Live Free 2 Sail Fast

100 Ton Captain’s Course

Second week at the Maritime Institute in San Diego,,,,getting my butt kicked with all the studying.

Sitting in class working toward my USCG Captain’s License/OUPV isn’t really what I expected,,,,,it’s HARD!  I mean, like worse than college hard, because I’ve been sitting on my butt in class for these 8 hour days, plus extra classes at night, getting slaughtered with information!  I was unprepared for the overload of info they were about to give me, despite them warning me to pre-study the “box o books” they sent me,,,,,telling me it would help.   And,,,,it would have helped if I had read and comprehended it all before I got here, but still would not have understood fully till I got here.  I have all my sailing and boating hours toward the 100 Ton License done, so I’ve put in my time,,,and came to class thinking that I had my stuff together and would do ok.  I had no idea this was one of the few brick and mortar actual schools on the west side of the Mississippi and that there might be a full class going on,,,,,I had no clue that there would be 20 students in the class and the instructor would throw material at us literally all day long, 08am to 5pm.  There’s a lot to study and with the school having a 96% pass rate on the examinations, they have a certain expectation that you come with a level of knowledge and motivation to also pass the exam.  Honestly, I’m getting my ass handed to me and the whole “fake it till you make it” thing isn’t holding up as well as I want in this class.   The class isn’t just geared to teach to the test, but we are learning by test and skill set.  There’s four parts to the test-  Rules of the Road, Deck General, Navigation General and Charting.  Rules of the Road has 50 questions and you need to get a 90% to pass.  The rest of the tests are 70% to pass and all the tests are multiple choice.  One bad thing is that the Navigation Test is only 10 questions, but they all build on each other,,,,,so if you mess up the first few, the rest could all go downhill.  And, if you fail any parts of the test, you fail the whole thing.  So far, the Navigation is my worst subject, although I can do most of it, there’s a lot of math involved and exacting numbers, so I’m a slow poke but usually get it right.  It’s the use of the formulas that throw’s me off on some of the more advanced navigation, but I’m working on it and am not afraid to admit when I need some help.

The Maritime Institute in San Diego is US Coast Guard approved and has written most of their own tests and study guides.  They have some pretty sharp staff members and the owner is personally involved in many of the classes.  I’m impressed with the staff and my instructor.  Anyone who comes in the class, writes down their personal cell phone number and tells you to call them anytime for help means it,,,and means to do more than just prep you for a test.

I’m also pretty impressed with the staff at this school.  The staff are most valuable property the school has; as they’re all well-known in the Marine Industry and keep current on most marine issues.  The school has staff that teach along the west coast and also specialize in teaching military, police and commercial Marine Industry professionals to upgrade their current tonnage licenses.

Whether I pass this damn test this coming Friday or not, I know that just in this week alone, my knowledge and confidence have increased greatly and I’ll be safer and better prepared on any water because of this course.   Now, I gotta go study cause I want to pass the damn test!


So, stick with me if I’m not posting as much this week!

Trying to make it real!

I’ve been off the site for a couple of days because I was prepping to start my USCG Captain’s License Course (100 Ton Master).  I figure if I’m going to put my family on a small sailboat and take off for ports unknown eventually, I probably ought to have some sort of formal education at least.  After doing quite a bit of research into schools online; (there’s some excellent ones, like Mariners Learning System) I thought about how I screwed up my Masters Degree (which I did online) and decided that I needed to sit down and actually do a classroom course with few other distractions, so I could get through the material and focus on the learning.  This was a hard decision as it meant I had to spend two weeks in class and spend considerably more money on the course, but I think it was the right one.  After doing a lot of research into schools in my local area, I decided on the Maritime Institute in San Diego as my “resident” school.  I think this was a good decision too.  When I registered, the school sent me a box of books and matter of factly told me to read them and start studying,,,which I should have paid attention to.  I started class,,,,and am overwhelmed.  The material is huge and this will be mostly memorization, so it has basically kicked my ass so far.  I don’t care.  I learned more in one day than most of what I’ve known in the past and I think this class will turn out to make me and the family safer on the water.

