Hire A Charter Captain Or Not


It that time of year to enjoy the open water.  You may be vacationing at a lake, river, or open ocean where you or not that familiar or feel comfortable in operating a boat in.    So, what is the best option for you, your family and friends’ safety and pleasure?

 There are a few options:

 1. Hire the service of a USCG Captain to pilot your personal vessel

2. Hire a USCG Captain to pilot a boat that you rent.

3. Hire a USCG Captain that offers a comprehensive charter service (Boat, crew and associated service)


What is a USCG Captain?   A United States Coast Guard Credentialed Captain is a individual that has a Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner’s Credential suitable for the vessel’s service. Credentialed mariners have met rigorous training and testing requirements along with background checks by Homeland Security, FBI. Competed a drug testing program and is tested on a periodically; as well as having their vessels and inspected and insured to meet high safety standards.

 Why use a USCG Captain?


  • Safety – A US Coast Guard licensed Captain is trained to make your ride safe, so relax and enjoy!
  • Experience – Captains have knowledge of local history, knowledge, fun facts of the area.
  • Convenience – Captains make your ride on easy and enjoyable.
  • Variety – Whether you want a charter for the day, a relaxing trip to dinner, or a sunset cruise, a Captain can give you a memorable ride.
  • Fun –  Captains can make your ride easy, so you can do what you came  for – TO HAVE FUN!

Passengers are taking an unnecessary safety risk by riding on a vessel without a credentialed mariner in charge or an uninspected vessel that needs to be inspected.

 How can you tell who is a USCG Captain?   If you are on a Charter, Ask the Captain for the Red Book. This is a Document (see above photo) that has the captains credentials provided by the United States Coast Guard.


Passengers on board any charter service are reminded to be alert for deceptive practices and should not hesitate to require the vessel operator to produce a valid Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner’s Credential

Charter services that carry a “Passenger for hire” without a valid Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner’s Credential suitable for the vessel’s service. 

 “Passenger for hire” is defined as an operator that takes or accepts compensation, including donations, in exchange for services aboard a vessel.

 What Type of Charters is right for me?

 It depends on your specific needs, and number of passengers that will be on the charter.

 A large cruise charter/sightseeing charter/ or a booze cruise. Generally, these are charters that will have more than 6 paying passengers on board.  These boats are COI (USCG Certificate of Inspections) for multi-passengers.  These boats must pass a rigorous testing and qualifications.   All COI boats will have COI documenting, which will be posted on the boat.  if it does not have one you may be putting yourself and friends’ safety at risk.

 Many people will rent for a local boat rental and then hire a Captain to drive the boat for them.  This is known as a bareboat charter.  Bareboat charter services that provide a vessel with a crew/master or carry not more than 12 passengers onboard. A "bareboat charter" is defined as paying only for the use of a vessel. • Charter services that carry more than six passengers, at least one of which are for hire, and are not certificated by the Coast Guard.

 Simply put, it is much like renting a car from a car rental company.  when you rent the car, you take on all liability, pay for fuel, sign a contract, have insurance.  Bareboat charter is the same with the exception that you will hire a driver (Captain) to drive for you. in addition to the paying for the rental, gas and insurance and take temporary ownership of the rental boat while you are using it.   You need to have in your possession the following:

 1. The rental contract between yourself and the rental company

2. A contract between yourself and the captain and crew.

3. Have the ability to choose the captain and crew from a pool, as well as  have the ability to fire the captain and crew if needed.

4. You are limited to 11 passengers plus yourself for a total of 12 plus captain and crewmember(s).

5. Also the owner of the boat, or any associated with the owner cannot be on board, drive the boat for you.

 Important to note, the size of the boat does not make a difference... if the boat is 60 feet and not a COI boat it is limited to only the 11 passengers plus yourself for a total of 12 plus captain and crewmember(s).  

 If none of the above if followed it is an illegal charter and if stopped by the USCG the charter will be terminated and most likely the charter owner could be fined up to $49,000.00 plus possible imprisonment. 

Last type of charter is a 6 pack or Operator Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) this is a non-COI boat and has only 1 to 6 individual paying passengers on board.

 When considering a charter make sure you and your friends, family are safe.  Make sure the charter is legal and the captain is a credential USCG Captain. Ask for to see their Red Book.


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