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.

Coast Guard & Veteran Approved!  Our Veterans Administration Approved Training and Coast Guard Approved online courses are ideal for military members who want to earn their captain’s license.

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.


Tuesday, December 30, 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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So you want to be a Captain - What if I am color blind?

What numbers do you see?
Many people who have been diagnosed as being color blind have either been misinformed or believe that they cannot meet the physical requirements to earn a U.S. Coast Guard issued Captains License. This is 100% NOT TRUE! If it sounds like I am talking about you then be sure to read on....

Color blindness is the inability to distinguish the differences between certain colors. This condition results from an absence of color-sensitive pigment in the cone cells of the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye.

Color blindness affects approximately 1 in 12 men (8%) and 1 in 200 women in the world. There are different causes of color blindness. For the vast majority of people with deficient color vision the condition is genetic and has been inherited from their mother, although some people become color blind as a result of other diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis or they acquire the condition over time due to the aging process, medication etc.

Testing for Color-blindness

The type of test you're probably most familiar with is done using Ishihara plates or pseudoisochromatic plates (PIP). An Ishihara plate shows an assemblage of color dots with a number in the middle made with different colored dots. Ishihara plates can help diagnose red-green color vision defects. It isn't the perfect test, though -- sometimes the colors in one set don't quite match up with the plates in a different set, or maybe they look different in one kind of lighting than in another.

Another option is the Farnsworth Lantern Test (FALANT) which is often regarded as the simplest and most accurate color vision test. Research has proven this test has a lower fail rate than other commonly used tests such as the pseudoisochromatic plate  books. The test consists of showing a pair of vertically oriented lights consisting of combinations of either red, green or yellow-white. The test subject is asked to identify the two colors (some of which are identical). Nine color pairs are administered during the test, beginning with a red/green combination, to allow the patient to see these two colors prior to seeing a white light, which decreases testing errors. The examinee is shown the target for only two seconds, as color-deficient patients can sometimes correctly identify the colors with prolonged exposure. The yellow-white light, or one of the identical paired lights, employs a 50% neutral gray filter to reduce luminance cues to the color-deficient patient. Random presentation reduces memorization of the test sequence.

In the Coast Guard's world there are no intermediate levels of colorblindness the test conducted by your physician is a pass/fail examination. If you are unable to pass your color vision test, don't worry, the U.S. Coast Guard will simply impose a daytime restriction on your license. This just means that you cannot operate a vessel professionally from sunset to sunrise.

Bottom line - Color blindness, no matter how severe, will not prevent you from qualifying for a USCG issued Captains License!

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 help thousands of students pass their Captain's exam each year!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

MLS Seamanship Series (Week 51) - Hypothermia

Hypothermia is the lowering of a person’s core temperature. It occurs when a person suffers a loss of body heat. General body hypothermia is the leading cause of death among recreational boaters and other emergencies at sea. If not recognized and treated promptly, hypothermia can rapidly turn survivors into fatalities. 

Survivors in critical hypothermia conditions may suffer a fatal loss of body temperature from physical exertion, or as a result of any delay in taking immediate and positive measures to restore body heat. Struggling survivors, trying to aid in their own rescue, may drive their body temperature down to the point where unconsciousness and/or death results. Survivors removed from the water and left untreated may suffer further critical loss in body temperature, bringing on death after being rescued. Survivors in “warm” water can also suffer from hypothermia if exposed for long enough periods of time.

Cold air temperatures can bring on hypothermia if adequate protective clothing is not worn. Survival times in water vary considerably. Survival depends on the type of clothing worn, the amount of physical exertion, the blood alcohol levels, and other factors. Some survivors, when taken aboard may appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A person moderately hypothermic will show symptoms of an intoxicated person.

An important method of protecting yourself while operating your boat in a cold weather environment would be to properly layer your clothing. This method of dressing allows you to regulate your temperature by taking off or putting on additional clothing layers. Layers are broken down into three categories: Inner, mid, and outer. These three layers work together to trap heat, wick moisture, breath, block wind, and repel water.

Base Layer: The base or wicking layer which should be worn next to your skin should be designed to move moisture away from your skin, keeping you dry and warm after bursts of activity.
Mid layer: The middle or insulating layer is designed to be worn over the base layer and under the outer layer. Made of synthetic thermal fibers, it assists the movement of moisture to the outer layer.
Outer Layer: The outer or waterproof layer is intended to keep the elements out. These usually have very little or no thermal properties, but are entirely water and windproof.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

So you want to be a Captain - Required Safety Instruction and Orientation

The U.S. Coast Guard requires that all commercial passenger vessels, regardless of their size, conduct a safety briefing prior to getting underway.

This requirement is in place regardless of the number of passengers that you have on-board your vessel and also applies to OUPV/Six-pack charters. This orientation can be done by the Captain or qualified crew member.

The nature of this instruction varies somewhat among vessels, but all briefings are required to cover the following topics:
  • Stowage Locations of life preservers.
  •  Proper method of donning and adjusting life preservers carried aboard your vessel.
  • The type and location of all lifesaving devices carried on the vessel. (Life Floats, Life Rings, Buoyant Apparatus, Fire Extinguishers, EPIRB, Ditch Bag, etc.)
Since many OUPV/Six-pack charters are run solely by the Captain it is also a good idea to review the operating procedures of the VHF-FM marine radio with the passengers. As an additional safety measure install a distress call placard near the radio that includes instructions and distress channels to be used in the event that the captain becomes disabled. Also, explain where the first aid kit and flares are kept. 

In today’s world it is not a wise business practice to just meet the “minimum” U.S. Coast Guard regulations if you are running commercial charters.  Unfortunately, there is an entire industry of victims, investigators, and lawyers, whose livelihood depends solely on supposed safety violations. The more you can do to protect yourself the better off you will be in the long run. Keep accurate records of all passengers that you take out and be sure to note any special circumstances or injuries that may occur during your trip. Be sure to discuss any additional guidelines or safety rules that relate specifically to your boat that would ensure a passenger had a safe journey while on-board.

Always remember – What can go wrong will go wrong – Some day!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

MLS Seamanship Series (Week 50) - Psychology of Survival

Headline News - Man lost at sea for 12 days rescued; Couple found alive after 22 days drifting on disabled boat; Boater found alive at sea nearly two weeks after reported missing.

Why is it that some people are more likely to survive an emergency at sea than others? To some degree it can be traced back to how a person reacts to the emergency itself. 

It has been reported that a small percentage of people that find themselves in a threatening situation feel calm during their ordeal. Being calm can allow you to make more good decisions than bad ones. However, being too calm can be dangerous, especially if it leads to indecisiveness or failure to recognize the life threatening nature of your emergency.

Fear, is not always a bad thing as long as it can be controlled and motivates you to take action. Panic occurs less frequently than you might expect, but when it does it can spread quickly. Preparation and training are two proven tools that can help reduce fear and panic in an emergency situation.  Knowing what to do and when to do it can mean the difference between life and death.

Reactions to a crisis may also include denial, anger and guilt, feeling numb or confused. These emotions can change from day-to-day, hour-to-hour and in some extreme cases minute-to-minute.
Survival experts say that it is important to try to regain some sense of control over your circumstances. This is especially true when you focus your efforts on trying to improve your status. In long term survival situations creating schedules and establishing a daily routine can also dramatically increase your chance of survival.

Be positive, think about when, not if, you will be rescued. Live your ordeal one hour or one minute at a time if necessary. Remember your family and friends and plan your future. Do not underestimate the role your will-to-live plays in extreme situations – Act Like a Survivor, Not A Victim and Don’t Give Up!

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