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So you want to be a licensed captain? 

We did it!

by Captain Daria Blackwell

What do you do in the winter when there's no snow for skiing, it's not time yet for boating, it's a bit too cold or windy for working on the boat, and you're going stir crazy in the house? You go get your captain's license, of course.

Yes, indeed. We passed our Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) test which qualifies us to take up to six passengers for hire on an uninspected vessel.  When we complete the rest of the requirements, which we’ll get into later, the Coast Guard will issue us Captain’s Licenses.  Our memory is still fresh from all the angst and confusion pre-test, to the wisdom and clarity of the post-test period, so we’d like to share our experience with you.  We had little idea what we were getting into when we signed up, and apparently the same was true for many of our compadres in the class.

We signed up for this course almost 11 months earlier at the Philadelphia Boat Show having thought about doing it for years.  The boat show discount provided the impetus, but we postponed actually taking the course until the following winter, timing it perfectly for the interval between sailing and skiing.  For the entire month of December, we went to classes, we studied at home, and we even snuck in a few sample tests online at the office.  There were a few manic moments when we thought: “What am I doing here?”  But these always passed quickly and in no time at all the three weeks had gone by.  At the end, we concluded that it was worth every second of time and every penny, because aside from learning a lot (and actually passing), we met some really great people.

In fact, Alex has just completed his Master's upgrade and we did a follow-up on that experience as well. So check back often as we add to these pages.


"I have been messing around in boats and sailing as far back as I can remember. I was fortunate to have lots of opportunities through friends, neighbors and relations and through the Boy Scouts when I was young, and then always found ways to get out on the water throughout my life. One formative experience was a two week journey on the Irish Sail Training vessel Asgaard - a 50' gaff rigged ketch. The skipper, Captain Eric Healy took pains to teach us to sail this wonderful boat through fair winds, calm days and also quite adverse conditions. I believe a lot of his love for the sea rubbed off on our eager young minds.

Looking forward, we are planning to go off on an extensive world cruise. The need to learn as much as possible, the hope to be in a position to impart the love for the sea to others while making them better sailors, and the potential need to find some gainful employment down the road were all driving factors in attaining my Captain's, and also Master's, qualifications.

We did our coursework and testing for the OUPV certification with Mariner's School under the tutelage of Capt. John Henderson . I feel attending the course was very worthwhile and it was money well spent. Not only did we learn what was needed to pass the exams at the end, but we were encouraged to enter into lively discussions on seamanship topics, and to relate our own relevant experiences to our classmates. Much of the course material went beyond the actual script providing an overall enriching experience, hopefully making us all better and safer mariners."

Captain Alex Blackwell

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