by. Capt. Eric
Have you considered getting your OUPV
(Six-Pack) or Masters License? I decided that the '08/'09
winter was the time to take on the project. I could
write a 20-page story on the subject, but will highlight
some areas that may help somebody else who is considering
Firstly, why get the captain's license?
In my case, I already have a full-time job, and am
not planning on using the license to put food on the
table. It does, however, lead to possibilities down
the road, such as doing yacht deliveries and dinner
cruises. After boating for over 25 years, I was interested
in learning more about boating and becoming a safer
and more responsible operator. As a Certified Flight
Instructor, I compare this to a private pilot who seeks
to operate to a higher standard and get a break on
his insurance by going for the Commercial pilot's license.
Both require experience as well as education, but are
very worthy and rewarding goals.
Above, a few of the
OUPV students from the February course.
The basic requirements for the Operator
of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) is 360 days
of sea service. Rather than restate the requirements
for the license, I will address some of my pre-conceived
notions and what I learned about the process. (See
below for a link to a school for more specific information
on the courses.)
After doing several hours worth of
online research, I contacted Capt. Ron Getter of TrueCourses.com.
I figured that I could attend a nine day OUPV course
in Cincinnati by using some vacation time and without
too much disruption to my schedule. What I found was
that they had attempted in the past to visit Louisville,
but were unable to reach out to enough people. I volunteered
to host the class and provide the necessary advertising,
in hopes that we would find enough people to run the
course. We needed eight to make it a "go," and
had some fifteen commitments a week prior to the course.
Eleven actually showed for the class.
Well before the class, I contemplated
the Sea Service requirements, and wondered if I finally
had enough time. (360 days since 15th birthday). Going
back, I was wondering how I could count all my time
on my parents boats when in reality I was a teenager
and was largely supervised for the first few years
on the larger vessels. As it turns out, time served
as crew counted the same, and before I knew it, I had
counted up more than enough time when I looked at all
the boating I had done over the years. My wife and
I boated with friends until we were done having babies,
finally getting our own runabouts and cruisers.
Another misconception I had concerned
the licensing process. I don't know where I got the
idea, but I assumed that I would attend the school,
take the tests, get poked and prodded, and be handed
a temporary license on the way out the door. There
are several USCG hoops to jump through, and passing
the tests are just a part of the process. In fact,
while it pays to be organized and make sure you will
meet all the phyical, service and legal requirements,
you would be better served spending your time before
the class reading Chapman's and waiting for the school
to help you with the paperwork.
OUPV Class (Louisville): Above, Capt.
Devoe exlains the Coastal Charts in the area of Long
Island Sound. "This is easy now...Locate the Sandy
Point Light, plot a course to Block Island Inlet, compute
your set and drift, give me your course to steer per
ship's compass, ETA in nanoseconds, and who was the
captain on the Titanic? Anybody have the answer yet?" My
If you have any physical issues, you
may need a letter from your doctor to go with your
paperwork--Otherwise, you run the risk of things getting
returned or delaying the process. As of now, you will
need a Transportation Worker Identification Card from
the TSA to become a licensed mariner. I thought that
I'd be set since I went through the TSA vetting process
at work, but I needed to pay the $132 to do it again
to get the actual TWIC card for USCG purposes. You
will also have to join a random drug testing program.
Fortunately, there is a nationwide program set up for
captains, and our inital testing occured during the
course. The extra costs seemed to catch a few people
off guard, just like an ala-carte dinner at some nice
steak houses. The fees for the physcial, drug test,
test fees, TWIC Card, Masters upgrade, etc. were add-ons.
If you plan ahead, there will be no surprises.
Another misconception of mine concerned
the level of study required. I figured that with years
of experience and a familiarity with the Colregs and
Chapman's, I could pay attention in class, study a
little, and pass the tests. The OUPV portion consisted
of two full weekends with 4-hour nights for the whole
week in-between. There were then two days off, a test,
then another few evenings and a full weekend for the
Towing Endorsement and Master's upgrade. The course
was constructed to fit around a banker's schedule,
but I was glad to have some vacation time so that I
could do other things during the week. I figured that
the course was geared toward test prep, so how much
would I really have to study?
Boy, was I mistaken. We started with
navigation and plotting, which was pretty familiar
to a guy who's worked with maps his whole life. Some
of the others were new to the concepts, but everybody
got it figured out just fine in the end. Next came
Rules of the Road, which didn't seem too bad at first.
The intensity picked up there really quickly, and next
thing we knew we were up to our necks learning about
fishing boats, shrimping vs. trolling, and lights on
the back for deploying vs. retrieving nets. The sidelights
projected to "two points abaft the beam," and
I never knew that a flashing yellow light was different
from a special flashing light, and that navaids could
be flashing, occulting, or flux-capaciting.
the "NUCs", "RAMs" and "CBDs",
and we learned the differences in sounds and lights
for a hovercraft, hydrofoil, submarine, and boat with
oars. Then there was making way, underway but not making
way, anchoring, aground, anchored but underway, whistles,
bells, gongs, day shapes and required deck illumination.
