Tidal Fish Forum banner

1 - 20 of 32 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,785 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Been thinking about it for a while now so I recently decide to do it, become a licensed USCG Captain, or Master as it's called. Just wanted to share my experience for those interested and thinking the same.

The first decision was where or who to take the course with. First decision was online vs classroom. I looked at the material and requirements and even though online fit my schedule much better I dismissed the notion quickly due to the depth and complexity of some of the material. More on that later. In my search for good classroom training I narrowed down my search to Chesapeake Marine Training Institute (CMTI) or Tidewater Community College (TCC). Both had good reputations but I opted for CMTI simply based on location, traffic, and commuting. CMTI offers day classes from 8 am - to 5 pm and the course can be completed in 2 weeks or you can do the evening classes which stretches the training out longer. I opted for the band-aid approach, right off quickly and did the day classes. After taking the training, I can't imagine trying this with an online course w/o an knowledgeable instructor right there with you but I know others who have done it online and passed but I don't think I could have done it that way.

My instructor from CMTI was Captain Amy Coppedge who is an excellent instructor. Very knowledgeable and very patient as she could just look at a student's deer in the headlight stare (I did that often) and just know when we were not getting something and go over it until we did get it. She is very diligent on teaching the USCG lesson plan and will not just teach the test as many instructors or online trainers do. She is also a taskmaster with only short breaks and took us to 5 pm every single day unlike many military training where we get out by 2 pm with 20 minute breaks every hour. My point is if you want to learn the material to understand it for practical reasons then find an instructor like Captain Amy who teaches the material and not the test.

The course and exams were broken down into 4 sections.

  • Rules of the Road, International and Inland
  • Deck General, Code of Federal Regulations
  • Navigation General including Aids to Navigation
  • Chart Plotting Navigation

Day one I started out with the wrong attitude. I was thinking easy as pie, I'll just breeze right through this. Wrong. Day 1 was Rules of the Road which is a huge amount of material and lots, and lots of rope memorization of shapes, lights, sounds, and right of way rules. And for this exam you must pass with 90% on a 50 question test which means you can only miss 5 questions. Good thing is they have student computers you can jump on to take practice Rules of the Road tests. So that becomes your break time and lunch time, practice Rules of the Road tests. At the end of the Rules of the Road training I did not have it down. In fact, based on the practice questions, I didn't think I had it until test day. This exam is closed book so you got to memorize it all in your head. The thought is on the water when presented with a situation you don't always have time to look up the answer although we are required to have a copy of the Rules on the boat. You will learn what this means...Only New Reels Catch Fish So Buy Some Worms.

Deck General and Nav General is a huge amount of material thrown at you. The only difference between OUPV/6-pack and Master 100 ton is some additional deck general material and 10 more questions on the exam so I opted for the 100 ton master training. Better to have the higher training and license now even if you don't use it as you never know what the future might bring. There are some references you can use on the exam but you have to pay close attention so you at least have an idea of what can be looked up and where.

Chart Plotting is old school plotting paper charts. I enjoyed this portion and yes they do teach a lot of skills we will probably never use in the modern world of electronic charts chart plotters with a button that says go to with autopilot. You have to learn how wind and current affect steerage, true north vs magnetic north, deviation and variation. How to determine where you are with just a compass. Lots of good stuff and had fun learning it but most will never use. I do still take a compass heading when going offshore so if all electronics fail I can just do the reverse compass heading home. It all took me back to my early Army days where we navigated with maps and a compass (no GPS). And yes every once in a while I still call a chart a map.

The exam was also in 4 parts and took me all 7 hours to complete. Never had a 7 hour test in my life. But I got though it and pass the first time with 100% on Rules and 100% on plotting which shocked me. But I attribute that to mostly Captain Amy who made sure we all understood the material.

So I took the training and passed the test at the end of the 2 weeks but I'm not a Captain yet. Still had to take and pass a First Aid and CPR class. Had to pass a USCG physical. Had to take a drug screen test. Had to get a TWIC card. The TWIC is still required for you initial license but now optional for renewals. Then there is the long USCG application where you must also document all your sea service time. For boats that you own you just include proof of ownership and fill out the forms of sea time from your logs or memory separated by inland and international waters. Honor system here but I was honest as I've owned many boats and been inshore and offshore many times. For boats you don't own you have to get the owner or Captain to sign off the USCG form verifying your time. All this gets sent off to the USCG and their process takes just under 2 months.

