Boat Captain Physicals: The Big Three

Boat Captain Physicals: The Big Three

As a boat captain, you are responsible for the safety of your passengers and crew. You must be healthy and fit to perform your duties to ensure everyone onboard is safe. Boat captains must pass a physical examination before receiving their license.

So what exactly does a Boat Captain Physical Exam entail? The Big Three includes vision, blood pressure, and drug testing. This article will discuss each big three section, so you know what to expect.


The first part of the boat captain’s physical exam is the vision test. This is to ensure that the captain can see and identify any potential hazards while out on the water.

The vision test consists of two parts: color and the standard wall chart. Without correction, lenses, and contacts, your vision has to be 20/200. It must be correctable to 20/40 in both eyes for a passing exam. If you wear glasses, the requirement will be recorded on your license. You will be required to have a spare pair on hand.

Color Vision Test

To operate your boat correctly as a captain, it’s crucial to have good color vision. A color vision test is an eye examination that assesses your ability to see colors. There are two types: the Ishihara test and the Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test.

In the Ishihara test, a series of images contain dots of various colors. You have to identify the numbers or shapes hidden within the image. If you have trouble seeing the numbers or shapes, it may indicate a problem with your color vision.

The Farnsworth-Munsell 100 Hue Test can help identify more subtle color vision deficiencies. In this test, you must arrange a set of colored disks from light to dark. Trouble seeing color differences may also indicate a problem with your color vision.

Standard Wall Chart Vision Test

A standard wall chart vision test measures your visual acuity or clarity. This test involves reading from a wall chart with different-sized letters from top to bottom. The smallest line you can read correctly indicates your level of visual acuity.

This test is a quick and easy way to gauge the health of your eyes and identify potential vision problems.

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure makes up the second portion of the big three. Your blood pressure is measured regardless of medications, and each result is based on age. If you’re under 50, your blood pressure can be no higher than 160/100. If you’re over 50, your blood pressure can be no higher than 175/100.

A standard blood pressure check is required for all licenses, including renewal.

Drug Test

The third portion of the boat captain physical exam is the drug test. This is arguably the most important. Operating a vehicle under the influence can put you and your passengers’ lives at risk, even on the water. The only test accepted is the DOT 5 Panel, which tests for five drugs at once, including:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Amphetamines

Should your test come back positive, your boat captain license will get revoked. Remember that a professional license is subject to random drug tests.

The best practice is to fill out the forms and send them to your doctor to ensure you aren’t missing anything. Our team at Reliable MD has experience with the procedures and forms required for a certified boat captain physical. If you’re in the Sarasota community, schedule your Boat Captain Physical Exam here!

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