December 12, 2020

Putting in the time… How an oyster farmer grew his business by becoming a professional captain – Part 2

Part 2 of our new Building Better Businesses Series follows Capt. Matt Behan as he begins his journey to obtain his Captains License.

When Matt Behan began the journey to integrate eco-tourism within his oyster farm, he knew that maintaining a captains license was essential in the businesses development. A graduate of URI, Behan had previously held his captains license but had “unfortunately let it go. Once you get the license you have 5 years before you have to renew it. I was just a few months past the renewal deadline.” 

For many boaters like Behan, obtaining your captain's license serves as a stepping stone to career advancement and development. “This was the first step in starting the eco-tours. Anything you are charging money for on the boat you have to at least have a 6 pack."

The U.S Coast (USCG) recognizes a variety of captain’s identifications that include The OUPV License, more commonly known as the “Six Pack,” and the Master 100 GT Captain’s License.  

Possession of the “6 Pack” allows captains to operate uninspected vessels commercially with up to six passengers. This licensure is particularly preferred by amateur boaters including those who operate small fishing charters. Obtaining the 6 pack is often the first step for boaters who intend to make their living on or centered around the water. For the 6 Pack,  a requirement of at least 360 days of boating experience, 90 of which must be offshore, must be met. 

One of the most prominent requirements for any USCG recognized licensure is the Sea Time, a minimum amount of hours that boaters are required to have spent on the water. In order to verify the acquired sea time, a record of the vessel, captain, and sea time hours must be recorded. While this can often be complicated, there are programs designed to expedite and clarify the process. One such program in Confident Captain’s “CaptTracker” that takes your imputed information, and creates the required forms so that you don’t have to. 

As Behan describes, “I had plenty of sea time so I just went ahead and got the Master’s.” The Master Captain’s 100 GT License is more extensive, ensuring that the holder is permitted to operate any vessel up to 100 tons, whether or not the vessel is inspected. This licensure is broken into several categories, as defined by tonnage and boundary lines. Additional details and requirements for these specifications vary, and can be found here. 

For boaters like Behan who possess a surplus of sea-time, going directly for the Master’s is often the most logical decision. This ensures that you are able to carry a greater number of passengers, and therefore presents further employment and advancement opportunities. However, possession of the 6-pack is a great way to jumpstart a boating career in a more expedited process. 

Obtaining any of these licenses requires the completion of a USCG approved captain’s course. While these courses require a substantial time and monetary commitment, they are a necessary requirement in obtaining your license. 

“At the end of the day, getting your captain’s license is not easy to do and not everyone has the sea time to do it. Once you get the license though, it's great because of all the doors it opens.”

The Building Better Businesses Series will follow the journey of Captains in the workforce. The Professional Captains Association is here to support mariners from training to advocacy, advice, and membership deals. Learn more about joining: