Initially, you may think there is an in-person practical required to obtain a Captain’s License or some sort of “on-the-water” training with a licensed captain. Contrary to this belief, this is not true.
The Coast Guard does, however, require the boater to have a minimum number of days of boating experience. The good news is this can be documented beginning at 16 years old.
Minimum Boating Experience
To qualify for a Captain’s License the Coast Guard requires you to have at least 360 days of boating experience since you were 16 years old, 90 of those days must be in the last three years to meet the recency requirement.
Based on your experience, (like what size vessels you have been on and where you have done your boating) the Coast Guard will issue the appropriate license.
Check this video out to learn more
The vessel must have at least a 5HP engine and not exceed 200 GRT. You need to have been underway for at least 4 hours within a 24-hour time period and not be docked or anchored, to count as 1 day.
If it is a sailing vessel, you must have at least a 5HP engine on board (You do NOT need to use the engine). However, without a motor, only 20% of your boating experience will count toward the total number required.
Proving Your Experience
To prove this experience, you will be filling out the Sea Service Form CG-719S.
If you were aboard your own vessel, you will sign off on that time and provide proof of ownership (including registration, vessel documentation, insurance card, or a sales receipt).
If the time were on someone else's boat, they would sign off on the form for you.
The Coast Guard is not looking for logbooks or official records to certify this time. Filling out the forms is done off the honor system; it is your best guess!
One form is good for 1 vessel for 5 years' worth of experience. If you have more than 1 vessel, you will use multiple forms.
The reason the Coast Guard requires you to have boating experience is to prove your competence on the water and to avoid just anyone obtaining a captain’s license. You’ll have passengers' lives in your hands, so you need prior boating experience.
Check out this blog: How Long Does it Take to get a USCG Captain's License?
If you have additional questions, give us a call at (609)303-0664, M-F, 9 am-5 pm EST.