Capt Gary Lead instructor and course developer at Explorers Guide Maritime Academy
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.
Fair Seas and Following Winds.