Chartering License

I knew what I needed was the basic Coast Guard license to carry up to six passengers for hire. We were fortunate to be berthed near a charter boat and the skipper and his wife were quite friendly. He and I got together to discuss the exam I had to take.

He went over all the subjects I had to study in Chapman’s, such as, Rules of the Road, Seamanship, Piloting, Fire fighting, Lifesaving equipment, Operating gasoline engines, and a couple other subjects. He stressed one thing: Do not treat it lightly…that it was a brutal exam…nothing like getting a driver’s license. I got the message.

The Rules of the Road, covering the lights displayed at night, and the day shapes displayed for all the different vessels you might encounter, are, by far, the most difficult part of the exam. It is almost impossible to commit it all to memory…but you have to! You don’t know what might be asked. Here is just a tiny portion of what I am talking about. I copied this from Chapman’s.


I studied like crazy. Mainly, I am a sailor, and I was determined to be a charter boat captain. Well, the exam was long, exhausting, and comprehensive. For me though, it wasn’t brutal. My thorough preparation really paid off. I passed with flying colors!

For any of you wanting to get this license, my method of studying for it is covered in much more detail in my book; it might help you prepare for it. As my mentor said, don’t treat it lightly! Things do change over the years, so the latest copy of Chapman’s would be the book to study. I think most libraries should have it. Also, talk to the head of the nearest station where the exam is given. I didn’t, but I think it’s a good idea. Good Luck!

George and his wife, Marie, sailed professionally, chartering boats in the Bahamas, then in the Virgin Islands. They then leased an uninhabited island, Little Thatch, in the British Virgin Islands, and turned it into a small hotel. After six years, they left the island and bought a lovely beachfront property on Jost Van Dyke (BVI) where they built Sandcastle Hotel and the original Soggy Dollar Bar. George is now the author of Incredible Virgin Island Adventure: A True Story.

2 comments on “Chartering License
  1. patti says:

    I’ve wondered whether one needs a license to drive a boat…it seems that in large lakes and inland waterways that you often see kids at the wheel…is this legal? The exams required – like you reference here – make absolutely manditory good sense for a working license…but what about private/leisure use of boats? Jet Skies too!! It’s easy to crash a boat…decapitate a swimmer…without proper understanding of right-of-ways and protocal with other boats – even lake (maybe moreso because of the concentration of craft) boating can be dangerous…everyone behind the wheel should be licensed – state to state? Interesting…

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