You can operate a sailboat without a captain’s license if you don’t plan on using it commercially or professionally.  

REQUIREMENT: If you intend to take out paying passengers, you MUST obtain a USCG-approved and federally-recognized captain's license.

It is a good license to get in order to advance your maritime skillset too. Also, some insurance providers may require you to have a captain’s license depending on your state or the type of work. 

A captain’s license can equip you with the knowledge to be a safe sailor. There are many benefits to having a captain’s license when operating a sailboat.

We have laid out a few professional opportunities that exist in the sailing industry below:  

  • Sunset cruises Sailing Lesson
  • Sailing lessons 
  • Wine tours 
  • Massage on a boat 
  • Harbor boat tours 
  • ... and many more! 

If you want to run one of those businesses on a sailing vessel, you will need either the OUPV/Six-Pack or the 25/50/100-Ton Master captain’s license with a Sailing Endorsement. 


The OUPV/Six-pack captain’s license allows you to operate professionally with 6 paying passengers on a sailing vessel, with one crew member and the captain. This license covers BOTH uninspected power and most recreational sailing vessels.  

25/50/100-Ton Master's with Sailing Endorsement

Now, if you ever see yourself taking 7 or more paying passengers on a sailing vessel, you will be required to obtain a Master captain’s license, and the vessel must be inspected. Additionally, you will need to add a Sailing Endorsement to the license.  

To add the Sailing Endorsement to a Master’s Inland, you must document at least 180 days on a sail or auxiliary sailing vessel.  

To add the Sailing Endorsement to a Master’s Near Coastal license, you must document at least 360 days on a sail or auxiliary sailing vessel. 

RECOMMENDATION: If you meet the requirements, we recommend going straight for the Master's + Sailing Endorsement. 

Sailing SchoonerKnowing you’ve adequately demonstrated your ability and knowledge to obtain the Master's level license with a Sailing Endorsement comes with a sense of pride that is priceless. The possibilities are endless as you safely navigate your path in your new journey.  

While you can sail a boat without a license, we recommend you get a captain’s license so that you can reap the benefits that come with it. We hope to see you become a USCG licensed captain and safer sailor soon.

Get started here, and may you have fair winds and following seas!  


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