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at what point do you need a captains lic?

Discussion in 'Licensing & Education' started by Packinair, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. Packinair

    Packinair New Member

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    on a family owned boat is there point where you need one? for length? or just if you are being hired one? or is it if you have a large boat you can just drive it??
  2. goplay

    goplay Senior Member

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    There is no need to get a captain's license if you are running your own boat and will not be chartering it.

    While the education you get with a captain's license helps with insurance, it is the actual experience you have that determine's whether you can run the particular size of boat you have (or want) or will require a captain to run it.

    Do you like to "drive" or be "driven"?
  3. Norseman

    Norseman Senior Member

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    Some insurance companies require a licensed Captain to be running the boat, whether it is the owner, or a hired hand.

    One company sets the limit at 70 feet. (70 and over requires a ticket)

    The US Coast Guard requires a licensed Captain for any yacht over 199 tons.
    (Volume, not displacement)

    Some European states require a ticket for any boat over 15 Meters.
  4. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Be careful about getting a captain's license. Although it's good for the ego you will be held to a higher standard should there be an accident. On a moderately sized boat some captain's are comfortable allowing the owners to take the helm although they'll always be on duty and ready to take over. My personal belief is that any new or move-up boater should take lessons from a captain, and any boat over 46' should have a captain on board until the owner has a minimum of 3 to 5 years of serious experience. Although you'll be able to handle most situations, eventually a boat of that size will travel enough to hit a situation where the captain's experience will be worth its weight in gold.
    As a 50 year boater and 20 year captain I must say that very few days on the water go by without me learning something new. Whatever time you can afford to have a captain with you will be spent learning from his experience, which can only help.
    Having a captain on board should also reduce your insurance premiums, and remember that running a boat is more than just driving it, or even docking. It also deals with maintenance and emergency repairs, weather predictions, etc. On a boat over 50 feet a captain should be able to save you almost more than you pay him by preventing problems. Some of these boats are extremely complex pieces of equipment.
  5. aeronautic1

    aeronautic1 New Member

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    Depends

    I worked as an unlicensed captain for nearly 20 years before I stepped up and "got licensed." Insurance companies at that time approved me without question as it was all based on experience.

    Just remember, a piece of paper does not a captain make. I know licensed captains that I wouldn't let park my Corvette.

    If you are running your family 60' or less yacht as owner/operator, then I wouldn't sweat it. You can take a US Power Squadron or USCGAux boating safety course and get the same discount on your boat insurance than if you were licensed. In fact, I teach owners and have my letter of completion accept by underwriters.

    If you are not "taking passengers for hire" e.g. charter, then contact you marine underwriter and see what their criteria is. If you are not satisfied with their answer, call another one.:cool:
  6. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    I so agree with Aeronautic that a piece of paper does not a captain make. It's all about book knowledge now, which is why I recommend anyone looking for a captain consider only someone with 100GT and upward of their 2nd issue minimum. However did I read right that he "WORKED" as an "Unlicensed" captain for 20 years.
    The originator of this thread didn't sound experienced and we all know the mechanics of a 60 footer, and the surprises that mom nature likes to dish out. Tomorrow I'm moving a 50 footer. The forecast is 40Kt. winds (gale warnings). I've told the owner not to do it, but he insists. I'm having him sign a special release accepting all responsibility for any incident no matter what the cause. He lacks the experience to know when not to go out. I'm doing this run to try to keep him out of the jackpot. If it were my regular client I'd walk off the boat to keep him on shore. I so believe that over 46 feet there should always be a LICENSED & EXPERIENCED captain on board until the owner has 3 to 5 years of serious experienced. We're talking about million dollar toys and lives here. Some people have to be saved from themselves. Before anyone responds that I should totally refuse this job, there are reasons I need to take care of this person or I would.
  7. Seafarer

    Seafarer Senior Member

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    Unless it's a working fish boat, that owner should be beaten about the head and neck. I can't see any real need to take that chance that's worth more than waiting 24 hours for safer weather.

    Even if it's selling the boat, he won't have much to sell should there be any accident.
  8. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    NYCAP, did you read what you just wrote?

    "I'm having him sign a special release accepting all responsibility for any incident no matter what the cause."

    There will be only one person aboard that vessel who will have any responsibility for anything and it sounds like since you are the licensed master who is "moving" the boat, so that is you and that piece of paper is a written admission of your throwing caution and "prudent" operation to the winds, literally. If I were the attorney for the guy's heirs (if everything goes sideways) I would love to have that piece of paper.

    If you believe the trip is foolhardy or unsafe and you do it anyway you have become everyone you claim to be better than.

    "... there are reasons I need to take care of this person or I would."

