Claire and I recently completed a course offered by the Ocean Navigator School of Seamanship (ONSOS) leading to a captain’s license, either the so-called “six-pack” OVPN, or master or mate of inspected vessels of 100 tons or less.
Successfully passing one of these courses, assuming one has the necessary experience at sea, leads to a license without having to take a U.S. Coast Guard exam at a Coast Guard facility. I thought that my impressions of the course might be interesting to readers of Ocean Navigator magazine.
Although this was an ONSOS course, it was given at the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies in Linthicum Heights, Md., near Baltimore/Washington International airport, just outside Baltimore. This was a change of venue from Anne Arundel Community College near Annapolis.
I congratulate ONSOS on the decision to move the course to MITAGS. While AACC is an excellent facility, MITAGS is an institution devoted to the training of professional merchant mariners. The faculty members who taught the course are captains and officers of large commercial vessels. Their perspective on the topics that the Coast Guard has determined to be critical was most enlightening. Combined with the experience of using the MITAGS navigation simulators, they provided an insight that greatly influenced our thinking about small-boat navigation.
The course was a bit stressful. The Coast Guard requires a test score of 90 percent to pass the Rules of the Road and Navigation sections, and not everyone made it. However, meeting another vessel at sea at night is also a stressful situation, and it seems that a high standard is appropriate when lives are potentially at stake. Some of the material in the Coast Guard curriculum was a bit more commercial in context than we expected for a small-vessel (under 100 tons) license, but it provided valuable insight into the capabilities and limitations of the behemoths with which we share the oceans and waterways.
One is much less likely to question the rule of gross tonnage after spending a week at MITAGS, courtesy of ONSOS. This alone would justify the time, effort and expense of the course. Claire and I thank ONSOS for making this course available, and we heartily recommend it to anyone planning to go to sea. It is a serious course, worthwhile in its own right, as well as the best way to get a Coast Guard license.
Quent and Claire Kinderman live in Edgewater, Md.