Captains License - Explorers Guide Maritime Academy

talking about issues effecting captains from oupv 6-pack to masters 100 ton

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There is a lot of misinformation about the USCG requirements for random drug testing for boats used for any type of charter, guiding, etc.

I have been told I was dead wrong. Well lets add a little clarity to the discussion. If you are operating your vessel and charging people to be on the vessel and on federal waters, and are required to have a Merchant Mariners Credential. At this point 46 cfr 16.230 must be followed. It is for both credentialed and non-credential crew (mates)

It starts: 16.230 Random Testing Requirements. 

(b) Marine employers shall establish programs for the chemical testing for dangerous drugs on a random basis of crewmembers on uninspected vessels who:

(1)Are required by law or regulation to hold a license issued by the Coast Guard in order to perform their duties on the vessel;

(2)Perform duties and functions directly related to the safe operation of the vessel;

(3)Perform the duties and functions of patrolmen or watchmen required by this chapter; or,

(4)Are specifically assigned the duties of warning, mustering, assembling, assisting, or controlling the movement of passengers during emergencies.

If you have a mate who is going to help with watch, landing the boat, drive the boat or helps people in an emergency, they need to be part of such a program.

So what? In most cases you may not ever be asked to prove you or your crew are part of such a program. However, if you every have an accident, both the investigating officer and your clients attorney may be asking to prove you were not on drugs or booze when it happened. 

The random is different then the pre-employment drug test needed to get your credentials.

Capt Gary

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We were just informed by Quest Labs of the new US DOT drug testing requirements. These changes help address issues with opiates, designer drug and adulterated specimens.

These changes include:

1) Expanding  the drug test panel to include four Schedule II semi-synthetic opioids: hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone 

According to Quest Labs- “According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), "hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opioid in the U.S." Additionally, the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index" data shows that hydrocodone continues to be one of the most detected opiates in the U. S. general workforce. It is commonly known as Vicodin®.

  • Hydromorphone is both a stand-alone drug as well as a metabolite of hydrocodone. It is approximately 8 times more ~ otent than morphine on a per milligram basis. A common brand name is Dilaudid .
  • Oxycodone is a "semi-synthetic narcotic analgesic and historically has been a popular drug of abuse among the narcotic abusing population" according to the DEA. It is commonly known as Oxycontin®.
  • Oxymorphone is both a stand-alone drug and a metabolite of oxycodone. Common trade names are Opana® and Numorphan®.”

If you are on any of these drugs, it is very important to bring you doctor’s prescription with you when doing a drug test. The same for any of the other drugs being tested.

2) Add MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine) as an initial test analyte.  MDA is short for methylenedioxyamphetamine, an amphetamine-like designer drug.

3) The lower pH cutoff, for both HHS and DOT mandated testing was raised, from 3 to 4 to identify an adulterated specimen on October 1, 2017

A common practice is to buy urine on the black market. When required to do a drug test, tap the sample to the inside of the leg with a hand-warmer attached to maintain proper temperature.

“Collectors at every Quest Diagnostics drug testing collection site are trained and well-versed in the latest DOT policies and procedures.

 These new rules clarified and emphasized that the collector should discard any initial urine collection specimen that was questionable (e.g. due to temperature or suspected tampering) when a shy bladder (the inability to urinate) event develops during the subsequent direct observation collection.”

This is still considered the DOT "5-panel" drug test because there are no new classes, or groups, of drugs. Because all of these drugs are opioids, the test will continue to be referred to as a "5-panel' test.

The other drugs in the “5” panel includes: cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and Phencyclidine (PCP).

Due to operational considerations, the laboratory testing for codeine, morphine, hydrocodone,  hydromorphone,  oxycodone,  and oxymorphone will be broken out into three different groups in the reporting.







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People ask me “Why bother to get a captains license? I do not want to be a fishing guide.”

Well there are many other reasons to take the time and cost to get alicense, be it for business or recreation.

So let’s answer this in two parts

First why get it and second, how can I use it.

Why get a captain’s license. Main reason is safety. Captain’s classes cover many of the basic items to ensure mariners are safe on the water. Rules of the Road, navigation procedure, responding to emergencies, understanding aids to navigation, use of publications to stay up to date on their waterways and more. Active captains are part of drug testing program. In many cases, you are able to get boating insurance at a lower rate. Others have a higher level of respect for someone who took the time to get the credentials.