    That one should be added to the long list of "famous last words" ..; oh, it's already there, right behind "hold my beer and watch this."
  9. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Marmot,
    I so agree with you. Sometimes though we all go closer to the edge than is wise. If we weren't (calculated) risk takers we wouldn't be in this business. We'd be in an office pushing pencils. As for the release, if his attorney saw it he would have broken his fingers before letting him sign it. Bottom line though is we've all been caught out in worse than this, and I was 99% certain I could pull it off. The type of business I do has me out almost every day from March through October and I do probably over a thousand dockings a year. This involved friends possibly taking losses or getting hurt trying to do it themselves and I go the extra yard for friends even if it means some risk to me, but I'm not stupid or crazy. The proof is in the pudding. I'm now home playing with my puppies and the boat is now safe in it's new home.
  10. luckylg

    luckylg New Member

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    Not wanting to split hair (heirs?) here NYCAP123, but the successful completion of a voyage is not proof that the passage was safe. Many unsafe undertakings have positive results as I am sure you are well aware. It simply encourages more unsafe undertakings. There is a long chain of events that lead up any accident and breaking that chain at any point will prevent the accident from occurring. The captain has the greatest ability to break it especially when the boat is already sitting safely on a dock.

    Please know that I'm not questioning either your ability or your commitment to safety. I'm sure that you are both able and safe. However, you yourself point out that conditions were beyond what you were comfortable with to the point that you got a liability waiver signed by your client. My concern is that (a) the liability waiver, no matter how worded, might not protect your license and (b) would be useless to your puppies in the event of a catastrophic loss.

    In any case, I glad everything turned out well.
  11. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    "My concern is that (a) the liability waiver, no matter how worded, might not protect your license and (b) would be useless to your puppies in the event of a catastrophic loss."

    Which was precisely my point when I wrote that the attorney for the heirs (or insurance company) would love to have that piece of paper.

    There is no way a licensed master can sign away his authority or responsibility, and no way anyone can sign away his heirs right to sue.

    The license issuing agency (USCG in this case) would use that piece of paper as evidence of a voyage performed with full knowledge of the existence of conditions that would preclude a prudent mariner from beginning.

    The very existence of the paper is a testimonial to all the reasons people give for hiring a licensed, and hopefully experienced, captain instead of some boat driver who has nothing to lose.

    I don't really want to throw stones or start a flamefest, but the example given shows the difference between professionals and amateur mariners, licensed or not.
  12. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Luckylg,
    Experience seldom encourages reckless actions, at least not in my life. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Ever watch the C.G. surf school up your way at Cape Disappointment? Don't say that's their job, because it's not. Their first job is to get home safe. Getting their second job done requires them to go to the limits of their training and ability. Now, I'm in no way comparing myself to those men and women ( hell, I'd be changing my scivies there), but I've been through 40 knot winds more times than i'd like to remember so I know exactly where the limits of my abilities are. Risking my life is one thing, risking someone elses is far different, and risking fiberglass or a prop is a third. The risk here was the third, not the first and certainly not the second. I'm old school. If anyone on my boat dies I'm already dead. In 20 years in this business I've gotten (2) speed tickets, (1) PFD violation when they first invented infant PFD's and I hadn't heard, no lawsuits, and (1) bent prop (acquired mid channel in Carolina Beach). Thanks for the concern and I hope anybody reading this learns, but I'm one of the most concervative small boat captains you'll find. I've gotten caught in a lot, but I rarely go looking for it. Again, thanks for the concern.
  13. luckylg

    luckylg New Member

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    Just had a coversation about this with my own attorney. He is generally in agreement with me on the strength of the waiver being limited to loss or damage of the vessel. The captain has sole responsibility for the safe voyage so the license would definitely be in danger regardless of any waiver.

    Something that might help in discussions with an owner contemplating something like this is to couple a demand for an "indemnity" from the owner with a waiver. The captain could insist on an agreement from the owner to indemnify the captain from claims by the owner or the underwriter for the vessel, including attorneys fees, and to indemnify the captain from the costs and losses arising from any license proceeding related to the yacht move, including lost earnings.

    There is also the issue of pollution liability to keep in mind when drafting any waiver and indemnity, and talking with an owner. The case of the operator of a charter fishing vessel on the Oregon coast recently which resulted in criminal liability for the captain due to the resulting pollution.

