A Close Look at the Options Available to get a Sailing Captain License for Leisure or Commercial Purpose
Any plan to venture offshore by more than 20 miles (32 Km) on keelboats 26 ft (8m) and above? The charter companies ask for a license along with your logbook to look at your experience as a sailor. There are several options for you to get a sailing captain’s license. But please remember that sailing experience is the main criterion. A license or endorsement tests your knowledge of local laws and everything about the vessels, weather, electronics, etc.
If you are in the United States, you may look into getting a USCG Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels (OUPV) - also called Captains or Six-Pack License. OUPV license allows you to take up to 6 passengers on your vessel or a Master (Up To 100 Ton) License if you want to take seven passengers or more. You may also take a Sailing Endorsement for sailing vessels - It requires 360 days of sea time aboard a sailing vessel. A sailing endorsement is also a requirement if you want to operate an inspected sailing vessel. You may look into online programs with online exams like Mariners Learning System or physical classes and exams at a USCG regional center (REC).
There are only eight states in the U.S. that do not require you to have a license to sail a boat within their waterways.
Private charter companies accept licenses issued by private sailing schools like NauticEd and are accepted internationally. They have a Captain Rank program which you can complete online. Along with 50 hours of experience logged on their electronic sailing log, they issue a Captain Rank license. If you plan to take a bareboat out in the ocean, that option is also available (Bareboat Master Rank).
UK & Europe
If you are in the UK or Europe, an RYA license would be a good idea. All theory classes like Day Skipper or Yachtmaster can be done online and may get trained for the practical and pass all exams at an RYA training center. You can also join mile-building trips to complete the requirements of a license.
And, if you own a boat in the U.S., there are boating licenses issued by states. Each state has authorized NASBLA as the sole organization for issuing boating licenses. Thus, if you hold a NASBLA state boating license, then, by default, hold a USA boating license. For Canada, it is PCOC (Pleasure Craft Operator Card). Similarly, other countries have boating licenses.
So, it all depends on what you want to do with your license!