Course to maritime career steers away from classrooms

Instruction for U.S. Coast Guard licensing is now available entirely online. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

If you want to get a license to drive a tugboat, charter a sailboat, or work on a ferry, you must spend a lot of time on the water. But you no longer have to spend one moment in a classroom.

Sail Martha’s Vineyard, the non-profit community sailing organization, now offers online instruction for Island residents aiming for a maritime career, and for boaters who want to know more about their recreational hobby.

“It’s trying to move what we do into the 21st century, to be more flexible” Sail MV executive director Brock Callen said. “We have already doubled the number of people we had last year. We’ll also be able to offer it virtually year-round.”

A U.S. Coast Guard license to charter up to six passengers plus crew on a recreational vessel, commonly known as a “6-pack” license, takes about 40 to 50 hours of study. A license to operate large commercial vessels, commonly known as a “100-ton” license takes about 80 hours of learning.

The licenses also require substantial documented experience at sea, but Mr. Callen said many people take the courses for the knowledge, and do not intend to become licensed captains.

Discerning learning

Textbooks and CDs supplement the online courses. Sail MV will schedule regular classes and hands-on learning support at its Vineyard Haven headquarters.”It has always amazed me how many different learning styles there are on the Island,” Mr. Callen said. “If you learn better out of a book, there’s that. If you learn better from a CD, there’s that. Anything and everything in the books and the CD is also available online.”

He said the online courses give students wide flexibility in completing the course at their own pace, and on their own time. Students have one year to complete the course work.

“As long as you have access to the Internet, you have access to the course,” Mr. Callen said. “It’s a lot better than hearing me drone on for 80 hours,” he added with a laugh.

One price

Mr. Callen said Sail MV has packaged all costs into one inclusive price. To be officially licensed by the Coast Guard, requires certification in first aid, CPR, an exam fee, a drug test, in addition to completing the course,.

Sail MV offers all instruction, certifications, and tests required for the 100-ton license at a fee of $1,600. For those who want instruction only, and do not intend to get the license, the cost is $1,200.

The cost of instruction and certification for a 6-pack license is $1,200, and $1,000 for those who do not want the license.

Financial aid applications are available for Island residents who want a license for maritime careers, through the Permanent Endowment Fund.

Anyone interested in the courses should contact Sail MV by January 22 for the current round of licensing instruction.