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Getting a ticket – the good kind

Vol. II, No. 86

So you want to be a captain? For professional boaters who make a living taking passengers out on the water, a captain’s license is a job requirement – it’s the law.  Yet for a remarkable number of recreational boaters who may not intend to ever carry passengers for hire, a captain’s license, often referred to as a “ticket,” serves instead as proof of seamanship skills, a confidence booster, or perhaps just a bragging right.  Or maybe it’s a way to put a title in front of their names without having to go through medical school or a PHD program!

Still, getting a Merchant Mariner Credential (which is what a “captain’s license” really is), is no  easy process.  Below is a summary of the requirements for an OUPV license application.

The OUPV, commonly called a “six-pack,” is the most common credential held by seasoned recreational boaters, sailing instructors, fishing captains, and anybody who has gathered extensive sea time generally on smaller boats, and typically fairly close to shore.  The license is so named because it allows the bearer to operate an uninspected vessel with up to six paying passengers aboard.

Requirements for OUPV applicants:

Application, including oath – Applicant must take an oath before an authorized official.  The oath states that the applicant “will faithfully and honestly, according to his or her best skill and judgment, without concealment or reservation, perform all the duties required by law and obey all lawful orders of superior officers.”

Fees – An OUPV application typically incurs total fees of $145. That doesn’t include the TWIC fee, any Medical Exam costs, or training course costs, all of which can and usually do total well upwards of $1000.

Medical Exam – It includes vision and hearing tests as well as vitals, medical history, and general assessment of physical strength and capability for tasks performed on a boat.

Drug Test – This isn’t just any drug test – it must be the correct test (DOT 5 Panel), completed in a certified lab.

Proof of Sea Service – Applicant must provide a written account of having spent 360 days on the water, 90 of them within the last three years.  A minimum of 4 hours underway counts as one day, but an 8-hour outing does not count as two days.

3 Letters of Reference – These are character references from colleagues or friends.

TWIC – This is how an applicant proves his or her identity, and that he or she isn’t a criminal. The TWIC acquisition process has its own set of hoops to jump through, as well as fees to pay.

Valid CPR and 1st Aid certification cards – These must be acquired through successful completion of a course with a USCG-approved provider.

Proof of training course completion – Typically a copy of an applicant’s training course completion certificate. Classes include at least 55 hours of training, and include difficult exams that must be passed in order to qualify for a certificate. A (brave) applicant may forgo a course, study independently, and take exams directly through the Coast Guard.  Courses tend to prove their merit by teaching to the tests.

For more information on applying for an original credential, visit the USCG website: