Friday, May 8, 2015

MLS Seamanship Series (Week 31) - Electronic Charts (Raster vs. Vector)

Although there are many suppliers of electronic charts, the charts themselves can be divided into two groups: raster and vector. Raster charts can be regarded as electronic photocopies of paper charts, produced by scanning a master copy of a paper chart, in much the same way as a fax machine scans a document that is about to be sent. The chart is broken down into a vast number of tiny dots (pixels), and the position and color of each pixel is recorded. Instead of sending this information down a telephone line, as a fax machine does, the chart scanner stores it on the cartographer’s computer, from where it can be copied onto flash memory cards or CD-ROMS, and supplied to customers.

Raster charts are relatively cheap and simple to make, but each chart uses a lot of memory or disc space. Because they are electronically copied straight from the paper chart, they are familiar in appearance, and contain exactly the same information: nothing is added or taken away. The drawback is that they can only be used effectively at about the same scale as the original chart: if you zoom in, then letters and symbols become huge, but without any extra detail becoming visible; while if you zoom out, names and symbols become illegible.

Vector charts are produced by electronically tracing raster charts. The fundamental difference is that lines are not stored as strings of darkened pixels, but as lines. Vector charts originally became popular for small boat hardware plotters because although they are more expensive to produce, they occupy much less memory. The vector format also allows more flexibility in the way the chart is used: a vector chart can be zoomed in or out much further than a raster chart, but the letters and symbols always stay the same size.

On a raster based chart, a feature such as a buoy is represented by a cluster of colored pixels that make up the shape of a buoy symbol exactly as it appears on the original paper chart. On a vector chart, however, the buoy’s position is linked to a database of information about the buoy. The software can use this database in various ways. Some programs will represent all navigation aids by means of the same diamond-shaped symbol. When you select one (by ‘pointing at it’ with the cursor) the data is revealed in a text panel somewhere on the screen. Other systems use the database information to display a symbol showing the shape and color of the buoy itself.

More sophisticated versions of this are used on some electronic charts to provide graphic representations of the changing height of tide at particular places, to provide additional information such as lists of port facilities, or to superimpose arrows showing the tidal stream on top of the main chart.

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Friday, May 1, 2015

So You Want To Be A Captain - No Coast Guard Exam!

After you completed the Mariners Learning System coursework, you will need to take our proctored exam in order to get your OUPV/Six-pack or 25/50/100 Ton Master Captain’s license, etc. Mariners Learning System has USCG-approved testing facilities all over the country. Once you complete and pass the exam, you will receive a MLS Certificate of Completion. This Certificate of Completion is accepted as a substitute to taking the corresponding USCG exams. To find one of our Coast Guard approved locations and corresponding test dates, go here.

You can locate the state you reside or the one closest to you. You will know if we have a testing location in your state if it’s colored in blue. Remember that it’s important to register early. It will guarantee you a seat as spaces fill up quickly and registration closes within fourteen days of the exam. Those that are still listed within fourteen days mean that you can still register for that time. You will need your electronic confirmation form when you arrive for test day.

Besides the exam enrollment form, you will need your online final exam completion letters and USCG- recognized photo identification. Here is a list of those that are acceptable:
  • U.S. Military identification card
  • U.S. driver’s license
  • U.S. Passport
  • Official identification card issued by a State, or local government.
  • Official identification card issued by the Federal Government.
  • Law enforcement credential, with photograph of the applicant, issued by Federal, State or local government
  • Merchant Marine Document issued after February 3, 2003
  • Foreign Passport
Once you have those items settled, all you have to worry about is the exam. There are no worries here. When you successfully completed your Mariners Learning System coursework and lessons, the exam will be a breeze. Happy Testing!


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 2002, with a 98.7% success rate). We run hundreds of approved testing facilities throughout the country. A view a current list of dates and locations Click on this link.

What if I fail the test?

A big benefit of taking the exam through an authorized trainer like the MLS 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.

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MLS Seamanship Series (Week 32) – Estimating Wave Height

An accurate estimate of wave height is subjective and sometimes difficult to accomplish, but there are a number of methods that, with practice, will give good results:
  • Height of eye – With your boat in the trough and on a level and even keel, any wave that obscures the horizon is greater than the height of a person’s eye.  One can also compare a wave to the deck edge or a structure such as the handrail.  The wave face is observed while bowing into it and in the trough on an even keel.  This is also generally the best method for judging surf.
  • Comparison with floating structures or vessels - This technique is most useful when observing from land, but may be applied while underway.  If the distance from the waterline to the top of a buoy is known to be 13 feet, that information can be used to determine the height of the waves passing it.  A buoy can also be used to determine the wave period.  One can observe a vessel underway and by estimating the freeboard of the vessel and observing its motions on the water, he or she can gain a fair estimate of the seas in which it is operating.
  • Comparison with a fixed structure - Observation of waves as they pass a fixed structure, such as a break-wall, jetty, or pier, can be very accurate and can also provide wave period.
  • Depth Sounder - Using a digital finder with a fast update speed can be very accurate for determining wave height.  By comparing the depth in the trough on even keel with the depth at the crest on even keel, an accurate measurement can be obtained.
All of these methods can be useful and fairly accurate for determining wave height, but they require practice and experience.  By comparing a local Weather Service buoy report with the crew’s observations, they can fine-tune their sense of wave height.  With enough practice, you should be able to judge wave heights simply by looking at the waves themselves.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

So You Want To Be a Captain - Why Our Students Succeed

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.

