Am I too old to become Captain of shipping vessel

I am 47 and have always loved the sea…I am an electrical engineer (chip designer to be exact)…and have an MSEE with over 20yrs…In great athletic shape and decently fit. What would it take? Any suggestions from all you Mariners out there???

First you need to decide what size vessel you want to Captain. If it’s under 1600 tons (e.g a tugboat or ferry) then you have a few options. You can search older threads on this forum for more information.

If you want to be the captain of a large ship then your best bet is to apply for a masters program at one of the state maritime Academies. The admissions counselors at these schools get a lot of questions from mid career professionals so don’t worry about bugging them.

Here’s one to get you started:

Hello John,
Appreciate the fast response. I guess in my head something to start off with like a fishing charter Captain (for starters)…of course I am new to all of this and I am not opposed to any challenge. I will check out your link. Thank you much sir!!!

PS. as in any industry…I realize I must start from scratch and gain/build experience. I just need to set things up to make this happen.

Kind Regards,

Two points:

  1. The license to operate one of these fishing charter vessels is referred to as a “6-Pack” because it allows (limits) you to six passengers on a vessel. The proper name is Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV). This license will require you to have 360 underway days, with four hours underway counting as a day (but eight hours is still one day).
  2. In addition to being licensed and knowledgeable about operating and maintaining the vessel, a fishing charter captain has to know how to fish, where to find fish, how to run a business, how to deal with customers, etc. This can take a long time to gain the skills.

Heading down this route would likely start by working as a mate on one of these charter boats for a long time. Note that this route does not do anything towards licensure for larger, inspected vessels.

Best wishes on this new adventure in your life.

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Just get out on the water. Search,,,, etc. for beginner, i.e., O/S, positions. See my article, “How to get a job on a tall-ship.” Spend all the time you can on the water, get sea-time letters from any boat owners/captains you work for. You’re never too old until they plant you in the ground.