Instructor at the Maritime Institute
Stephen Jackson is a seasoned sailor, currently teaching part-time at the Maritime Institute in San Diego. He has logged over a quarter of a million miles on small vessels, mostly sailboats, and over a million miles on large ships. He has a U.S. Coast Guard license as Master Mariner, Unlimited Upon Oceans as well as a Master Sail 100T Upon Oceans license. He and his wife plan to make the Great Loop, cruising the eastern half of the U.S., about 6,000 miles.
He started sailing dinghies at seven years old and has spent his adult life on the water, going so far as to get a 2nd Mate license with a 1600T Master cross-over. In between, he earned every license he could, from Hawaii to San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico. Now, Jackson teaches Bridge Resource Management for people upgrading their licenses above 100T and is Coast Guard approved to teach all the lower level licensing. He sails part-time for Military Sealift Command as a deck officer.
Why is the ocean a special place to you?
In Hawaii, where I was raised, the ocean was always a large part of my life. I started sailing when I was seven, and it has been a lifelong love affair. My son was born in Hawaii and has been around the water since he was two days old. He went sailing the first time when he was two months old and loved it. Today he still loves the ocean and spends a lot of time on, in and under it.
The ocean is my mistress, and my wife understands my need to run away to sea and even encourages me to do it. She knows I work hard work when on ships, but understands my love affair.
Have you had a particularly fulfilling experience at sea?
I spent a year on the missionary ship Logos Hope. These are non-paid positions; everyone pays support to cover their room and board. I both served on the ship as a deck officer and conducted Basic Safety Training (BST) for the new people joining the ship. Everyone who serves aboard has to go through BST. I always felt I needed to give back something for all the help I had gotten when I was climbing the license ladder. It was a year that I’m very glad I did, not only to give back, but I learned a lot from people from all over the world both crew and guests.
Logos Hope carries between 350 and 400 crew representing about 56 different nations. The licensed people come from many different countries as well, and all people that serve aboard speak some English.
Who should give serious consideration to getting a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license?
I think all individuals who operate vessels, where they operate in close quarters to other yachts as well as ships, can learn a lot by taking a class toward getting licensed. Some will have enough boating time to get licensed after taking a class, while others may not have sea time for a license but will better understand what is needed to avoid trouble or creating a dangerous situation.
That said, I’m against either the federal or state government licensing pleasureboat operators. There are some states that do require pleasureboat operators to have a state license. I am not sure, but I believe, that a U.S. Coast Guard license should do for any requirements for state-mandated licensing. There are many excellent programs that offer practical safe boat handling, including junior and adult sailing programs, Coast Guard Auxiliary, as well as other programs.
Should people consider getting a license even though they never want to run a commercial vessel?
One big advantage is that they will find most insurance companies will give them a discount on boat insurance. The license or a certificate of a course completion will show the insurance company that these individuals do have some knowledge, and the license shows experience.
One big question is this: Does licensing make a yacht owner a safer boat operator? No. We have a hard time teaching judgement, although we tend to use better judgement when we have better knowledge.
I think with knowledge, close calls between yachts, as well as between ships and yachts, could be reduced. During my career I have seen many close calls as well as some preventable accidents, between yachts and yachts, as well as yachts and ships. Remember, there are still collisions between ships with knowledgeable and well-trained officers and very good electronics for navigation on the bridge.
If someone isn’t necessarily interested in getting a U.S. Coast Guard license but does want to get some education, which of the courses at the Maritime Institute would be most enlightening?
Many of the classes that are taught at Maritime Institute can be helpful to anyone who operates a vessel. Rules of the Road understanding is important for all people operating boats. Depending on what a person wants to use their boat for and what electronic equipment they have, they might consider many of the other courses they offer. Things like Basic Safety Training, Radar, Celestial Navigation, etc. Basic Safety Training will give the boat owner a much better understanding of what they might face if they have to abandon their vessel at sea and take to a life raft, or other emergency at sea.
Radar training will help the owner understand what makes a radar work, better understand what they are looking at on a radar screen, how to best tune the radar, and how to rapid plot, to see if another vessel might be a threat to your safe navigation.
Celestial Navigation is a must for anyone that is going offshore or any long-distance cruising. GPS is a great tool but units have been known to fail.
Maritime Institute also offers many other course that people will fine helpful depending on how they use their boat. To read more of our interview with Jackson, visit seamagazine.com/ meet-stephen-jackson.