The Coast Guard refers to rivers, lakes, and bays as inland waterways. These can also be recognized as navigable rivers, canals, or sounds, excluding the Great Lakes.
To operate professionally (take on paying passengers) on inland waterways, you will need either the OUPV/Six-Pack or 25/50/100-Ton Master captain’s license. If your captain’s license is limited to Inland waters, this means anytime you take on paying passengers you will be restricted to rivers, lakes, bays, etc. only.
Boating recreationally with family, friends or solo does not require a captain’s license. However, most states do require the completion of a safe boating course to operate a boat for pleasure.
The Coast Guard requires you to have at least 360 days of boating experience since you were 16 years old. 90 days of the 360 must be in the last three years to meet the recency requirement.
This will qualify you for either an OUPV/Six-Pack Inland, which allows you to operate uninspected vessels, or the Master Inland, which will enable you to use uninspected and inspected vessels on Inland Waters.
The vessel must have at least a 5HP engine and not exceed 200 GRT. You need to have been underway (not docked or anchored) for at least 4 hours in the day. You cannot have more than 1 day within a 24-hour time period.
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.
The consequences of not having a captain's license while operating on Inland waterways using a charter vessel violate federal law. If caught, the operator could be subject to criminal or civil liability. The regulations are in place to help ensure the safety of passengers.
Remember, anytime you have paying passengers on board, no matter the body of US water, you will be required to hold a captain's license. If you are spending time with family and friends, a federal license is not needed, and you can go out and enjoy the open sea!
If you have further questions, feel free to give us a call today, (609) 303-0664, M-F, 9 am - 5 pm EST.