How to become a charter boat captain

How becoming a charter boat captain is easier than ever

Written by Boatsetter Team
December 5, 2017

Last Updated on August 17, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

Are you an experienced boater who enjoys taking friends and family out on the lake, river, or bay? Did you grow up on the water? Do you see nautical charts in your sleep and make float plans for the fun of it? If so, becoming a yacht charter captain may be just the profession for you.

Charter Boat Captains

Charter boat experiences such as fishing, sightseeing, and water sports are always popular options in resort and vacation destinations. With today’s boat sharing economy which has allowed boaters to rent a boat from a private owner, the title of boat captain has become an even more viable career option. Often, the renter may not be an experienced boater and needs to hire a licensed and knowledgeable captain.

This is where your skills come into play. Though it depends upon experience level, demand, and geographic area, a charter boat captain can make a great income doing what he or she loves – being out on the water.

A charter boat captain’s license is issued by the United States Coast Guard and is based upon the following criteria:

  • Total days of service
  • Waters served upon
  • Weight of the vessel

There are four main categories of charter boat captain license:

  1. Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vehicles License (OUPV) – One of the most popular types of boat captain license, this is also called a 6-Pack License. The vessel is less than 65 feet and there are no more than six passengers. This license usually applies to fishing, diving and sightseeing boats. To obtain this license, the boater must have 360 days of experience on inland or coastal waterways.
  2. OUPV Limited Credential – Also called a “launchtender’s license,” this license has a very specific purpose. It is used for the operation of uninspected vessels for a short time. This could include transporting boaters to and from a dock to a bigger boat that is moored out in the water. The captain must have 90 days of service on that type of vessel and complete a United States Coast Guard (USCG)-approved Safe Boating Course.
  3. Limited Master Credential – In addition to the OUPV requirements, this option is licensed for boats that have passed US Coast Guard inspection and have an inspection sticker. This license requires 120 days of service on the type of vessel that will be operated as well as a completed USCG-approved Safe Boating Course. The license can be extended to include sailing vessels if the captain completes 120 days of service on a sail-powered vessel.
  4. Master, 100 Tons Credential – Vessels up to 100 tons can be operated with this license, and there can be as many passengers on board as the vessel will hold. The captain must have at least 360 days of service on any vessel. A separate exam can be taken to qualify for a tow boat assistance license.

Job opportunities for charter boat captains include:

  • Join a boat sharing company, such as Boatsetter, and captain fishing charters and sightseeing tours
  • Embark on snorkeling and diving trips and sunset and dinner cruises
  • Assist in towing with companies such as Sea Tow or Tow Boat U.S.
  • Operate water ferry service for transportation, recreation and entertainment

Hey Captains, what tips would you give to someone considering a new career? Share some insider tips…

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