Why Young Boaters Should Get a Captain’s License

Earning a captain's license provides young boaters with a great foundation for boating safely.
Young boater at the helm
Captain’s courses can help prepare the newest generation of boaters to operate boats safely. Tom King

Thousands of boating accidents occur each year. Many of these result from inexperience and lack of knowledge. While boating safety courses are great, these don’t compare to the breadth and depth of knowledge required to get a captain’s license.

In my case, I obtained an operator of uninspected passenger vessel license (OUPV, commonly called a “six-pack” license) at age 17 with the permission of my father, a fellow captain. This helped me become a safer boater, plus it provided off-the-water benefits. For young people with a passion for the water, earning a captain’s license provides a fantastic foundation. Read on and find out how.


Each year, multiple heartbreaking tales of young, irresponsible boaters being seriously injured or worse make headlines. These are almost always avoidable. Captain’s courses provide a detailed rundown of the proper safety measures to take while on the water, as well as the various equipment needed aboard a safe vessel.

Age Matters

Many boating accidents are caused by a lack of understanding of the “rules of the road.” Many people in captain’s courses have obtained significant knowledge over hundreds of water hours; however, often this is not the case for the youngest boating enthusiasts. 

Going for a captain’s license requires much more study and more comprehensive knowledge than a basic boating course. Since younger people lack the experience of older people, this extra knowledge and study make a big difference.

Learn and Earn

This has been the main benefit I have reaped since obtaining my OUPV license. Most people do not own a boat. A captain allows people to enjoy a memorable day on the water without certification or even needing their own vessel. There are not many things more rewarding than gifting a client with a lifelong memory. It can also be an excellent source of income, particularly for a young person.

Read Next: How To Learn To Be A Boater

College Admissions

When the time for college admissions came, I had varsity letters and articles for the school’s newspaper, but so did thousands of other candidates. I can say with confidence that I was one of only a few OUPV captains applying to college at 17. It was a differentiator for me and wound up the topic of my college essay, which received much praise. Obtaining an OUPV license is an excellent way to be literate in boating safety, stand out among average candidates for colleges and career positions, and make a little money.

First Aid

To obtain a captain’s license, the candidate must be proficient in first aid and CPR. In fact, one needs to take and pass certified first-aid and CPR courses in order to become a captain. These skills are essential on the water but just as important on land, or while traveling by air or any other means.

Record Your Sea Time

For an OUPV license, an applicant is required to have 360 days of documented sea time, 90 of which occurring within the past three years. (A diary or logbook, as well as letters from people whose boat you ­operated, can be used for this.) Candidates transfer this information onto a Small Vessel Sea Service Form, submitted as part of the application.