take place in early December and be completed prior to the holidays. The planned route was that we would travel the length of the Chesapeake Bay and exit into the Atlantic Ocean once we were in Norfolk, Virginia. Once we were out in the Atlantic we would be traveling southward along the coastline ducking inside to the ICW in the event of bad weather or the need for additional supplies or repairs.

We departed at the crack of dawn and had an uneventful day. Along the way I would ask the owners questions that pertained to the rules of the road to check understanding and educate them whenever necessary. I also took the time to check out all of the electronics and autopilot controls. This boat was missing nothing and was appraised at 1.6 million dollars. Experience has taught me not to be impressed with the price, but with the operational functionality of the vessel. This was one impressive boat and much to my surprise everything seemed to be working. Now the only thing to worry about was my crew.

As the day progressed I determined that we were going to be heading out into the ocean after dark. The area around Norfolk is a very heavily traveled area by numerous recreational, commercial and military vessels. As day becomes night the area can become very challenging to navigate even by an experienced Captain. I decided that it would be best for me to get some sleep prior to entering this heavily traveled area. A course was set, the autopilot was on and clear instructions to the crew were given. The most important instruction was to stay on the preplanned course and speed and not cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel area without waking me. I was assured all was understood and that my instructions would be followed. So I was able to now settle down into what nearly became my last sleeping moments...

I was abruptly wakened by the screams of sheer terror coming from the owner’s wife requesting me to go topside and take control of the helm. I immediately jumped into action not asking any questions along the way. Once on deck I saw two of the brightest white spotlights I have ever seen shinning directly on the helm. There was no time to think and analyze the situation; I immediately turned the helm hard to starboard. At that very moment the Captains of what was two very large seagoing tugboats pulling what appeared to be several barges also turned their wheels hard to starboard. All that I could do now was to wait for the impending impact of our vessels hitting to occur along with the cold rush of water and the effects it would have on the crew and myself. At this time of year the water temperature was around 42 degrees and the moon had not risen. If we went into the water hypothermia would have disabled each of us and we would perish within just a matter of a few minutes. The only thing on our side was that I have a rule on these trips that all crew must wear lifejackets while on deck. In this case I think the lifejackets would have just made it easier for the recovery of our bodies.

In what had seemed to be a lifetime it was all over. We had missed by no more than the width of a football. It was almost as if King Neptune himself had decided that it was not our time to go and stepped in to prevent this tragedy from occurring. The truth be told our survival was due more to knowledge then that of luck or by any intervention from the heavenly bodies.

Let’s break down the events that allowed me and my crew live another day to tell this story. First, each Captain involved had a thorough knowledge of the Rules of the Road that allowed the necessary actions to take place-avoiding loss of life. In this case there were three rules that prevented this situation from becoming a tragedy:

Rule 14 – Head-on Situation: This rule states that when two power-driven vessels are meeting on a reciprocal or nearly reciprocal course so as to involve risk of collision each shall alter her course to starboard so each shall pass on the port side of the other. This rule is why each Captain altered their course to starboard.

Rule 16 – Action by Give-way Vessel: Every vessel that is directed to keep out of the way of another vessel shall, so far as possible, take early and substantial action to keep well clear. In this case my vessel was considered the give-way vessel. We were clearly not following this rule prior to me taking the helm.

Rule 17 – Action by Stand-on Vessel: This rule has 3 components:

1.     When one of the two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other shall maintain her course and speed.  Although I was not at the helm I am sure that the two tugs did hold their course and speed.
2.  The stand-on vessel may take action to avoid collision as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these rules. The two tugs were not obligated to change course at this point. They did have the option according to the rules; however, they chose to hold their course and speed.
3.   When the stand-on vessel finds herself so close that a collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision. This is the moment that I took the helm. The tugs determined that my actions alone would not prevent a collision so they were bound by the Rules of the Road to change their course and speed or take any additional action to avoid a collision.

Now that the excitement was over and my knees stopped shaking my new target was the owner of the vessel who, from this day forward, has been known as reckless Randall. However, fate had once again stepped in. Reckless Randall’s wife took him below and he was not seen on deck until the following morning. I am not sure what she had said to him but it was clear my input was no longer necessary.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

So you want to be a Captain? You’re not alone!

If you are thinking of becoming a licensed Captain, you are not alone. Becoming licensed by the
U.S. Coast Guard is a dream shared by many people for a variety of reasons, both personal and financial. For some, it is the idea of earning a living while working on the water. For others, it is the skill and mastery they achieve by becoming licensed. For many sea lovers, it is the respect, admiration, and personal satisfaction that come from being certified as a Captain.

Thousands of people each year apply to become licensed by the Coast Guard. The fact that so many people have taken the steps to become licensed speaks volumes about the allure, attraction, and aura of being a Captain. If the idea of earning your USCG license appeals to you, be assured its a goal you can achieve with a reasonable amount of effort and focused study.

What type of people become licensed Captains?
  • Those who would like to turn their passion for boating into a Money Earning Endeavor
  • Recreational boaters who want to increase their Seamanship Skills for more knowledge and personal accomplishment
  • Boaters whose family members have concerns about Safety
  •  Boat owners who can gain Tax Advantages or Lower Insurance Costs
  •  Boaters who would like to improve their resume and Become a Licensed Expert
  • Retirees who would like a Second Career
Having a Captain's license enables people to engage in a wide range of activities and business ventures. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination!

As an unrivaled alternative to traditional testing methods, Mariners Learning System courses are designed to give you the knowledge and know-how to earn your Captain's License conveniently from anywhere you have access to the internet. Don't take our word for it... Click on the following link to  take a test ride and Try It Free today!

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

So you want to be a Captain - Which license should I go for?