What can I do with a captain’s license? It opens up opportunities for jobs both on federal waters and nonfederal waters. When an opportunity arises, it’s a little late to try to get the needed license. It takes a minimum of eight week’s from the start if you are working with the right school. Otherwise plan on 3 to 6 months to get it.

When operating private boats, most insurance companies will not let you operate it without a captains license. They want someone with the needed experience to minimize risk.

So what opportunities are available? Being a captain is normally not a 9 to 5 job. You work when people need you. Also you work weekends when people want to play on the water.

Opportunities, just to name a few.

Fishing Guide/ Charter Operator; your classic walleye, muskie, salmon, ocean species trip. However, there are others: Teaching people fishing methods for specific species; Mother Daughter/Mother Son trips; Flyfishing for northern pike, fly fishing in Alaska back waters; A growing sport of bow fishing for Asian carp, we have a number of captains doing this full time.

You need to think outside the box.

Small group tours. What is unique in your area that others may find interesting? They may be common to you but interesting to visitors; back waters on intercoastal; pelicans on Green Bay; backwaters on the Mississippi River; personal water craft tours. I am sure you have such areas in your backyard.

Transportation water taxi. While having seven or more people require an inspected vessel, six or less does not. Doing a UBER in your area, running a water taxi.

Working for others: Driving a parasail boat, hydro boarding, custom dive trips, private yacht services.

In summary, there are many opportunities for a person with boating experience and a captains license; such as teens young just out of high school or those nearing retirement or looking for a career change. The opportunities are there if you have your captains license.


Here is a link to a podcast I did on why get a captains license


Fair Seas and  Following Winds.

Capt Gary

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Funding Options with Explorer’s Guide Maritime Academy


Obtaining your initial captain’s license or upgrade can be pricey. First there’s the cost of the training itself, then there’s the other items you need to acquire and pay for, as required by the USCG for your license – such as application fee, TWIC card, physical, drug testing, and first aid/cpr training.


Explorer’s Guide Maritime Academy tries to keep your costs under control. Our classes are priced very competitively compared to many other schools. Instruction, books, supplies, and final exams are all included in the tuition cost. Payment is usually done with a credit or debit card, PayPal, check, or (in some cases) cash. We can’t do anything about the add-on charges for application fee, TWIC card, etc. But we do offer options to assist in paying for your training.

  1. Explorer’s Guide Payment Plan – Deposit down, balance before class start date. You can secure your spot in an upcoming class by enrolling and paying a $100 deposit. The balance of your course fee is due typically one week before the first day of class. That gives you a little bit more time to come up with the funds. (If the class is cancelled due to lack of enrollment, the deposit is refunded).
  2. PayPal Credit – A secure pay-over-time payment plan set up by PayPal. Here’s how it works. You enroll online for one of our classes: Enter in your name, address, etc. Under Payment Options, choose PayPal Payment, check the box “I accept the Terms of service for this event, and Register. You will be transferred over to the PayPal site. If you don’t have a PayPal account, you’ll need to create one. You can then pay your balance in full by the payment due date to avoid any interest charges or just make the minimum payments until you’ve paid off your purchase. Easy-peasy.
  3. VA Funding – In Wisconsin only (Appleton, Milwaukee, Sturgeon Bay classes). Not available for online courses or classes outside of Wisconsin. If you are a Veteran and have GI Bill or Post-911 benefits, you are eligible. As government bureaucracy tends to be on the slow side, please allow yourself time to apply for and acquire this benefit. Don’t choose a class that is starting in less than a month. Seriously.
    1. The First step in the process is to apply for benefits using They will issue a certificate of eligibility (COE). This step typically takes 3-4 weeks, so plan ahead. We absolutely need this document to certify your enrollment for payment.
    2. Second, call Brenda at Explorer’s Guide Maritime Academy (920-733-5500) to enroll and tell her you are using your VA education benefits. A $100 deposit is required to hold your classroom seat until the benefits are approved. When you receive your COE from the VA, send it to Brenda.
    3. Finally, attend the class in Appleton, Milwaukee or Sturgeon Bay.

