The term captain, in the military and merchant navies of the world, is in fact a more than just a title. In the Navy it is both a rank and an appointment as the person commanding a warship. In the world of commercial vessels, it is also the title of the person commanding the ship, though their Marine Safety Certificate as issued by Transport Canada, would read: Master. In the United States, it is the US Coast Guard which issues professional certification for mariners.
In the USA, there are courses referred to as 'captain's courses'. These are courses which here in Canada, would be accredited by Transport Canada (Marine Personnel Standards and Pilotage Branch) and would qualify someone to hold the title of Master for a vessel of up to 100 Tons. A far cry from our little Boating Safety course. Information on such a course can be viewed at the link below:
Here in Canada, there exist numerous private training centres which exist to provide all levels of nautical training to our budding Horatio Nelsons. How proficient you want to become as a 'mariner', is equally proportional to the velocity of your wallet. The entities that issue accreditation for various levels of expertise in operating a pleasure craft, are all private associations. They are NOT government entities.
One such nautical training centre is Buckeye Marine in the Kawarthas region. Here is a spiel taken from their company's website, on which they too offer so-called "captian's courses".
"Buckeye is pleased to offer hands-on driver training for captains of all types and abilities. We specialize in hands-on courses that teach captains the skills needed (at a mere $60.00 per hour...) to feel at ease behind the wheel. All of our courses are taught by certified professionals and are focused on an enjoyable, safe learning experience. Courses range from beginner to advanced, and are customized to suit the needs of every boater. We offer specific courses for women and youth as well as courses that focus on and teach specific functions such as locking through and docking to ensure the very best learning environment possible. We are sure that we have a course to fit your boating needs...join us!"
You can check out Buckeye Marine's website at the link below:
Clearly they are using the word captain in it's most generic meaning. As in: the person controlling the boat. There is an almost endless amount of information to ingest, if you want to be an honest-to-God captain. And seriously, that goes for any size vessel. From a 16-foot runabout to a 100-foot yacht. You must know the Rules of the Road (Collision Regulations), limitations and equipment requirements (Small Vessel Regulations), chart reading and navigation (Charts and Nautical Publications Regulations), seamanship and boat handling, as well as a sense for reading and interpreting weather. You must know how to operate your marine VHF radio, as well as how to maintain/repair your vessel as required.
If you don't know any of these disciplines on land, it's no biggie. You can simply start over and hope to do better. If you fail at any one of these disciplines at sea, there is a better than average chance that you will not be coming back. Again, if we're only talking about one individual, it's just natural selection. If that person has felt confident enough to bring friends and family along with him... aye, there's the tragedy in all this.
Sure, a lot of boaters out there want to fancy themselves as captains... master and commander, as they say. But there's a lot more to it than simply claiming to be one. And the responsibilities are enormous...