The possibilities were infinite, and the test was set
up in such a way that you had to intimately understand
the rules to pass. Capt. Devoe, in our case, kept us
straight and helped us get through the material in
a way that made sense.
I was relieved when we got to weather.
After all, we deal with weather all the time. That's
when I learned about veering winds, backing winds,
spring tides, neap tides and how to compute the moon's
quadrature in dog years. While the firefighting was
new, it was nice to see some stuff that really made
sense in a practical, hands-on kind of way. Other material
included first aid, man overboard procedures and general
Our class of eleven had an age range
of 40's to 60's, which was reportedly typical for an
inland class. Boat sizes ranged from a 17' skiff to
one guy with his own navy. Experience ranged from our
local river area to the Great Lakes and 100 miles off
the Alabama shores in Gulf of Mexico. Surprisingly,
we didn't have anybody pursuing the mariners license
to earn a living.
The 2009 Louisville
Master's Upgrade Class
If I had to do it again, would I do
it differently? For starters, I would have taken two
weeks vacation. It was great having the class locally,
as it saved in meal and lodging costs. It is for that
reason that I would strongly encourage anybody thinking
about the course to catch them next time they come
to Louisville. The time of year (February) was perfect,
as there were only a few nice days I found myself looking
out the windows and daydreaming about working on the
Did the class meet my expectations?
The OUPV was intense, but I learned a ton. The information
was presented in such a way that we really learned
the material, versus learning how to pass the test.
There were areas that I wish we could have learned
more about, but there was a time constraint and a test
on the horizon. The Tow class and Masters Upgrade were
more regulatory and involved more rote memorization,
but that was a function of the material. As for taking
three weeks and doing nothing but boats, there was
no disappointment there.
I have talked with several people who
said they did not want to get their OUPV for reasons
of increased liability. The attorney in our class cautioned: "Be
careful, because a lack of understanding does not excuse
you from having to participate with the Rules of the
Road, and you will find yourself equally liable in
the event something happens out there."
I find myself with a new (pending)
license to learn. Sure, I've met the requirements and
can go by "Captain," but I have also learned
that I have just scratched the surface of what there
is to know out there. I would encourage everybody who
wants to learn more and become safer on the water to
consider such a course. You will be challenged, but
the experience will be very rewarding. As a side benefit,
you will meet some really good people and learn more
than you ever imagined about the waters.
Above, your Webmaster,
August, 2009 Update:
With the class completed and the graduation
certificates in the mailbox, the only hurdle was processing
the application. With some recent rule changes, this
turned out to be a little tricky, but the USCG Regional
Exam Center in Memphis was helpful about requesting
any additional information that they required. Next,
the application gets forwared to Martinsburg. In my
case, I had a two-week delay for a request for addional
information from the Martinsburg office.
As for the timing of the process, plan
12 weeks from the time you first make application with
the USCG until the time you receive your license. Of
the 11 graduates of the course, three have received
their licenses and several others have sent in their
There have been several recent changes
to the process since April. For one, you no longer
need to do your fingerprints at the Louisville office.
This has been replaced by the TSA's digital process
through the TWIC credential. The oath, therefore, was
moved to a form that can be performed by a public notary.
We are fortunate that we can get the TWIC locally through
a government contractor. You schedule the appointment
there through the TSA website.
The last surprise for some came in
the mail. Rather than issue a license to carry and
a document that most recreational captains frame, there
is now a single credential. It is red and looks like
a passport. The mugshot is taken from the TWIC process.
The advantage for working captains is that they only
have to carry one document (wait, the TWIC makes two
again). The challenge if you're not a working captain
will be figuring out how to frame your new passport-style
Above, Rick Schal, USCG Aux, completes
the fingerprinting process for Mark Travis at the Louisville
Rick Schal, USCG Aux, explains the
process to Tom Christensen, also from the February
Commander Beatty administers the oath
to Allen Gailor, who has over 50 years on the water.
Commander Beatty congratulates Mark
Travis on his accomplishment. Mark won the award for
"Best Dressed," and was also the first to
get his "You'll get your license in 30-days"
letter from the REC.
Founder, Port KY
Eric grew up around boats, trading summers on board his parents' Sea Rays for many man-hours of swabbing the decks. He grew up by the little town of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, overlooking the the Dashields Locks and Dam. He has traveled the Great Lakes, Lake Huron's North Channel, Gulf of Mexico and several rivers to include the Ohio, Allegheny, Monongahela, Kanawha, Mohawk (Erie Canal), Tennessee, Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Mobile Rivers.
As a commercial pilot, Eric flies jets and is a flight instructor. He has owned recreational boats ranging from PWCs to most recently, a flybridge convertible that he keeps in a Louisville marina (MM 590). You can also find him with his family on the "Escape Pod," an 18' fishing boat. His most memorable journey was aboard the J. S. Lewis, a 155' towboat in service since 1931.
Eric is a USCG Licensed Master with a Commerical Tow Assistance rating, and is a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Riverman and the Louisville Sail and Power Squadron. After moving to Louisville, he conceived the idea for Louisville's Port KY website while searching for information to help him become a safer and more knowledgable local boater. He has worked hard over the years to educate other boaters by promoting safety classes through Port KY and by hosting captain's classes and related events.