    Not intending to harp on anything/one but the question interested me so I followed up on it.
  14. aeronautic1

    aeronautic1 New Member

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    Cape D

    Well, as a Coast Guard veteran who actually went thru motorlifeboat school at Cape D, and also served on the Columbia River Lightship where the CG 44 footer was our taxi, I can tell you that it actually is their job. The difference being is that the best of the best are instructors there and the equipment is designed for these conditions. Yet, there are weather limitations placed on the school. But when mariner's lives are at risk, sometimes even a Coastie goes beyond prudence and winds up a crumpled mass of aluminim on the beach. I have sat on the lightship for days waiting for a 44 to pick me up but mission after mission was scrubbed because the weather was not worth the risk for such a low priority as a crew rotation.

    The point being, Small Craft Advisories are just that, advisories. But when Gale and Storm Warnings go up, then the responsible and prudent mariner stays in port. I take it from NYCAP that he is either a puke boat captain or a commercial fisherman.

    Admin Edit: This post has been edited to remove unnecessary comments.
  15. CaptPKilbride

    CaptPKilbride Senior Member

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    How about if we all take a deep breath and rein in on the condescending personal attacks. Seems like this thread got way off track pretty quickly.

    Here's my $0.02:

    A waiver isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

    Anyone, licensed captain or not, should be responsible for their actions.

    A license does not make anyone more or less qualified or skilled than they were before they sat for that test.
  16. YachtForums

    YachtForums Publisher/Admin

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    Well said Patrick. Thank you.

    Aeronautic1 - I was about to send you a PM regarding your post, which has been edited for "unnecessary content". If you have a problem with that... then I'll be happy to remove your membership.
  17. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

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    Obviously the point was missed. THERE WAS NO RISK TO LIFE or OF SERIOUS DAMAGE. This was on small bays that you can walk out of. The risk was to fiberglass from a hard docking or an anchor light if a bridge couldn't be negotiated just right or a tow off a shoal if we were blown off an unmarked channel. It was done because the boat was moving with or without help and it was for a friend not for money. Do you lawyers understand that. And if, even with my release, it costs me a few dollars to help someone I can handle that.
    The point of this was to say that new owners of boats don't understand the risks they take. Get off the high horse. Stop trying to argue tangents like a drunk. As for the coastie, your job is not to die. Your job is to get home safe because a dead coastie can't help anyone. When you end up waiting to be rescued you made a miscalculation that will now put other's LIVES at risk. How many times did you say you did that? You pushed too far because a job needed to get done. Some of you really need to sit behind a desk practicing law and forget about anything that may involve risk and that certainly includes operating boats anywhere beyond the bathtub.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2008
  18. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

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    "Methinks thou doth protest too much."
  19. strat57

    strat57 New Member

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    I just got around to reading this thread and got quite the chuckle. Funny how some members will dole out advice like an attorney, making statements regarding being held to "higher standards" because of a "piece of paper". Or better yet, how that piece of paper doesn't a captain make.... :)

    But to attempt to justify actions that are knowingly risky at best as stated by themselves and several others? Or how about "knowing your limitations".... Can any of us really predict what's in store over the next wave?

    Knowing your limitations is setting boundaries and not crossing them when something can be put off and/or altogether avoided.

    I also subscribe to the theory that a "hunk-O-paper" or "X" number of years of experience doesn't mean much when actions certainly speak volumes about ones character and judgment.

    Any boater who would feel the necessity to get a "waiver" due to weather conditions no matter what "excuse" is certainly proof regarding the statement of that license being only a piece of paper.

    Then we come to the property issue..... risking a grounding alone, in any size vessel due to avoidable weather conditions? Well, it shows poor judgment period! Need much else be said? ;)

    So even considering as a licensed captain and claiming to teach.... leading by example is a very effective tool wouldn't most agree?. So If an inexperienced boater sees a seasoned captain refuse to go out, I feel pretty certain most boaters will follow his direction. If not, at least remind them to file a float plan with the authorities. That suggestion alone is quite effective also! ;)

    But to then try and place doubt about the actions of the Coast Guard, and it's past or present members? :eek:

    No captain "worth his salt" (including those in the military) would place themselves as well as others who may have to make a rescue, in danger if it's totally avoidable!! This wasn't a situation of rescue and even then, prudence and great caution must be exercised against the potential for additional loss.

    Hey, Isn't there a member here who claims they can detect BS and will call it out? Hmmm..... maybe this is a good example of how some "sea stories" are best left untold! Anybody else ready for another round of 'bilge water" too! ;)

    Semper Paritus
  20. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    In my opinion, the most important aspect of a Captain is his decision making process. A good Captain knows when to say "NO" and stands by it. I have seen a lot of good Captain's get complacent after doing things for a long time and then that's when something inevitably hits the fan. In 40 knot winds all it takes is one mechanical mishap (loss of 1 engine, loss of steering, loss of bow thruster when docking) and things can turn ugly in an instant.

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