Now when your license arrives you still can't charter just yet. You have to pay VMRC $190 for a charter/guide license. You need a separate tile/grouper permit and separate striper permit from VMRC. You have to get a business from the city you plan to charter from. You have to change over your insurance to cover chartering. Your HMS pelagic permit is different for charters. And for mahi and wahoo you must get a permit from the South Atlantic Region NMFS as well as a separate operators cards. And even though I just took a drug test you have a part of a some organization that does random drug testing.

So there it is, how to become a licensed Captain or Master. And there is probably something I left out as I continue to find out requirements from my fellow Captains I didn't know where there. I don't plan to charter full time but if I'm available and the weather is right I will be available for charter starting 1 Aug 2014. I don't have a website yet and Lanie twisted my arm into joining Facebook so you can now find me there. But the purpose of this post is not to advertise, it was just to share my recent experience in navigating the process of becoming a licensed Captain for those thinking about doing the training. I still plan to fish for fun with my regulars so that won't change. Offshore is still my passion and spending the night offshore is what I love to do but also will be doing inshore day and half day trips when available (and weather is right). I will give reports, good or bad. I did get my lower unit replaced and Seaduction is ready to fish.

Cappin Mike
757-329-5137
[email protected]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,374 Posts
Good school review Mike. You're already a good Cappin!

I live about ten minutes north of your academic institute if you ever want some happy hour after a day of bookwork .... or some speck fishing in September/October.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
213 Posts
Congratulations, Mike!! I appreciate the step-by-step as a captain's license is on my bucket list for when the kids grow up and the wife gets tired of seeing me around the house.

Hope the charter business kicks off strong and makes a little extra change for your pocket to help pay for our passion.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,361 Posts
WTG Mike! Not being able to leave the shop I did the Mariners Learning System online. Took 3 1/2 months with 6 sections & a all day test out in Reedville. Quite a workout.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,007 Posts
SPAM--Just kidding Mike, Congrats on the accomplishment and look forward to go on a deep drop trip with you in the future. Put me down when you need a spot filled for one of them.
Jack
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,134 Posts
All I got from all that is you are now on Facebook, shame...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,183 Posts
Congratulations, Mike. I appreciate the step-by-step as a captain's license and it is something I want to get someday, not to start a charter business but something to do to improve myself.

I have a friend who took the course at TCC and said it was real good and he learned a lot. He got his 6 pack and decided to go with 100 ton.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,466 Posts
Congrats! Good luck with the captain's license I've had mine since 2008. I went to Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy in VA Beach. Keep up on the renewal process. You have a one year grace period to do so. Every year it gets harder and more expensive to renew with more gov't hoops to jump through. It is nice to see someone serious about fishing and take the time to learn the rules of the road. Best wishes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,939 Posts
You want want to check on that " one year care period". When it's expired, it's expired.

And you will need a current twic for renewals, it's the second page of the renewal package. I THINK if you have a OUPV, you don't need it, but with a inspected license, it's required. Or was last summer anyway.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,785 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Danny is right. An expired license is not good. It was stressed to us continually to start the renewal application well in advance of the expiration. A TWIC is not needed for an OUPV but they make us get one just for the initial issue of the license. Not required for OUPV for rewewal. A TWIC may be needed for other license types or as a condition of employment depending on the job you are using your license for.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,136 Posts
the one year period is to allow time for renewal only without a retest . you cannot work using your MMD after the expired date . TWIC 's are a PIA . funny thing is you do not have to have a current CPR or first aid card to renew . it only took 33 days for my renewal from when they received it to issue . I did drag my feet getting it sent in , I took a refresher course and test because I did not have enough seatime . I also have a sailing and towing endorsement now .
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,466 Posts
If you work for Uncle Sam TWIC cards are easy to get. I got mine in 3 days. IMHO I think they should do away with them. Good thread. Thanks for the posts.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
600 Posts
CONGRATS! Not an easy task for this knuckle head. Past test first time. Took a sunday to sunday course. 56 hrs of classroom then test. 3 Bs Capt School. Had great teacher. It was a very gratifing experience and one more thing checked off the bucket list. I highly recomend doing it to anyone who has considered it. Not everyone in my class passed and 2 folks left mid course overwhelmed and confused.
 
1 - 20 of 32 Posts
Top