Which Captain's License should I go for is a question that we often hear. The staff at Mariners Learning System™ recommends that you get the highest license for which you qualify.

There are a couple of options depending on your citizenship status and boating experience. In general, the amount of boating experience and size of vessels on which you have spent time on will influence the license for which you are eligible.

The two main captain's licenses issued by the U.S. Coast Guard are the OUPV/Six-pack and the 25/50 or 100 Ton Master License.

The OUPV/Six-pack Captain's License allows the holder to carry up to six paying passengers plus crew on uninspected passenger vessels up to 100 gross tons - hence the term "Six-pack." This is the most popular of the Captain's Licenses and is required for those who wish to operate fishing and sailing charters, run a dive boat, or offer sightseeing tours, etc.

The 25/50 or 100 Ton Master License allows the holder to operate inspected vessels as well as uninspected vessels. Any vessel that is authorized to carry more than 6 paying passengers must have on board a Captain who holds a Master License. The tonnage you are awarded for a Master level license is determined by the size of the vessels you have gained experience on. Ferryboats, harbor tours boats, whale watching and water taxis are examples of inspected passenger vessels.

You do not need to first earn your OUPV/Six-pack license before becoming a Licensed Master. We generally recommend that each of our students consider skipping the OUPV/Six-pack license and going directly to the Master level license.

There are two additional endorsements that can be added to your license:
  • The Assistance Towing Endorsement can be issued to those who hold a OUPV/Six-pack or Master License and would like to engage in assisting vessels for a fee. To "commercially assist" other vessels that may be aground, disabled or out of fuel, or experiencing some other malfunction requires an endorsement for Commercial Assistance Towing.
  • Licensed Master or mates may also be endorsed for sail or auxiliary sail, as appropriate. The Auxiliary Sailing endorsement authorizes the holder to operate inspected sail or auxiliary sailing vessels within the scope and limitations of their license and is required to carry seven or more passengers "under sail."
Mariners Learning System™ is the go-to place for education and information on obtaining a Captains License. Fully certified by the U.S. Coast Guard, we are known for providing Knowledge and Knowhow... Anytime, Anywhere and have help thousands of students pass their Captain's exam!

Whether you're a sailor chasing the wind, a power boater in search of your next big fish or a cruiser looking for the perfect sunset earning your Captain's License will open the door to new opportunities.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

So you want to be a Captain - How do I "Document" my boating experience?

To qualify for a Captain's License the U.S. Coast Guard requires that you have a minimum number of days experience on the water. The total number of days required is dependent on the license that you wish to earn.

Most license applicants self certify their days of sea time spent aboard their own boat. Proof of ownership for the boat you are claiming days of sea time on must accompany your application. If your time was spent on friends or family members boats then you must provide a Sea Service form signed by the owner of the boat you intend to claim time on.

To document your experience on the water use the Small Vessel Sea Service Form (CG-719S) and record to the best of your recollection the number of days that you were on the water in any given month and year. The Coast Guard is not looking for logbooks or official records to certify this time. If you have these document and records great! You can use them to reconstruct the time you spent on the water if you don't have them no need to worry.

One day of sea time is considered to be 8 hours hours on the water. However, in many cases the National Maritime Center (NMC) will accept a day as being just four hours when applying for an OUPV/Six-pack or 25/50/100 Ton Master License. A single calendar day can only be counted once. So, if you spent 8 hours on your boat and on the same calendar day went out for another 8 hours on your friends boat it would still count as just one day. A day can never be counted twice whether the time was spent on your boat or any combination of other boats.

Sea service you acquired in the military may count towards your Captain’s license. Generally, military sea time will be creditable at a rate of 60% credit for each qualifying day of military service towards a merchant license or document. To be considered qualifying time, the time must have been served in a capacity relevant to the type of license you are now applying for. 

For veterans, the Mariners Learning System™ courses are approved for military members who qualify for the Montgomery or Post 911 GI Bill. These educational benefits are intended to help eligible veterans cover the cost of education and training.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

So you want to be a Captain - How difficult is the test?

Mariners are required to successfully pass written examinations in order to earn a Coast Guard License. This applies to original licensing, as well as raises of grade, increases of scope, and renewal, both for officer and rating endorsements. 

Exam topics include Navigational Rules of the Road, Deck General and Safety, Environmental Protection, Navigation General, and Plotting Questions. The total number of questions and minimum passing score depends on the type of license you wish to obtain. 

The OUPV/Six-pack or Charter Boat Captain's License is the most popular of the Captain's Licenses and is required for those wishing to offer fishing and sailing charters, drive a dive boat, or run sightseeing tours, etc. This license is commonly referred to as a "Six-pack" because it allows the holder to take up to six paying passengers and crew on the water.

The grading standards for this license are shown on the following chart:

What do I need to know about testing?

Passing the test requires study, but you can do it. Taking an approved course will help you be prepared to pass the test (for example, more than 25,000 students have taken a Mariners Learning System™ online course since 2007, with a 98.7% success rate). We run hundreds of approved testing facilities throughout the country. A current listing of dates and locations can be found at Mariners Learning System - Testing Locations.

What if I fail the test?

A big benefit of taking the exam through an authorized trainer like the Mariners Learning System™ is that not only did we write the course but we also wrote the final exam, so your preparation will enable you to pass the course with flying colors and you will know where you stand during each stage that you prepare for the exam. If you do not pass one or more modules, you may retest twice more without delay on just the failed module. But don't worry! As long as you follow our processes and procedures throughout the learning experience there should be no surprises along the way.

As an unrivaled alternative to traditional testing methods, Mariners Learning System courses are designed to give you the knowledge and know-how to earn your Captain's License conveniently from anywhere you have access to the internet. Don't take our word for it... Click on the following link to  take a test ride and Try It Free today!

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