One final note about enrolling online and paying for your courses: under Payment Options on the Enrollment Sheet, if you choose “Offline Payment”, you will need to call Brenda at 920-733-5500 to make arrangements for payment. UNLESS WE RECEIVE AT LEAST A $100 DEPOSIT, YOU ARE NOT ENROLLED!

Hope this helps. As always, if you have questions, call. We’ll be happy to help.

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While we call it a captain’s license, it is really a Merchant Mariner Credential, with an Officer’s Endorsement.

When do I need this?

If you are working on federal waters, and are being paid for that work, you need your credentials. There are several different credentials with varying limitations. To determine the type of license you will need, you first need to determine where it will be used and how many passengers you will carry.

  • OUPV: If you are planning on being a guide (fishing, waterfowl hunting, etc), being a charter captain for day trips, or running a water taxi with not more than six passengers you need an Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) also commonly called a 6-pack license. This captain’s license allows you to take up to 6 paying passengers, of which at least one is paying to be on your vessel.
  • MASTER OF VESSEL: If you are operating a vessel that is approved by the USCG to carry more than 6 people, this is an inspected vessel and requires a Master’s License.

In a nutshell, these are the two types of captain’s licenses. However, both of these types of credentials are further broken down into one of three different routes, depending on your sea service (time on the water). These include Inland waters, Great Lakes waters, and Near Coastal waters.

  1. Inland OUPV route lets you carry up to 6 passengers on any federal waters that are not considered Great Lakes or on near coastal (ocean).
  2. The next level up is the Great Lakes route which includes all of the Great Lakes, plus all of the inland waters.
  3. The next one is the Near Coastal route, which includes all waters off the US coast out to 100 nautical miles, with the last level being ocean. It also covers the Great Lakes and Inland waters.

Sea Service Requirements:

  • For an OUPV, you need 360 days of sea service, of which 90 days are in the last three years (called “recency”) to get a license. This is the minimum.

To get either a Great Lakes or Near Coastal endorsement, you will need at least 90 days of the 360-day total to be in operation of a vessel on the Great Lakes or Near Coastal waters. This is a recent change in the law.

  • The Masters has the same routes, with some difference in sea service requirements.
    • Sea service for Inland and Great Lakes Masters is the same as the OUPV, or 360 days, of which 90 days are in the last three years.
    • However, the Near Coastal requires 720 days of sea service, of which 360 must be either on Great Lakes or Near Coastal waters.

Tonnage Requirements:

There is now also a tonnage requirement for a Master. This goes from 25, 50, 100, 200, 500 and more gross tons. This is not based on the weight of the vessel, but rather, the volume. The vessel determines which license is required.

Each level has a sea service requirement which includes days on the vessel and tonnage. For example, for a 100-Ton Masters license you need at least 180 days on a vessel over 51 Tons or 360 days on a vessel over 34 Tons. It is best to look at the NMC check list for a specific tonnage.

If you have read this far into the article I have two tips for you.

  1. Under the pre-March 24, 2014 law change, you can get your 50-Ton Masters license with just one day on a vessel over 5 Tons. After January 1, 2019, you will need a minimum of 180 days on a vessel 17 GRT or more for the Inland/Great Lakes 50-Ton Master license.
  2. Until January 1, 2019 you can upgrade your oupv Great Lakes to near coastal with a 50 question rules exam by using pre March 24, 2014 Deck exams. Afterward it is a one day class and two exams.

I hope this was helpful. Check out our classes at


Capt. Gary Kulibert

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Want Your 200 Ton Master?

We have the solution for you - OUPV to Mate 200 Ton

With your oupv and this 12 hr class you can get a 200 ton mates endorsement. You will need the required sea service on a vessel 67 tons or greater. This opens opportunities to work on larger vessel and make better wages.
So where does the 200 ton Master comes in?

The National Maritime Center Exam Deck Guide states: Raise of Grade: IAW 46 CFR 11.903(c)(3), Applicants Raising Grade from Mate Less than 200 GRT to Master Less than 200 GRT on the same route may do so without further examination.

In other words once you have the sea service time, you request the upgrade to the 200 ton master. To go from Mate to Masters you will need to have operated under your OUPV for one year.
If you take the course and have the sea service for the tonnage and operated under your existing license for one year, you simply request it when submitting your application the NMC.
Course cost is $295 including the one 70-questions exam - 70% correct.
This class can be taken online, distant learning, or classroom.
Call us for more information or visit our 200 Mate page

Check it out on our website at
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Boat insurance is not what you think it is

During one of our captain’s classes, we talked about insurance issues related to guiding and commercial operations. One of our students was an insurance agent. He provided the following comments.  It is a little scary to find out what is not covered and why. It is worth the read especially related to offering paid for services and alcohol usage.

NOTE: This is not professional advice. You need to contact your insurance carrier or agent to review your policy contract.

Start by reading the definition. For example, one professional angler’s policy defines Fishing guide” means a person who, for supplemental compensation, accompanies, assists, or transports a person or persons engaged in fishing.  Fishing guide does not include a person who acts on this behalf as their sole source of income.

Coverage territory: Policies will have a “coverage territory”.  Coverage can be limited to inland waters, the Great Lakes, coastal waters, rivers, or any combination of them.  They need to ensure they are getting coverage for the correct territory.  For example, the typical “coverage territory” is inland waters and rivers, so the Great Lakes and coastal waters are not in the “coverage territory” and therefore no coverage is in force on those waters.  They need to be sure that they are getting coverage for the waters they operate in.

Coverage value is usually broken down by the hull, motor(s), trailer, and accessories.  The trailer is the trailer, motor(s) are typically considered the gas powered motors, the hull includes the hull itself and anything attached that cannot be easily removed (basically anything that doesn’t have exposed fasteners and can’t be removed easily like flush mounted graphs), and accessories is everything else (usually limited to items related to the operation or safety of the vessel – rods, reels, tackle, etc. are not accessories on most insurance policies).  

Many of the students will have bow mounts.  Including them in the hull value or accessories value varies from carrier to carrier so they will have to confirm.  

After all of that, I prefer to insure everything in a “package value”.  This typically allows you combine the value of everything, other than accessories, into a lump sum.  The rate is a touch higher, but definitely worth the extra few bucks.  Over the years, motors will lose value, but guys will add things to the hull so unless you are consistently updating those values, they are often out of whack.  I prefer to know that I have $65,000 for my hull, motors, and trailer, rather than $7,000 for the trailer, $20,000 for my main motor, $5,000 for my kicker, and $33,000 for my hull.  

What if I added (2) flush mounted HDS 12 touches next year and a high performance trim tab kit and then my boat was stolen?  My hull might now be worth $37,000, but I am capped at $33,000.  My main motor might only be worth $18,000 now, so that’s all I would get, my kicker worth $3,500, and trailer worth $6,500.  If I had them broken apart, I would be looking at getting $61,000 instead of the $65,000 I am paying for.  Having them in written on a “package vale” would get me the $65,000 I am paying for.

The policies usually pay Actual Cash Value (market value basically), so those figures fluctuate and nobody knows what those will be at the time of loss, I prefer to know that I have flexibility in the valuation process and that everything is not capped at certain amounts and if those amounts are too high on one thing, I can potentially get that over insured amount back on something else that might be underinsured.

Exclusions: Make sure you understand what is excluded from coverage:Freezing, thawing, or contact with ice, when the condition is expected or anticipated and the insured watercraft was not prepared for cold weather storage or winterized to the standards of the manufacturer or accepted marine standards; Damage from birds, rodents, insects, animals, vermin, and marine life except if loss is caused by collision;

Example: This Policy does not cover bodily injury, property damage, or loss  when the insured watercraft is:
a. outside of the policy territory.
b. used for a commercial purpose or marine business;
c. used unlawfully to traffic in or carry persons, drugs, narcotics, or other property;
d. owned in whole or in part by someone other than you or your spouse
Passengers for Hire: Coverage is usually restricted or completely eliminated if they rent out the vessel, are carrying passengers for a fee (guiding or otherwise), or if the vessel is being operated in “any official race or speed contest”.  The first 2 are pretty self-explanatory, but the 3rd one is not as cut and dry.  Is a tournament a “race or speed contest”?  Personally, I believe it could be and prefer not to leave it up to an insurance carrier’s claims adjuster, an arbitrator, or court.  

