Captains License Questions…

  1. How to get your Captains License?

  2. How to get Sea Time for your Captain’s License? How to log sea time.

  3. TWIC Card Facts

  4. What size boat requires a captain?

  5. How to renew a captain’s license?

  6. What are the parts of a USCG Captain’s license course?

  7. How to pass the Captain’s License Course!

  8. Captain License Requirements

 1.  How to get your Captains license?

Getting your Captains License in hand has several milestones and paperwork requirements you need to accomplish. Listed below are the different requirements. If you have any questions give us a call at the school.

 ·       360 days of sea time going back to when you were 16 years old. 90 days of that needs to be in the past three years. See “how to document sea time”.

·       Attended and complete the OUPV (6-pack) course or the master’s course. Pass the final exam given in 4 sections. For information on the sections see “Parts of the USCG Captain Exam.”

·       Apply for and obtain your TWIC card. “Obtaining your TWIC card.”

·       Complete your USCG Physical and drug testing requirements.

·       Fill out the USCG packet. ASOS has a packet assist program to help with the paperwork. We will walk you through the packet and document your sea time. For many students we will submit and track your packet until you have your license in hand.

After completing all the steps above, Annapolis School of Seamanship will submit your packet to the USCG and monitor for any discrepancies noted in paperwork. In many cases we can correct “inhouse” and resubmit. If we need additional information, we will reach out directly to the student. For additional information the USCG NMC Website has a detailed checklist.

 2. How to get sea time for a captain’s license? How to log hours for captain license?

Part of getting your Captain license is documenting sea time. This can be done in several ways to fulfill USCG requirements.

 ·       Small Vessel Sea Service Form

·       General Sea Service Letter

 Sea service tells the USCG how long you have been boating/working on the water, what waters you’ve been in, and what size vessels. Sea service means you have served on a vessel as crew or in an assigned position. For the recreational boat this may be handling lines, steering, lookout, or any other functions that helped the vessel underway.

 Sea service normally does not apply if you are a passenger only. Sea service does not expire, so it is important to keep a log or some type of record for every vessel you have time on. When possible, include the vessel documentation and registration on your log entry.

 You must submit a separate small vessel sea service form for every vessel you have been underway on. You cannot combine vessels on the same form.

 If you are the owner of the vessel, we need a copy of proof of ownership to submit with your sea service form.

 One of the common questions we get is what counts as a day of sea time? As per USCG a day of sea time is eight hours of watch-standing. On smaller vessels (less than 100 gross registered tons) one sea day must be over four hours.

 There are other definitions to claim sea service time that apply to authorized vessels and military sea time.  Questions on those, please give us a call to discuss.

 3. TWIC Card (TWIC Application, TWIC Renewal, TWIC Status) So, What is a TWIC card?

 A TWIC card is required for workers that may need access to US maritime facilities and her vessels. With this card you are qualified for unescorted access to maritime ports and vessels. In essence, this is a security “badge/qualification” for the maritime world. Card holders pass a background check and security threat evaluation conducted by TSA.

 The TWIC card is required to obtain your Merchant Mariner Credential (Captain’s License) for the initial license. TWIC card renewal, you are required to renew your TWIC card if you are actively working in a position that requires access to facilities or vessels. Most recreational vessel owners do not need to renew their TWIC card after their first license.

 TWIC card requirements?

·       Pass a background security check

·       Proof of identity and residency

·       No serious legal convections

·       US citizen and a permanent resident. May be a naturalized citizen or a nonimmigrant alien or refugee who is in a lawful status.

·       Able to present US passport, drivers license, birth certificate or other like documents

 How to get a TWIC card? TWIC card application online.

Obtaining your TWIC card is a simple process as long as you come prepared with the correct documents. When applying for your card for the first time please list your occupation as Merchant Mariner.  Link for TWIC card application ()

 How much is a TWIC card?

TWIC card is a one-time fee of 125.25 for the application. We recommend you make an appointment to avoid waiting for TSA agent. The picture for your TWIC card will be the picture used on your captain’s license.

4. What size boat requires a captain?

The size of the vessel does not always determine whether she needs a licensed captain but, more accurately “what the boat is doing.” If a person is transporting passengers or cargo for hire on a vessel then they are required to have a current captain’s license. 

For example, to take people out on tours or sunset cruises on a recreational vessel, a minimum needed would be Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel license also known as an OUPV license or 6-Pack license. These vessels are allowed to take up to six paying passengers, hence the name.

Some vessels are “inspected” and can carry more than six passengers, these vessels must obtain “certificate of Inspection” from the Coast Guard and require the captain to have a Master’s License.   A masters license can have different tonnages, starting at 25 ton going to 100 ton and higher.

5. How to renew a captain’s license?

 A license will need to be renewed every 5 years; you may start the renewal process 8 months out.  Failure to renew by year five and the license is no longer valid, after the five year mark a one-year grace period is given, at year six the license is no longer valid and taking the course over again will be necessary to renew the license.

 Renewing a captain’s license can be done in a couple of different ways.  You can renew your license with sea time gained over the five years of holding the license.  With 360 days of sea time logged you can renew your license simply by submitting the sea service and the other renewal application forms. If you do not have the 360 days of sea service, then you must take a renewal course and pass an examination.

6. What are the parts of the U.S.C.G Captains license Course?

Regardless of where you go to get your captains license, there will be four modules covered and tested. 

Rules of the Road: This covers the International and Inland Regulations.  This section covers the lights and the shapes required on different types of vessels. The rules go in depth into the different types of vessels and their responsibilities. 

Navigation potting: This section works with your nautical chart and nautical publications.  Students learn different plotting techniques such as..

Topics Include:

Course to Steer

Course Made Good

Speed Made Good

Estimated Time of Arrival   

Geographic Range

Luminous Range

3-Bearing Fix

Running Fix

Calculating Tides & Currents

Chart 1

Coast Pilot

Chart Reading

Light List  

 Navigation General: This section covers things like aids to navigation, tides and currents and weather.

Topics Include:


Tides & Currents


Aids to Navigation


 Deck General & Safety: This section covers things like ship construction, marlinspike seamanship (lines & knots) and firefighting.


  7. How to Pass the Captains License Course?


Having taught the captains license course for over 10 years to hundreds of mariners, I’ve picked up some of the cues that tell us who will succeed in passing the class and those that will fall short. 

First, be prepared to absorb copious amounts of information each day and be tested on it. For some it has been a while since they have been in that environment. We will lay out a certain amount of information each day based on years of teaching experience. If you have questions at the end of the day ask. When you go home review and do the homework we assign.

Regardless of what school you attend there will be four modules in the Captain’s test, rules of the road, navigation plotting, navigation general and deck general/safety.  With these four modules in mind, what is your boating background and experience?

If you have never heard of the rules of the road or spent some time looking at a chart or plotting, you may want to before the first day of class.  There are tons of resources available on the internet and YouTube that can be helpful.  We teach a Basic Navigation 2-day course that is a wonderful way to learn plotting before you attend the Captain’s course.

Take the coaching! If an instructor assigns classwork or homework or recommends a study tactic; it is based on years of experience seeing different types of students. We tailor assignments  for a reason, we want you to pass…as much as you. 

One of the things I always ask of my students is to draw out the rules of the road “study aids” each night, over and over until they can do it from memory.  These boards are in the back of the classroom and show the lights and shapes that students must memorize.  By doing it over and over during the course you learn the concepts that will serve you well on test day. Most of our students that adhere to this concept and “draw” the rules before taking the test pass with no problems. We have seen many students that do not follow this practice fail the rules test all three times.

Ask questions! If you missed something or something just went over your head, raise your hand, ask questions.  There is a good chance you are not the only person in the class who had the same question. Questions are a great way to start dialog and make a complicated topic easier to digest.

Stay positive, it can seem like a lot (it is) and it can seem like you’re not getting it or ready for the test.  You are absorbing the information, having the “can do attitude” goes a long way in getting through the course. 

I’ll close by saying many of our students have experience on the water. We take the USCG standards, and more importantly the application of teaching good seamanship to transform your experience to the standards that govern the maritime world. Those that embrace the learning are successful.

 8. Captain License Requirements

USCG Captain’s License Application Process

The following is a list of all requirements with links of items to submit to the USCG to apply for a Captain’s License.

(This is only a guide and requirements are subject to change at any time without notice)

  • *

  • ($145 for original, $95 for renewal)

    • Credential Category: “Officer Endorsements Only”

    • Type of Endorsement: “Original Officer Endorsement: $100” (For renewal apps: “Officer Renewal: $50”)

    • Examination/Testing Fees: “Course in Lieu of Exam: $0”

    • Issuance Fees: “Pay MMC Issuance fee now: $45”

  • Can be completed by any Doctor or Physician.

    • (410) 280-9500 - Medical and Drug Test

    • (410) 956-6800 - Medical and Drug Test

    • (410) 268-3627 - Medical only

  • signed by certified Medical Review Officer. Or letter of compliance in random testing program.
    Can be ordered from

  • Photocopy of Proof of Citizenship* (Passport or Birth Certificate)
    For Renewal include a copy of your License

  • Military: Officer Fit Reps or history of assignments.
    For time on your own boat also include proof of ownership: a copy of the title, registration card, or documentation certificate.

  • Photocopies of Course Completion Certificates:

    • Master or OUPV Certificate* (For renewal: License Renewal Course Certificate in lieu of add’l sea time)

    • First Aid/CPR with AED course certificate* (completed within one year from an approved provider)

    • Assistance Towing Course Certificate* (if applicable)

    • Auxiliary Sail Endorsement Course Certificate* (if applicable - Master only)

Submit all Items to local by mail, in person, or by following
* Items with asterisk are not required for Renewal (with no modifications to License type)

USCG Forms list an expiration date of 03/2021, however these are still the most recent forms and are still being accepted.

Annapolis School of Seamanship staffs two full-time employees for application assistance to aid mariners in their packet submission.