Some things from the first day that I think are important:

  1. Class size was small and wasn’t all grizzly ship drivers.  There are women in the class and a few very young guys, but everyone seem genuine and seems to want to be there.
  2. The Rules of the Road are important and when broken down into easily understandable information, they can make a difference that people will pay attention to, like these:
  • Rule 2- The Rules won’t get you off if you disregard them and act dumb on a boat, outside of normal practices of seamanship-
  • Rule 5- Every vessel (boat) no matter where you are, is required to maintain a proper lookout AT ALL TIMES under way- by any and every means available.  Huh,,,,sounds like you have to look after your own boat and take responsibility as a Captain.
  • Rule 6- You gotta maintain a correct speed for the circumstances,,,part of which is knowing how to slow your boat down quickly-
  • Rule 7- CBDR- The Laws of Constant Bearing and Decreasing Range- When multiplied by the gross tonnage rule (if it weighs more than you,,,,your boat will lose), this is a pretty important rule to know how to apply by either watching radar or actually physically observing.  This might be why having consistent lights on different kinds of ships is so important and knowing what they mean and which way they’re going is also so important.
  • And,,,finally, Rule 18- Did you know there is a pecking order for boats,,,,aside from the gross tonnage rule, there is an actual boat pecking order.   And, contrary to popular belief, there is only ONE case where the Rules of the Road actually mentions right of way,,,,and that’s boats traveling downriver on the Western Rivers with the current.  Yep, that’s the ONLY Right of Way for Boats mentioned in the USCG Rules of the Road,,,,so be warned about this.

Prior this course, I had a cheat sheet on the boat with me (I highly recommend one) for situations when I was navigating in the dark and needed to pull that cheat sheet out.  But, like my parents have said numerous times,,,,,a freighter can get from the horizon (the spot you see it at) to your boat in 15-20 minutes unless you watch it carefully.  From the light schemes, you can figure out bearing, ship size, ship mission and plan to avoid that ship pretty easily.  But, you have to know what you’re looking at first.  This is the big thing this course covers,,,,what you’re looking at.  I also like this course because they’re obviously not just teaching to the tests,,,they’re teaching students to be responsible Mariners.  Although this is an expensive choice that costs me time with my family, I think this is the right choice.  Tulum IV remains for sale here in San Diego and is ready to find the next owner who’s ready for an adventure of a lifetime.  She’s in great shape and most repairs are completed.  I’ll continue to update my posts about school as we go along and keep you all in the loop.  I’m taking this class because I want to be better and safer on my boat, I want to perhaps use the license in the future and because it’s another push toward cruising.  Yep, I’m trying to make it real!

Hope you’re all doing great, thanks to everyone who’s followed lately, I LOVE it-



Captain’s Licensing Course in January

Good morning, we’re out traveling and I’ve got lots of great info to pass along about this trip, but first an update on my quest to qualify for my Captain’s License-

I’m in the course and officially taking it in January.  I’ve waded through the extensive Coast Guard Paperwork and figured out it’s not as hard as people make it out to be.  I passed the extensive physical, got the various other paperwork done, retook a CPR class, have applied for and received my Transportation Workers Identity Card (TWIC), and paid the deposit for my course through the Maritime Institute in San Diego.  This company has online and regular classroom courses and also offers their testing services in different parts of the country, an impressive menu of courses.  I decided to go to the classroom portion of the course, as I have way too many distractions at home to be able to effectively study there (I’ve tried it before),,,,and my learning style just doesn’t support distance learning too well.  I’m impressed with the Maritime Institute so far; just two days after calling I had their package of study guides sent to me on my front door step and I was able to call and get a minor study question answered right on the spot.  I’ll spend two straight weeks there in January, taking the Coast Guard approved exam on the last day and then prepping to mail or take my entire package to the nearest center that will accept it.  During my two weeks of the course, I’ll add updates to this blog to make sure you get the info if you’re looking for it-

Working toward a Captain’s License

Getting a Captain’s License in the Maritime world can be a bit daunting unless you do your research and know what you want.  Most folks simply want to operate a boat safety and have the option of taking more that 6 passengers at a time on their boat,,,,and possibly get paid for it.  This might only require what the Coast Guard terms the 6-Pack/OUPV License and has the least amount of work involved in getting it.   I’ve working toward this certificate and more,,,as I eventually want my 100 Ton Captains License; which may lead to employment after retirement.

I’ve just received my Transportation Workers Identification Card (TWIC) from TSA, had my CPR Certificate renewed and I’ve figured out I have enough on-water hours to justify going to class to test for my license.  I’m going through the Maritime Institute in San Diego in January to study up for my test, and I’ve been working out of a study guide to identify parts I may need extra work on.

Next up on this Blog project- Prepping the required Coastguard Paperwork.

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