Our teaching style is based on making the assumption that you know nothing. This does not mean that we speak down to you, it simply means that we will build the foundation on which you will learn. We believe that you need to crawl before you walk and that you need to walk before you run. By incorporating this methodology with our standard practice of teaching understanding, not just how to pass the USCG Exam, we enjoy a success rate that is unrivaled in the industry.
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 (98.7% with 25,000+ graduates) in the industry.

We invite you to learn more about our school, and specifically, our Captain's License Program. You may be surprised at how easy and affordable it can be to obtain your Captains License. Whether you're a casual weekend boater, or a maritime industry professional, we'll help you learn the numerous ways you will benefit from becoming a licensed Captain.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

So You Want To Be a Captain-Benefits of earning a USCG License

When asked  what is the primary benefit of getting a license our first response goes something like this: “Getting your license is like having a key that is capable of opening many doors… If an opportunity presents itself and you have the key (Captain’s License) you can either choose to walk through the door or around… However, if you do not have the correct key you will never be able to unlock the door.” Funny thing about this saying… The more keys I have hanging from my belt the luckier I keep getting! 

So why do most want to get their license in the first place?  
  • To work as a paid captain or mate
  • To start a fishing charter business
  • To learn or refresh your boating and seamanship skills
  • To earn a credential that shows your experience and may even reduce insurance costs
This is just a short list of the reasons why many of our clients decide that now is the time to earn their Captain’s License.

What if becoming a full time Captain is not for you… Perhaps 80% of our clients get their license for the personal knowledge and safety that will comes from that knowledge. They have no interest in using their licenses professionally, however, they recognize that some day those plans may change… Many of our students are guys and gals looking to supplement their current full time income with some additional cash…. They find jobs working for BoatUS or perhaps working for the Duck Boats or a Sea Taxi operation ferrying passengers around. This type of work can be seasonal and does not need to interfere with your full time job. 

What if you own a boat and wish to turn your passion of fishing into a paycheck. By earning  your Captain’s License you can turn this dream into a reality. What kind of money can you charge? Captain John Luchka of Long Run Fishing Charters ( offers half-day fishing trips for $650.00. Captain John works full time for Princeton Tec as an Industrial Sales Manager. On many weekends throughout the year he is off doing what he loves… Sharing the fishing experience with others. “Since getting my license I have established my guide service out of New York, Long Run Fishing Charters. Besides earning additional income, I have had the opportunity to speak at and market my business at fishing and boating shows as well as network with others in the industry. It has also led to writing for numerous magazines and appearing on Addictive Fishing TV, Northeast Angling TV and appearing with George Poveromo and his Saltwater Sportsman Seminar Series.” 

You do the math… If this sounds like something you are interested in without a license it will always be a dream and never become your reality.

We would love to hear what you think about this post. Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Introducing Captain in a Box

The Convenient Way to Earn Your Captain’s License Online!

Mariners Learning System™ is proud to introduce Captain in a Box™, our newest product line featuring everything you need to earn your Captain’s License online, wrapped up in an all-inclusive “box.”

The innovative Captain in a Box™ education system is built on the philosophy of providing “Knowledge and Knowhow... Anytime, Anywhere.” We've incorporated an intuitive learning approach that’s direct, clear, and effective. The Captain in a Box™ courseware provides students with a hands-on learning experience through online access to award-winning interactive software, along with online training videos, study guides, checklists, charts, plotting tools, mobile applications, and other valuable learning tools.

Earn Your Captain’s License with Captain in a Box™:

Learn Anytime, Anywhere! Whether you are on the road or at sea, Captain in a Box™ is along for the ride. Access your online classroom, training videos, and audio lectures from your Mac, PC, Blackberry, Android, iPhone, iPad, MP3 player, or virtually any other Smartphone.

24/7 Access to Online Instructors! With Captain in a Box™, you’ll never feel like you’re lost at sea.  Each course includes 24/7 access to our online instructors, so you can learn at your own pace and on your own time.

Upon completing the course, taking our proctored exam, and meeting other requirements such as documenting sea time and passing a physical examination, you simply submit, within one year, the application package to the nearest Coast Guard Regional Exam Center and upon review and approval, they will issue your captain’s license.

Whether you are looking for a new career or a new adventure, Captain in a Box™ delivers a powerful online learning solution that is available on-demand and on-the-go to suit your busy lifestyle!

Visit for a complete list of Deluxe and Digital Editions.