At What Point Do I Need a Captain’s License?

If you own a boat or spend a lot of time out on the ocean, you’ve probably come across the term captain’s license. You may even be wondering if you need one to operate your own personal vessel. If you’re taking your boat out leisurely on the weekends with family and friends, then you don’t need a captain’s license, however if you are carrying passengers for hire (passengers that pay for your boating services), you’ll definitely need to attain one.

A captain’s license is similar to a driver’s license, only for boats. There are a number of licenses available, based on the type and size of the vessel being operated but there are two main types that are issued by the United States Coast Guard (USCG):

Types Of Captains Licenses

Operator aka Six Pack License

This type of license covers vessels that are uninspected, weigh 100 gross tons or less, and are going less than 100 miles offshore. Generally, these operations carry six or fewer passengers for hire and typically include boat fishing guides or tour boat operations.


A master license is required by vessels that are inspected and carrying seven passengers or more, and are traveling up to 200 miles offshore. This type of license also covers vessels that are operating primarily on inland waters, regardless of size or distance.

Even though most of the boaters in San Diego are not operating their vessel for commercial purposes, taking a USCG course like the one required to receive a captain’s license is great for educational purposes. It can help you become a better boater so you can better ensure the safety of your passengers when out on the water. No boater is ever too old for learn, and even if you have boating experience, these courses allow you to refresh your skills in a variety of topics from safety regulations and rules of the road to chart plotting and navigation.

Why else might you want to have your captain’s license? Depending on which of the San Diego boat insurance companies you use with, you may be able to enjoy lowered annual costs. Having a captain’s license establishes and demonstrates your knowledge, experience, and expertise which may help to reduce your premiums.

So whether you’re an experienced boater or have recently picked up the hobby after buying a used boat in San Diego, consider enrolling in a course for your captain’s license or an equivalent program, you never know when the information learned might come in handy. For more information about boating in San Diego, contact Ballast Point Yachts, Inc. today. We are a full service boat brokerage that buys and sells used boats and also offers financing, insurance and reliable transport. To speak with an expert broker now, call 619-222-3620 – we look forward to hearing from you!