If they run their boats in tournaments, they just need to let their agent or carrier know and verify if there is coverage.  I would do this via email so that you have the response in writing and save that email.  If an agent says coverage would not be excluded for tournaments, but they were wrong, it is possible that the insurance carrier would exclude coverage, but that agent’s Errors and Omissions insurance would most likely have to cover the loss.

If they are guiding, they have to have a commercial type policy.  There are a few companies that have the ability to insure the vessel on a personal lines policy and offer some sort of guide endorsement.  

Alcohol or drugs consumption: There is a trend in the insurance industry of excluding coverage if they can show alcohol or drugs have been consumed if the loss occurred while the vessel was being operated commercially (guiding for the most part).  It has been fairly standard to exclude coverage if the captain, or sometimes crew, were under the influence.
However, we are starting to see a trend of carriers excluding coverage if anyone on the vessel is under the influence which includes passengers. They need to be aware of this exclusion as it’s not uncommon to take some customers out on a guide trip and the customers plan on having a few beers while fishing.  The captain, or owner, has to know if that presents a problem.

I have highlighted many of the things people are not aware of and end up finding out AFTER something happens.  No fun.  
There is a pretty broad personal lines boat policy that has the ability to add for tourney pros and guides.  It’s a much better policy than most personal lines boat policies, but still a little inferior to a true commercial policy.  

WARRANTY: Please note, Warranty, in the insurance world, means “absolute”.  Basically, there are no exceptions or excuses to violate a “Warranty”.  They are hard to enforce, but it is literally the most unforgiving word in the insurance world.
For example related to guide service “You warrant that the following conditions will be adhered to while your insured watercraft is being utilized for fishing guide activities….”
“If required by your state or any state you navigate your insured watercraft, or if required by the United States Coast Guard, you hold the necessary current licenses to operate as a fishing guide. We may request a copy of any required license for our review at any time.

MISREPRESENTATION AND FRAUD This policy will be voided back to its inception if you at any time intentionally conceal or misrepresent material information relating to application(s), accidents, or losses. Moreover, if a person knowingly makes a claim based on false information with the purposes of defrauding us, that person may be guilty of insurance fraud which is a felony. We have a duty to seek out insurance fraud and report it to appropriate authorities. We will then cooperate fully with authorities as required by law.

Safety Briefing: On another note; they need to perform whatever reviews, instructions, customer’s checklists, etc. the same way every time.  If they don’t do things the same way every time, your documentation becomes fairly worthless should you end up in court.  
For example, if they are going to review vessel safety, rules, etc. on the dock and use a form that the customer signs off on, they have to do that every time for every trip.  They cannot skip it because they are in a hurry or the customer knows what they’re doing or whatever the reasoning might be. 

You will have to show consistency and the opposing attorney is going to try to document a lack of consistency in order to belittle whatever documentation you might have.  If that attorney can show that you don’t go through the same procedures with each and every customer, it won’t matter that you did everything by the book and have all the customer signatures on rules and safety forms saying they have reviewed and understand everything for that day the accident occurred.  

The attorney just documented to the judge and/or jury that you don’t have any set process or procedure prior to leaving the dock and that who’s not to say you didn’t do this after the fact.  If they can find a hole in your consistency, you are in trouble.  Basically, do the exact same thing every time.  If that means nothing, then do nothing.  If that means forms and checklists that customers sign off on, you have to do it every time, or don’t do it at all.  

The most fool proof way I know of doing this is the same way large corporations do it.  You require people to book trips on your website.  When they are booking their trip, there will be a form outlining the rules, safety procedures, etc. and requires them to check a box or something stating they as well as all members of their party have read and understand everything.  Then you just have to perform your Coast Guard safety requirements at the dock and you are ready to go.  

That’s just my thought on the ideal way to cover your tail, but not everyone is disciplined enough to maintain consistent procedures.  Well, that is until after they have had the opportunity to experience a personal injury lawsuit first hand.
 I know there is probably more here than you wanted, but I wanted to overload you with information and let you choose what you wanted to know about and possibly mention in your courses.  If you have any questions on any of this, or if I can be of any other assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.      

Scott M Swain, CIC
Account Executive
Alliance Insurance Centers, LLC   
800.844.6662 (Toll Free)   

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we just completed a OUPV class in Hancock MI this last week. Great Group of guys. Only issue was the blinding white-outs from the winds off lake Superior.

Capt Gary

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