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Advice needed on the best way to become a Captain

Discussion in 'Becoming a Captain' started by scubasteve03, Feb 14, 2013.

  1. scubasteve03

    scubasteve03 Angel Fish

    I am strongly considering a career change to become a licensed Captain. I would mostly like to work on dive boats and live-aboards. I realize I will have to start out as a mate,and I’m more than willing to pay my dues. I have owned my own boats for 20 years and have spent tons of time on them, so I already have all the sea hours I need. My first question is in regards to taking the Captains classes online vs. going to a mariner's school. I currently live inland and have a full time job, so traveling to attend school for 1-2 weeks does pose some problems, but is possible. I want to do this right. I’m not looking to just pass the test; I want to get as much well- rounded knowledge as I can. I was thinking that maybe a hands-on education at a well-respected mariner’s school might be a better way to get this well rounded knowledge, but maybe not. Any advice on a good school? It seems that Mariners Learning System is a well-respected online school. As far as mariner’s schools, I have looked into Maritime Professional Training and Chapman School of Seamanship. Anybody familiar with either of these or any others, that could give me a little insight as to how well they prepare their students for the real world of maritime employment.

    I also wanted to know if there are any other courses/certifications I could get that would help me gain employment and be a better Captain. I am a master diver, and plan to become of dive master, or even a dive instructor. I also noticed that some of the mariner’s schools offer other Merchant Marine courses/certifications such as STCW Safety Training, Able Bodied Seaman, Radar/Navigation, etc. Would any of these types of classes be helpful for me to take? Which ones? With 20 years’ experience on the water, I have a ton of practical knowledge, but know I can use more formal training in this area. Is there anything else I can do that could help me become a better Captain? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.<o:p></o:p>
  2. HowardE

    HowardE Diver

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Boca Raton, Florida
    I would recommend MPT over an online course. I did my class at MPT for my 100 Ton Master, and I also had previously had access to the online training from one of those online schools.

    For me. I couldn't focus enough whilst on my computer to do all the stuff required for the CG test, and found that having an real physical instructor made the course material super easy. MPT was great. I aced all of my tests, and the whole thing was done in 2 weeks.

    As for getting STCW95, AB, Radar, etc... It all depends on what you're going to do.

    If you are just going to captain a dive boat, they may not even have radar. There are also other ramifications of having a radar cert.

    STCW95 may be required for any liveaboard you would want to captain on as well. It is also required for 200 Ton and up I believe.

    AB you probably won't need for anything recreational diving, but I could be wrong.

    So, if you're going to run a local dive charter, a 100 ton near coastal master is most likely all you'd need to run just about any dive charter.
  3. Wookie

    Wookie Orange Man Bad Staff Member ScubaBoard Business Sponsor

    I suggest you study hard, go to the Coast Guard office and take the test. I find that folks with Masters licenses who took a 2 week course to get the license know the test, not the requirements for being a Captain. No offense meant to anyone who got their license by taking a course, but having audited a course that a prospective mate was taking, the course teaches you what you need to know to pass the test, not what you need to know to captain a dive boat. I see many tens or hundreds of "Paper Tigers", in the Keys especially, who gained their sea time on daddy's 21 foot bowrider. I know HowardE got much of his time on a 95 foot treasure hunter in the DR as Mate, so I can't fault him for taking the course, it isn't like he learned boating on a lake in Colorado as so many do.

    The Coast Guard test bank is available online. Every question the Coast Guard has is in the test bank, divided by subject. I took my 100 ton Masters test in about 2 hours one day at the local REC, My unlimited Engineer took 2 days. The price was nominal compared to taking a course. If you have read and understand Chapman's and Bowdich, and take about 100 practice tests, you will be ready to get your 100 ton. If, like HowardE, you have a hard time sitting down at the computer and concentrating on studying, then a course is almost a guaranteed pass.
    rjack321 likes this.
  4. scubasteve03

    scubasteve03 Angel Fish

    Thanks for the responses Howard and Wookie. It's funny you mention the "Paper Tigers" down in the Keys because that is EXACTLY what I do NOT want to be. After re-reading my original post I realized that maybe I wasn't clear on what I was trying to do. I realize that I will need years of on-the-job training as a mate under a good Captain. I also have a little time on my side, as I really don't want to make this jump for a couple of years (my child is a Jr in High School). I was trying to think of things I could do in the next two years that would put me in the best position possible to become a member of a crew under a good Captain that I could learn under.
  5. briankinley2004

    briankinley2004 Captain

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: louisiana
    I recently got my OUPV and towing endorsement using Mariners Learning System. If you are a self starter and can make the time to study you will do well with their online class. Two others that signed up at the same time I did have had over a year and are not past chapter one while I have my endorsements. Both are capable seamen but cannot focus enough to do the bookwork. They would do better taking the class in person. There is no one fit for every person but I can say the MLS is no rubber stamp for a license. You need to really study on your own and watch the videos along with have the sea time in order to comprehend everything. Also passing the test is just one step in getting your credentials. You have to go through a physical, drug test, TWIC card, etc.; none of which are effortless. I am not sure about other courses out there but I can say with the MLS course you will learn the subject and not the test questions with their class. I think they offer an in house course as well if you want to cram it all in in a week or two
  6. Capt. Bill11

    Capt. Bill11 Garibaldi

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Out in the Blue
    What would those be?

    Lets get real here, whether you are any good as a captain has nothing to do with whether you did or did not take a class somewhere. (And quite frankly you can't move up in license size without taking a classes in this day and age.) It has to do with your real world hands on experiences.

    So study and test for the license any way that works for you. I personally suggest taking the classes. And if you want to get your STCW training you have to take a class. As you would for any of the other endorsements. Like radar observer, advanced fire fighting, Med person in charge, advanced survival, etc., etc.
  7. Adventure-Ocean

    Adventure-Ocean Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives:
    Location: Southern Oregon
    You say you realize you'd have to start out as a mate. That would be where you'd learn the most on how to be the captain. Try to work on the size of vessel you'd be qualified with your level of sea time. My first license was a 6-passenger license. By working on larger boats I eventually went up to 100 ton. I got my license by studying Chapmans and I had a deck of flash cards to help memorize the rules of the road. Even after getting my license I wasn't experienced enough to do what the license would allow me to do. The boating information and laws you learn from studying is important but being at sea experiencing real situations and learning from them is the best way to become a good captain. It's risky to learn as you go while being the captain and responsible for the safety of all onboard.

    You can take classes and get your license and still know very little about the decisions made on a trip to sea. My recommendation is to get your first license as quickly and cheap as you can then get a job as 1st mate on a dive boat. You should be able to find a job on a boat with the diving credentials you mentioned and your captains license. After working on the ship and with the captain, you'll know when you are ready to take command.

    Not trying to promote myself too much, you might want to check the link to my site. I have a lot of links to various sites to help people learn to be a safe captain.
    I had my 100 ton open ocean license for over 20 years and still there is an infinate amount of things to still learn and experience at sea. That's why I was into it.
    If you are getting a calling to it, I'd definately listen. Being the captain on dive trips, marlin fishing, dinner cruises was a fantastic life I would never trade. Good luck with the studying.

  8. captmike

    captmike Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Traverse City, Michigan
  9. captmike

    captmike Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 50 - 99
    Location: Traverse City, Michigan
    As a USMMA grad, retired unlimited master and maritime college professor, I'd say the best and most thorough way to pursue a limited captain's license and not miss anything and cover all the options and material would be to attend Chapman's School in Stuart FL.
    The Chapman School | World Famous Boat School in Stuart FL

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